Enhancing Capacity for Trauma-informed Care in Child Welfare: Impact of a Statewide Systems Change Initiative

Christian M. Connell, Jason M. Lang, Bethany Zorba, Kristina Stevens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Youth involved in the child welfare system (CWS) are disproportionally impacted by the negative effects of exposure to trauma. While efforts to develop trauma-informed CWSs are accelerating, little research is available about the effects of these efforts on system capacity to respond to the needs of youth exposed to trauma. No studies evaluate longer-term effects of these efforts. In 2011, Connecticut implemented CONCEPT, a multi-year initiative to enhance capacity of the state's CWS to provide trauma-informed care. CONCEPT used a multi-component approach including workforce development, deployment of trauma screening procedures, policy change, improved access to evidence-based trauma-focused treatments, and focused evaluation of program effects. Changes in system capacity to deliver trauma-informed care were assessed using statewide stratified random samples of child welfare staff at three time points (Year 1: N = 223, Year 3: N = 231, Year 5: N = 188). Significant improvements across nearly all child welfare domains were observed during the first 3 years of implementation, demonstrating system-wide improvements in capacity to provide trauma-informed care. These gains were maintained through the final year of implementation, with continued improvements in ratings of collaboration between child welfare and behavioral health settings on trauma-related issues observed. Responses documented familiarity with and involvement in many of the CONCEPT activities and initiatives. Staff reported greater familiarity with efforts to increase access to specific evidence-based services (e.g., TF-CBT) or to enhance trauma-related policy and practice guidelines, but less familiarity with efforts to implement new practices (e.g., trauma screening) in various sectors. Staff also reflected on the contribution of these components to enhance system capacity for trauma-informed care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)467-480
Number of pages14
JournalAmerican Journal of Community Psychology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Applied Psychology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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