The feasibility and utility of trauma screening for children involved in the juvenile justice system

Jason M. Lang, Brittany C.L. Lange, Christian M. Connell, Tracy Duran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Childhood exposure to potentially traumatic events and adversity is highly prevalent and linked to adverse outcomes. Many children suffering from symptoms related to traumatic stress are not identified or do not receive appropriate trauma-focused treatment, including evidence-based treatments. Trauma screening is a promising strategy to improve identification, but many child-serving staff members have concerns about asking youth and caregivers about trauma. This study aimed to describe staff perceptions about the feasibility, utility, and potential for distress associated with trauma screening. Between 2014 and 2019, the Child Trauma Screen was used in 1,272 trauma screenings completed by juvenile probation officers or mental health clinicians as part of routine practice with youth in the juvenile justice system. Further, 1,190 caregiver reports about youth trauma were completed for youth in the juvenile justice system. Staff completed a brief postscreening survey about the feasibility and utility of the screening and the perceived level of child or caregiver distress. Across staff roles, trauma screening was deemed to be feasible and worthwhile to practice, with very few staff members reporting that children or caregivers appeared very uncomfortable as a result of screening, although some differences in feasibility and utility by staff role did occur. Trauma screening measures appear to be useful and practical in juvenile justice settings when appropriate support is provided, including when administered by nonclinical staff. Nonclinical staff may benefit from additional training, consultation, or support with trauma screening.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)861-872
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of traumatic stress
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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