Trauma-Informed Practice: The Future of Child Welfare?
28 Widener Commonwealth L. Rev. 51 (2019)
34 Pages Posted: 16 Jan 2019 Last revised: 6 Feb 2019
Date Written: January 16, 2019
For nearly two decades, trauma-informed practice has been an increasingly prevalent approach to child welfare practice which has influenced children and youth agency casework, legal representation of children and parents, and judicial style. Acknowledging that many families who come to the attention of the child welfare system have had complex and emotionally painful life experiences, trauma-informed practice puts a client’s history of trauma at the forefront. The basic concept behind trauma-informed practice asks clients not ‘What is wrong with you?’, but instead ‘What happened to you?’ Trauma-informed practice is meant to be not just an individualized, but also a systemic approach to addressing the needs of families. Arguably applying a trauma lens to child welfare practice is the best practice. Yet as well-recognized as trauma-informed practice is as an effective approach to child welfare intervention, there is not sufficient attention paid to the trauma which is inflicted by the child welfare system. This article argues that this infliction of trauma is encoded in federal law primarily through the Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA), and thus the goals and promise of trauma-informed practice are incongruent with the current state of child welfare law. This article will identify the goals and relevance of trauma-informed practice, and then evaluate child welfare law through this lens. Ultimately the article will make recommendations for legal reform which would be more in line with trauma-informed principles.
Keywords: family law, child welfare, trauma-informed practice
JEL Classification: K36
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation