Issue 9 | January 2022
Improving Trauma-Informed Care and Practice in Children's Advocacy Centers
As we better understand the life-long effects of trauma experienced in childhood, we are more acutely aware of the need for children’s advocacy centers (CACs) to provide services that acknowledge trauma’s impact and allow children and families to heal. The CAC model is by design a trauma-informed approach; by providing a child-friendly environment, performing forensic interviews with appropriately trained interviewers, conducting quality screening and assessments, and making referrals to culturally appropriate services through advocacy, CACs are providing services consistent with trauma-informed principles.

In an effort to provide resources to CACs and MDTs throughout the field in the area of trauma-informed practices, the Western Regional Children’s Advocacy Center (WRCAC) produced a three-part webinar series, Trauma-Informed Care and Practice in a CAC Setting, that provides an overview of the impact of trauma on children and guidance on taking a systems-based approach to assessing and implementing trauma-informed practices in a CAC. 

  • In the introductory webinar, Trauma 101 and Trauma-Informed Practice by CAC and MDT Professionals, Al Killen-Harvey, co-founder of The Harvey Institute and long-time staff member of the Chadwick Center for Children and Families, introduces terminology related to trauma and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and builds the skills of professionals working with children who have experienced trauma. This webinar can be used as foundational training on children’s response to trauma for CAC staff and allied professionals. 

  • The second webinar in the series, Ensuring Children's Advocacy Centers are Trauma-Informed Organizations, features Melissa Bernstein, Ph.D., Director of the Advancing California’s Trauma-Informed Systems (ACTS) project. This webinar brings lessons from the ACTS project’s work to help California’s child-serving systems implement and sustain trauma-informed practices. Dr. Bernstein introduces the ACTS Trauma-Informed Care Menu and the ACTS Tool Kit as resources CACs can use to assess their own trauma-informed practices. The ACTs project focuses on three domains of trauma-informed care, including Organizational Environment, Workforce Development and Trauma-Informed Services. 

  • In the third and final webinar, Assessing and Improving Trauma-informed Care in Children’s Advocacy Centers, Jennifer Hossler, MSW and Director of Project Intersect, reviews the findings from a CAC site that piloted use of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network’s (NTCSN) Trauma Informed Organizational Assessment (TIOA) tool. This webinar discusses how changes at the organizational level can improve staff skills and services provided to children and families who have experienced trauma. 

WRCAC also provides ongoing training and technical assistance (TA) on trauma-informed care to CACs, multidisciplinary teams (MDTs), and state chapters. Starting in 2021, WRCAC has partnered with state chapters in our region to launch a two-part training series to develop a deeper understanding of trauma and its impact on service providers and communicate a message of organizational responsibility for the well-being of MDT professionals and CAC staff: 

  • Part 1, “The Impact of Trauma on Children & Families and Secondary Traumatic Stress in MDT Professionals,” focuses on how trauma is experienced and its impact and secondary traumatic stress with an overview of reflective supervision and its use within systems represented in the MDT; and 

  • Part 2, “Reflective Practice and Secondary Traumatic Stress in CACs and MDTs,” includes a review of the impact of trauma with an additional focus on learning the skills to provide reflective supervision to staff. 

The trainings are facilitated by Al Killen-Harvey, Lead Trainer for the Chadwick Center for Children & Families, and have been very positively received as reflected in the participant feedback:

  • This was excellent. I was so glad so many from our CAC were able to attend. I think we can all bring the reflective skills to our daily interactions with families and each other. Thank you.”

  • This was such a great and insightful presentation. I loved having the space to discuss STS with other professionals!

  • Wow, this was an exceptional training. I am taking so much from it for our CAC.”
To make it easier for CACs to locate resources that will increase their understanding and facilitate implementation of trauma-informed practices, WRCAC will release the following new publication in early 2022: “Building Trauma-Informed Children’s Advocacy Centers: Resource Guide”. This resource guide is an adaptation of the TIC Toolkit, “Trauma-Informed Considerations when Engaging Children and Families,” published by Chadwick Center’s ACTS project, (with support from the California Office of Child Abuse and Prevention).
The TIC Toolkit was designed to support child welfare professionals in developing collaborative partnerships with families based on mutual respect and a common commitment to healing. The resources were chosen to aid the Los Angeles Department of Children and Family Services in implementing a trauma-informed approach when interacting with children and families and improve outcomes through increasing family engagement. 

Starting from the existing TIC Toolkit, WRCAC curated additional resources for the benefit of CACs and partnering professionals, including trauma-informed materials suitable for specific disciplines represented within the CAC and MDT. The updated guide provides a directory of resources, including brief videos that offer micro-learnings on key topics, written materials that introduce special topics, trauma-informed approaches, and responses to populations experiencing trauma, and manuals and assessment tools to assist organizations with addressing systemic change. 
For additional resources on trauma-informed care and practice, we encourage you to visit the following:

  • Reflect. Refuel. Reset, created by Southern Regional Children’s Advocacy Center, is a hub for resources and tools designed to help prevent and alleviate the impacts of secondary traumatic stress affecting CAC and MDT professionals.

  • Trauma-Informed Organizations Resource Guide, a collaborative project between the Northeast Regional Children’s Advocacy Center and New York State Children’s Alliance, outlines the 10 key development areas for trauma-Informed organizations, provides tools to assist CAC leaders in organizational change, and highlights successful efforts by CACs in the northeast region.

If you have any questions regarding trauma-informed practices in a CAC setting, are interested in conducting a trauma-informed organizational assessment, or would like to request training for your CAC or MDT on trauma-informed practices, please reach out to me, Salli Kerr, at
Salli Kerr
Training Specialist
Western Regional Children's Advocacy Center
Salli Kerr has over five years of experience as an Executive Director and CEO in the non-profit sector and was instrumental in the formation and accreditation of the state chapter of children’s advocacy centers in Nevada. As Executive Director, Salli led a multi-service center that housed the Nye County Children’s Advocacy Center, the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Nevada and other service organizations for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking and other crimes. Salli’s background of providing direct services, including foster-parenting, provides her with a unique perspective on the impact of trauma in the lives of victims and the positive influence that a coordinated response has on victims’ recovery and wellness.
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WRCAC is funded through the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Grant #2019-CI-FX-K002

The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this product are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.