Policy Issues

Everyone pays a price for child trauma. Children, families, neighborhoods, schools, communities, service systems, and—not least of all—taxpayers are all negatively affected when child trauma is left unaddressed.

Untreated child trauma is a root cause of many of the most pressing problems that communities face, including poverty, crime, low academic achievement, addiction, mental health problems, and poor health outcomes. The cost of these problems is felt not only in human terms, but also in dollars and cents.

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has created materials to help the public understand the many policy implications of child trauma. These guides and briefs are for all those who work to develop and implement policies for child and family-serving systems, including federal, state, and local policymakers; agency and center staff; mental health clinicians, researchers, and service providers; child advocates; and families and consumers affected by trauma.

Facts for Policymakers

Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Youth (2015) (PDF)

Understanding Child Trauma and the NCTSN (2014) (PDF)

Effectively Communicating with Policymakers and Key Stakeholders about Child Trauma and the NCTSN (2014) (PDF)

The Need for an Integrated System of Care for Youth with Traumatic Stress & Substance Use Disorders (2012) (PDF)
This policy brief discusses the overwhelming evidence documenting the range and severity of problems experienced by adolescents with co-occurring traumatic stress and substance use, and recommends addressing these problems through a youth-oriented coordinated treatment system of care that would require interagency collaboration, family and youth involvement, cultural competence, and accountability.

Child and Adolescent Trauma Exposure and Service Use Histories: Highlights from the NCCTS Core Data Set (2012) (PDF)
This policy brief highlights the NCCTS study findings that suggest that having a full understanding of the prevalence and diversity of trauma exposure in clinic-referred youth is an important guide in risk screening, prevention, intervention, workforce development, and public policy.

Trauma Exposure, Psychosocial Functioning & Treatment Needs of Youth in Residential Care (2012) (PDF)
This policy brief aims to shed light on the links between trauma exposure in childhood and adolescence, current psychosocial functioning, and intervention outcomes in youth receiving residential treatment services—compared to youth receiving services in a continuum of community-based services—with the goal of achieving a better understanding of this population and their unique needs.

Complex Trauma and Mental Health of Children Placed in Foster Care: Highlights from the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress (NCCTS) Core Data Set (2012) (PDF)
This policy brief gives the finding of the NCCTS study of trauma histories and trauma reactions of 2,125 children and adolescents in the child welfare system between 2004 and 2010—most of whom have  experienced at least one caregiver-related trauma (e.g., abuse or neglect)—and presents recommendations and implications for further research.

Child Traumatic Stress: What Every Policymaker Should Know (2008) (PDF)
This guide was written to educate policymakers about the scope and impact of childhood trauma, to offer effective solutions that can be implemented with the support of informed public policy, and to provide information about additional resources.

National Center for Child Traumatic Stress Leadership (2009)
Learn about the efforts of the National Center for Child Traumatic Stress—the lead site in the NCTSN—to advance policy and practice in the area of child trauma.

Policy Brief: Supporting High-Quality Mental Health Services for Child Trauma: Family, Youth, and Consumer Involvement (2008) (PDF)
This policy brief describes some of the many benefits of partnerships among youth, families, caregivers, and professionals, outlines potential barriers to building them, and offers strategies for engaging and maintaining youth and family involvement.

Policy Brief: Supporting High-Quality Mental Health Services for Child Trauma: Workforce Strategies (2008) (PDF)
Making high-quality services available to children and families affected by trauma requires a workforce with the training, skills, capacity, and commitment crucial to providing effective care. This policy brief describes the child trauma workforce and the challenges faced by its members. It also offers strategies for empowering this workforce to deliver high-quality child trauma services.

National and Community Partners Report (2011) (PDF)
Together with the UCLA/Duke University National Center for Child Traumatic Stress the centers that comprise the National Child Traumatic Stress Network—including currently funded and affiliate members—work collaboratively within the Network and in their communities to create and support sustainable, mutually beneficial relationships with governmental and non-governmental bodies.

SAMHSA's Toolkit for Community Conversations About Mental Health