Delaware departments work to reduce trauma’s effects with increased training

Legislative Hall in Dover. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

Legislative Hall in Dover. (Mark Eichmann/WHYY)

Delaware state departments have trained their staffs in trauma-informed care, according to a progress report on one of  Gov. John Carney’s initiatives.

The goal is for employees to understand and respond to the effects of trauma, in an effort to lessen the impact of adverse life experiences and build resilience in children and adults.

“We need to do everything we can to support children and families in Delaware who are affected by trauma, and to continue to create trauma-informed communities across the state,” Carney said.

Teri Lawler, of the state’s Department of Education, said staff and community groups have been trained in how trauma affects individuals and how to incorporate coping skills.

Staffers also are learning how to overcome stress in their own lives. The department has installed calming stations with advice on how to reduce stress, brain-calming activities such as coloring, and breathing strategies.

“Just like our educators can experience vicarious trauma by dealing with some of the adversities students are dealing with, we also realize our students can vicariously learn coping skills from us,” Lawler said.

Delaware also is working to improve trauma therapeutic support for public, private, and charter school children.

State departments that provide services to the community are learning how to reduce compassion fatigue, a gradual lessening of compassion over time, as well.

The Department of Services for Children, Youth, and Their Families is dealing with this stress by incorporating staff training on self-care and mindfulness.

“When they feel they are taken care of, they can better take care of the clients they serve. It’s hard in an agency where our workers are having regular contact with families experiencing trauma, and that can lead to a lot of burnout and high turnover rates,” said the department’s chief policy advisor Meredith Seitz.

“It’s hard for our folks to take care of themselves, so that’s something we want to prioritize. We know if we can do that for our staff, they can hold that space for our clients,” she said.

Lawler said she believes the initiative is creating a more supportive community throughout Delaware.

“My hope is we’ll see change in everything as time progresses,” she said, “people being kinder to each other on the street. We’ll have more problem-solving and critical thinking, so when kids are having difficulties, they’re able to respond differently.”

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