Trauma Informed Principles

Understanding Trauma and Stress

Quotation MarkUnderstanding and recognizing the impact of trauma exposure within the juvenile justice system is critical because so frequently it is a young person’s behavior — which are normal reactions to unresolved trauma — that ensnares young people in the system; and once youth are system-involved, it is paramount that every effort is made to prevent further harm and retraumatization, while creating opportunities for recover and healing.

Jennifer Lynn-Whaley, Youth Justice Institute, Contra Costa County

Without understanding trauma, we are more likely to adopt behaviors and beliefs that
are negative and unhealthy. However, when we understand trauma and stress we can act compassionately and take well- informed steps toward wellness.

  1. Trauma – We understand that trauma is common, but experienced uniquely due to its many variations in form and impact.
  2. Stress – We understand that optimal levels of positive stress can be healthy, but that chronic or extreme stress has damaging effects.
  3. Reactions – We understand that many trauma reactions are adaptive, but that some resulting behaviors and beliefs may impede recovery and wellness.
  4. Recovery – We understand that trauma can be overcome effectively through accessible treatments, skills, relationships, and personal practices.


Compassion and Dependability

Quotation MarkWe’re trying to change the school culture by teaching educators about the underlying neurobiology of trauma. When we see aggravating behavior in a kid and ask the question, “What happened to you?” instead of “What’s wrong with you?”, that’s the fundamental reframe.

–Silvia Cordero, Principal of El Dorado Elementary School, San Francisco County

Trauma is overwhelming and can leave us feeling isolated or betrayed, which may make it difficult to trust others and receive support. However, when we experience compassionate and dependable relationships, we reestablish trusting connections with others that foster mutual wellness.

  1. Compassion – We strive to act compassionately across our interactions with others through the genuine expression of concern and support.
  2. Relationships – We value and seek to develop secure and dependable relationships characterized by mutual respect and attunement.
  3. Communication – We promote dependability and create trust by communicating in ways that are clear, inclusive, and useful to others.


Safety and Stability

Quotation MarkReal relationships. That’s what it meant to be trauma informed. Changing conversations from consequences, and pointing levels to safety and repairing harm in relationships.

–Victoria Valencia, Canyon Oaks Youth Center, San Mateo County

Trauma unpredictably violates our physical, social, and emotional safety resulting in a sense of threat and need to manage risks. Increasing stability in our daily lives and having these core safety needs met can minimize our stress reactions and allow us to focus our resources on wellness.

  1. Stability – We minimize unnecessary changes and, when changes are necessary, provide sufficient notice and preparation.
  2. Physical – We create environments that are physically safe, accessible, clean, and comfortable.
  3. Social-Emotional – We maintain healthy interpersonal boundaries and manage conflict appropriately in our relationships with others.


Collaboration and Empowerment

Quotation MarkEveryday, it is about giving your all. I come in and give 110%. At the end of the day, you remind yourself, it is about what the kids and families need.

–Tameikia Brown, Teacher, Therapeutic Nursery School, East Bay Agency for Children

Trauma involves a loss of power and control that makes us feel helpless. However, when we are prepared for and given real opportunities to make choices for ourselves and our care, we feel empowered and can promote our own wellness.

  1. Empowerment – We recognize the value of personal agency and understand how it supports recovery and overall wellness.
  2. Preparation – We proactively provide information and support the development of skills that are necessary for the effective empowerment of others.
  3. Opportunities – We regularly offer others opportunities to make decisions and choices that have a meaningful impact on their lives.


Cultural Humility and Responsiveness

Quotation MarkLa Clinica is a place that you don’t got to stress about your parents not understanding. They spoke the same language as my parents and my parents could communicate with them and they got us.

–Alondra (18), Consumer, La Clinica

We come from diverse social and cultural groups that may experience and react to trauma differently. When we are open to understanding these differences and respond to them sensitively we make each other feel understood and wellness is enhanced.

  1. Differences –We demonstrate knowledge of how specific social and cultural groups may experience, react to, and recover from trauma differently.
  2. Humility – We are proactive in respectfully seeking information and learning about differences between social and cultural groups.
  3. Responsiveness – We have and can easily access support and resources for sensitively meeting the unique social and cultural needs of others.


Resilience and Recovery

Quotation MarkAs someone who aged out of foster care into homelessness and struggled to say in school and keep employment, advocacy became my best therapy. I was a space where I cultivated resiliency, and built community that cared. Trauma Transformed is an example where those of us with lived experience can build resilience and transform systems.

–Susan Manzi, Executive Director, Youth in Mind

Trauma can have a long-lasting and broad impact on our lives that may create a feeling of hopelessness. Yet, when we focus on our strengths and clear steps we can take toward wellness we are more likely to be resilient and recover.

  1. Path – We recognize the value of instilling hope by seeking to develop a clear path towards wellness that addresses stress and trauma.
  2. Strengths – We proactively identify and apply strengths to promote wellness and growth, rather than focusing singularly on symptom reduction.
  3. Practices – We are aware of and have access to effective treatments, skills, and personal practices that support recovery and resiliency.