Creating, Supporting, and Sustaining Trauma-Informed Schools:
A System Framework

The Schools Committee of the NCTSN has published Creating, Supporting, and Sustaining Trauma-Informed Schools: A System Framework, a 13-page organizational plan on transforming schools into trauma-informed educational centers. To achieve their primary mission of supporting students’ educational achievement, schools must be places where children feel safe, supported, and able to learn. By age sixteen, two-thirds of children in the US have experienced a potentially traumatic event such as physical or sexual abuse, natural disaster or terrorism, sudden or violent loss of a loved one, refugee and war experiences, serious accident or life-threatening illness, or military family-related stress. A recent report examining the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on academic outcomes found that communities with higher ACE scores had higher rates of suspension and unexcused absences and lower rates of graduation from high school and progression to post-secondary school than communities with lower prevalence of ACEs. Schools must recognize the influence of the students’ personal experiences on their learning.

The NCTSN System Framework presents a tiered approach to creating a trauma-informed environment that addresses the needs of all students, staff, administrators, and families who might be at risk for experiencing the symptoms of traumatic stress. The NCTSN System Framework presents a vision of a trauma-informed school, adhering to the “4 Rs”: (1) realizing the widespread impact of trauma and pathways to recovery; (2) recognizing trauma's signs and symptoms; (3) responding by integrating knowledge about trauma into all facets of the system; and (4) resisting re-traumatization of trauma-impacted individuals by decreasing the occurrence of unnecessary triggers (i.e., trauma and loss reminders) and by implementing trauma-informed policies, procedures, and practices. The NCTSN System Framework continues with 10 Core Areas for a trauma-informed system and relevant tiered approaches within each area.



Trinka and Sam: The Big Fire is a story developed to help young children and their families begin to talk about feelings and worries they may have after they have experienced a large-scale fire, like a wildfire. In the story, Trinka and Sam, two small mice, become scared and worried after they experienced a severe fire and witnessed damage to their community. The story describes some of their reactions and talks about how their parents help them to express their feelings and feel safer. In the back, there is a parent guide that suggests ways parents can use the book with their children—as a story, a coloring book, or a way to begin to talk about their feelings, thoughts, and questions about fires. The Spanish version is entitled Trinka y Juan: El Gran Fuego.

The NCCTS Policy Program is announcing the release of a new NCTSN Policy Brief, entitled Intimate Partner Violence and Child Trauma.This resource was developed as a collaboration between the NCCTS Policy Program and the NCTSN Domestic Violence Collaborative Group.  The new brief provides policymakers and other stakeholders with an overview of intimate partner violence and its relationship to child trauma, as well as policy-relevant and child trauma-focused recommendations to assist them in their response to intimate partner violence. This resource is part of a series of policy briefs being developed by the NCCTS Policy Program, the NCTSN Policy Task Force, and other key NCTSN partners. For additional information, please contact NCCTS Policy Program Director, Dr. Diane Elmore Borbon.


Updated eLearning Course:
Adolescent Trauma and Substance Abuse Toolkit

The Adolescent Trauma and Substance Abuse (ATSA) online course was developed to provide training and materials for mental health clinicians and substance abuse treatment providers on the complex intersections between psychological trauma and co-occurring substance abuse and dependency. The course includes interactive online modules on understanding the links between traumatic stress and substance use among adolescents, a webinar and lecture presentation featuring expert faculty from the NCTSN, and a four-part Train-the-Trainer video series entitled Trauma and Co-Occurring Disorders: Understanding and Working with Youth and Their Caregivers. The course includes a series of three lessons.

Lesson 1 – Connecting the Dots: Understanding Traumatic Stress and Substance Abuse Among Adolescents – explores the relationship between traumatic stress and substance use in adolescents, describes the challenges providers experience delivering services to adolescents with substance use and traumatic stress, and the solutions and recommendations for working with this population. Lesson 2 – Understanding Traumatic Stress in Adolescents – describes trauma exposure, traumatic stress, trauma and loss reminders, and long-term reactions adolescents may experience when dealing with traumatic stress. Lesson 3 – Understanding Substance Abuse Among Adolescents – explores adolescents dealing with substance use issues, defines substance use disorders, describes how trauma reminders may lead to substance use, and identifies protective factors that may deter substance use.



