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Trauma Screening in Child Welfare: Lessons Learned from Five States


Children in the child welfare system experience high rates of exposure to potentially traumatic events, which are associated with significant impairments in safety, permanency, and well-being. However, child welfare systems have not routinely screened children for trauma, and little is known about such efforts. This paper describes five statewide and tribal projects to implement trauma screening for children in the child welfare system as part of broader, trauma informed care initiatives. Findings indicate that implementation strategies varied considerably but that screening generally resulted in identification of high rates of trauma exposure, trauma symptoms and service referrals. Further, screening was generally perceived favorably by child welfare workers and mental health professionals. However, wide variations were observed in the number of children screened, suggesting that more research is needed to identify optimal strategies. Lessons learned are described and recommendations made for implementing trauma screening in state or tribal child welfare systems.

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  1. Counties included nine original counties and three expansion counties (Alamance, Chatham, and Rowan) for the trauma screen.


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The authors wish to acknowledge the Administration for Children and Families, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families, the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, North Carolina Department of Social Services, Jessica Bartlett, Kim Campbell, Marilyn Cloud, Dean Duncan, Dina Gerber, Jessica Griffin, Jenifer Goldman Fraser, David Hamolsky, Sandra J. Hoy-Maruschak, Tim Marshall, Robert A. Murphy, Jeanne Preisler, Paul Shanley, Joseph Spinazzola, Carla Stover, Ricka Wolman, and Bethany Zorba. This work was funded by the following grants from the Administration for Children and Families: #90C01055 (CT), #90CO1056 (MT). #90CO1059 (CO), #90C01057 (MA), and #90CO1058 (NC).

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Correspondence to Jason M. Lang.

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Lang, J.M., Ake, G., Barto, B. et al. Trauma Screening in Child Welfare: Lessons Learned from Five States. Journ Child Adol Trauma 10, 405–416 (2017).

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  • Trauma
  • Screening
  • Child welfare
  • PTSD
  • Implementation