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Helpful Takeaways From Trauma 101 Training


Benchmarks’ Partnering for Excellence (PFE) aims to cultivate trauma-informed communities among child welfare systems across the state of North Carolina. In addition to helping community partners implement a trauma-informed pathway for child welfare involved youth, Benchmarks’ PFE hosts a bi-annual NCTSN Trauma 101 Training for social workers and community members. Pitt and Craven Counties recently wrapped up their fall Trauma 101 Training. The four-day training dives deep into what trauma is, how it affects those who have experienced it, and offers ways for those who work in trauma-exposed workplaces to recognize and approach trauma in their clients and themselves. At the end of the last training, we asked participants to share what their favorite takeaway from the training was and what information they are most likely to pass on to colleagues. The following are a few concepts that stood out from their responses.

Assessing Compassion Satisfaction & Fatigue - Working in child welfare and other trauma-exposed agencies is trying work. Helping families who have experienced trauma and other adversity with limited resources is no easy task and can leave many workers feeling burnt out. Social workers can quickly find themselves feeling compassion fatigue, or the emotional and physical exhaustion that comes from helping others. Taking time to assess your compassion satisfaction or fatigue and then making an actionable plan for self-care is essential in child welfare work. A social worker at Craven County Department of Social Services shared “[It helps me to] keep in mind that if you were not doing this work, who would? Focus on the things you can accomplish to help families and gain compassion satisfaction from that.” For more information on assessing your compassion satisfaction or compassion fatigue, see the resources at the end of this post.

Low Impact Debriefing – Those who work in child welfare are faced with multiple accounts of trauma and sometimes horrific stories on a consistent basis. It can be easy to go to a co-worker and over-share traumatic accounts when trying to debrief. However, this can leave others feeling stressed out, or unable to cope with what is already on their plate. To counter this, the NCTSN Trauma 101 curriculum introduces “low-impact debriefing”. Low-impact debriefing is taking certain precautions before sharing difficult stories with a co-worker to help minimize trauma re-exposure for yourself and colleagues who may also be struggling with a difficult situation. It’s important to evaluate how you currently debrief difficult stories at work. If you tend to share too much detail, think through ways you may be able to share only important information. From there, be sure you give a fair warning to colleagues you want to share with and get consent from them that they are in a good place to hear the information. Keep in mind that you should also set boundaries with others when they want to share difficult information. You may find that you do not have the capacity to be supportive in that situation and that is okay. Knowing where you can go for support is important and setting boundaries with yourself and others when needing to debrief can be helpful.

Focus on Neuroplasticity & Resilience – Despite the prevalence of trauma for many involved in child welfare, there is always hope for healing. The possibility for change and healing is demonstrated in the concepts of resiliency and neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to adapt to new ways of thinking, feeling, and doing. Over time and with repetition, neural pathways can be forged or refined and long-lasting functional changes in the brain occur. For example, think of a time you learned something new. The more you repeated or used the new information, the better you were at applying it. This is neuroplasticity in action, and can apply to teaching new emotional regulation skills, positive beliefs and outlooks, and new habits or healthier ways of coping in clients. Resilience is a person’s ability to adapt in a healthy way in the face of adversity. Resiliency is not something some people have, and others do not. It is something that can be supported and built upon by identifying internal and external supports in a person’s life. The training shares ways that the child welfare workforce can support resiliency, which included:

  • Focusing on improving behaviors and building strengths like having a positive outlook and sense of hope for the future in children and caregivers
  • Fostering healthy, enduring relationships between children and caregivers
  • Helping children and youth make meaning of their experiences
  • Promoting positive coping skills and self-regulation in children and caregivers
  • Helping children and youth strengthen self-efficacy and perceived control
  • Connecting children and caregivers to formal trauma-focused services and supports
  • Mobilizing sources of faith, hope, and cultural traditions in the children’s and caregivers’ lives.

The process of recovering from trauma and developing resilience is largely dependent on supportive and enduring relationships. Remembering these concepts can help reframe how you interact with clients and what supports you may be able to connect them with to support behavioral changes and resiliency.

Child welfare work is not easy. We are so proud of the work Pitt and Craven Counties are doing to address trauma in child welfare-involved youth and in their agency and look forward to seeing continued improved outcomes for those they work with.

For more information on the concepts shared above please check out a few of the resources shared below.

Compassion Satisfaction: Compassion Satisfaction/Fatigue Self-Test for Helpers (

Low Impact Debriefing: Low-Impact-Debriefing-2019.pdf (



The NCTSN Trauma 101 Training Curricula: Child Welfare Trauma Training Toolkit | The National Child Traumatic Stress Network (

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