Bratty Teenager or Traumatized Child?

Providing services to address trauma that children may experience when entering the Indiana Department of Child Services (DCS) system is a stated goal of the new director, Mary Beth Bonaventura.  See the minutes from the July 31, 2013, DCS Oversight Committee meeting.  This goal reflects the increasing focus on identifying traumatized children and providing appropriate treatment and services in both the CHINS and juvenile delinquency courts.

The National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges and the National Child Traumatic Stress Network (NCTSN) published the NCTSN Bench Card for the Trauma-Informed Judge.  The bench card notes that a child in court may be perceived as “disrespectful, defiant, or antisocial, when, in fact, these behaviors may be better understood in the context of traumatic stress disorders.”

Of interest is also the directive to examine why a child is not responding to increasingly restrictive sanctions.  For traumatized children who are operating in “survival mode,” they may be coping by behaving defiantly or superficially indifferent.  Thus, they may respond poorly to traditional disposition options.

The bench card also includes an sample addendum that can be included with any court-ordered, trauma-informed mental health evaluation.  This addendum provides direction to the assessor to evaluate the child’s current level of danger,  risk of harm, post-traumatic stress disorder, and other issues.

See also the National Child Traumatic Stress Network Empirically Supported Treatments and Promising Practices for descriptions of possible intervention programs and approaches.

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