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STATE OF OPPORTUNITY. Can Kids in Michigan Get Ahead?
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Families & Community

Michigan might be getting on board – big time – with "trauma-informed care"

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Michael Rosenstein
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I've learned a lot through my reporting on State of Opportunity, but the thing that really changed how I see almost every other issue is what I've learned about the effect of trauma on kids' brains (helpful backgrounder here for those of you wanting to know more). 

Up until a few years ago I'd missed this important work. I don't think I'm alone in that.

I've spoken to people in schools and in juvenile justice facilities that don't know about or don't believe in trauma-informed care. What I've heard most often from these folks is that kids need to be helped to "move on" and that "dwelling in the past" is just keeping them from doing that. 

Just this week, however, the State of Michigan announced it's getting serious about changing these attitudes. The program is still a vague outline but here are the basics:

  • The federal government will fund "technical assistance" to help Michigan make a plan to identify, screen, and treat kids across the state who have experienced trauma because of violence.
  • Two other states, California and Massachusetts, are also getting this assistance.
  • The effort is part of an initiative rolled out by then-U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to deal with the effects of violence on kids. There was an initial round of grants a few years back, but Michigan didn't get those funds.
  • The big players in the project will be DHHS,  courts that deal with juvenile justice, the Michigan Department of Education, and community organizations like the Detroit Youth Violence Prevention Inititative.
  • This planning period is short, only running through the end of September. Funds or plans for further action haven't been publicly identified yet.

Bob Wheaton from DHHS says kids will start to feel the difference very soon because the systems these kids move in will know how to better meet their needs. "Professionals who come in contact with children who are having behavioral issues or dealing with other problems will recognize it may be caused by underlying trauma," he says. Wheaton says if that professional determines trauma is part of the picture for that child then they can intervene in a way that will "help this child heal."
If you're involved in work for vulnerable kids and you've been trained in trauma-informed care or wish you had been, reach out and tell us about how knowing about trauma has changed the way you approach your work. Have you seen results or any changes? Let us know at alvarez@michiganradio.org

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