Childhood Traumatic Grief Speaker Series:
Traumatic Separation in Children and Adolescents

Tuesday, November 14, 2017 @ 12:00pm ET/9:00am PT

Presenters: Judith Cohen, MD, Allegheny Health Network; Matt Kliethermes, PhD, University of Missouri-St. Louis; Diane Lanni, BS, Biological and Foster Parent; Amnoni Myers, MPA, Former Foster Youth

In this webinar, speakers will describe the impact of traumatic separation, attachment, and attachment disruption on children and adolescents. Speakers will share their perspectives on being involved in the child welfare system including clinicians, former foster youth, along with a biological and foster parent. They will discuss supporting foster or adoptive children and youth who are coping with traumatic separation in out-of-home care as well as the impact of traumatic separation on birth parents.

New Training:

ARC Reflections: Trauma Training for Foster Parents and Caregivers

Developed for child welfare agencies by the Anna E. Casey Foundation, ARC Reflections is a new skill-building curriculum to help foster parents, kin, and other caregivers support children who have experienced trauma. More specifically, ARC Reflections is a freestanding, in-service parenting course that gives caregivers tools and hands-on training to help children and teens develop healthy attachments with adults, regulate their emotions and behavior, and build strengths and competencies that may have been disrupted by exposure to trauma.

Available free of charge, ARC Reflections includes everything an agency needs to perform the training program, including an implementation guide, PowerPoint presentations and facilitator guides, handouts for foster parents, a case manager guide, and survey and feedback materials.


New Toolkit:

Be Her Resource: A Toolkit About School Resource Officers and Girls of Color

Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality and the National Black Women’s Justice Institute are pleased to announce the release of a new toolkit for school systems and police departments. Be Her Resource: A Toolkit About School Resource Officers and Girls of Color presents the findings that emerged from focus groups and interviews conducted with school resource officers and girls of color in the South, a region that has been relatively unexamined in such research. Based on the findings, the toolkit presents guiding principles and policy recommendations designed to improve interactions between girls of color and SROs, with the ultimate goal of reducing these girls’ disproportionate rates of contact with the juvenile justice system.


New Trauma Resources from Sesame Street:

Sesame Street in Communities: Traumatic Experiences

Sesame Street has launched its first-ever comprehensive initiative designed to help children cope with traumatic experiences. The content—part of the broader Sesame Street in Communities initiative—features new, free, bilingual videos, storybooks, and digital activities featuring the Muppets to help children feel safe and become more resilient in a range of situations. The webpages also give adults the tools they need to foster nurturing connections with the children in their care. Follow the link and, after a brief video introduction (about feeling better with hugs), explore the activities and options.


New Article:

The Impact of Trauma on the Attorney-Client Relationship

The NCTSN Justice Consortium Attorney Workgroup Subcommittee has authored The Impact of Trauma on the Attorney-Client Relationship, published in the ABA Child Law Practice (CLP Online—Sep/Oct 2017), in which the authors describe how trauma can interfere with the formation of strong client-attorney relationships by impairing the client’s capacity to trust others, process information, communicate, and respond to stressful situations. They delineate guidelines to establishing an effective working relationship through focusing on physical and psychological safety, communication, and client support. In addition, the article details several practice tips to help attorneys avoid “triggering” their clients’ reactions to trauma reminders.


New Article:

The Dissociative Subtype of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Among Adolescents: Co-Occurring PTSD, Depersonalization/Derealization, and Other Dissociation Symptoms

Kristen Choi, Julia Seng, Ernestine Briggs-King, Michelle Munro-Kramer, Sandra Graham-Bermann, Robert Lee, and Julian Ford have co-authored The Dissociative Subtype of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Among Adolescents: Co-Occurring PTSD, Depersonalization/Derealization, and Other Dissociation Symptoms, published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (October 2017). The purpose of this study was to examine the co-occurrence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and dissociation in a clinical sample of trauma-exposed adolescents, first evaluating evidence for the depersonalization/derealization dissociative subtype of PTSD as defined by the DSM-5, and then examining a broader set of dissociation symptoms. The authors concluded that these two models provide new information about the specific ways PTSD and dissociation co-occur and illuminate some differences between adult and adolescent trauma symptom expression. A dissociative subtype of PTSD can be distinguished from PTSD alone among adolescents, but assessing a wider range of dissociative symptoms is needed in order to fully characterize adolescent traumatic stress responses.







This project was funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The views, policies, and opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of SAMHSA or HHS.