• Implementation of new Vermont law begins with the appointment of legislators to bicameral, bipartisan ACEs Working Group

    After the 2014 Vermont legislative session, Rep. George Till was picking himself up, dusting himself off and reflecting on what he called an “ALE…..or Adverse Legislative Experience” when his ambitious legislative vision fizzled into a tiny bubble of hope to create a trauma-informed state. That bubble was enough to inspire  ACEs-related legislation — No. 43, H. 508, signed by Republican Gov. Phil Scott on May 22 — and policymakers are scheduled to start implementing the law next month. While the law calls for incremental steps, the long-term impact could be substantial.

    Rep. Theresa Wood
    Rep. Theresa Wood

    When I spoke to Rep. Theresa Wood, a member of the House Committee on Human Services, soon after the bill passed in late May, she said Till, a physician,  deserves the credit for educating legislators about ACEs. Even just a year ago, she said, “a few legislators on the inside track knew about ACEs, now almost all of us do. It takes time to educate but it is well worth it. The unanimous votes in the House and Senate reflect the value of that work.”

    Matt Levin, executive director of the Vermont Early Childhood Alliance, said thanks to Till, ACEs awareness in the Vermont legislature is very high—he was a “one-man band” for years on ACEs in the legislature.

    Sen. Virginia Lyons

    Till has introduced several ACE-related bills over the years and favored the stronger Senate version of the bill authored by Virginia “Ginny” Lyons, vice chair of the Committee on Health and Welfare. This legislation would have established a large and diverse Children and Families Trauma Committee within the Agency of Human Services to examine approaches to family wellness, training for school nurses and increase incentives for voluntary screening in health plans that are part of the Blueprint for Health that covers most Vermonters.

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  • States explore trauma screening in the child welfare system

    By Jeremy Loudenback, ChronicleofSocialChange.org

    As trauma-informed initiatives have multiplied in recent years, more child welfare agencies are now grappling with how to properly screen for trauma.

    Along with access to trauma-focused, evidence-based treatments and staff training, screening is a key part of building a trauma-informed system. But that approach has until recently had relatively little traction in the child welfare field.

    According to a new paper that looks at the implementation of a recent wave of trauma screening initiatives in five states, child welfare agencies can help steer thousands of children to treatment related to their exposure to traumatic events.

    But implementation concerns — such as how to integrate screening into agency practices and ensuring that sufficient trauma-informed services are available to children — are still an issue for most child-welfare agencies.

    According to Jason Lang, director of dissemination and implementation for the Child Health and Development Institute and the lead author of a case study on trauma screening, most child welfare systems do not routinely screen children for trauma.

    Little research exists yet about how trauma screening improves outcomes among children in the child welfare system. Child welfare systems that do want to screen for trauma often lack a scientifically valid tool and implementation practices have yet to be developed.

    “There is definitely a shift towards the recognition that it’s a good thing to do and many systems want to do it, but I think there’s still some concrete challenges to actually putting it into place universally that some states are really struggling with,” Lang said.

    In a paper published last month, Lang and his colleagues looked at five statewide and tribal initiatives that started the process of creating pilot projects screening for trauma in the child welfare system.

    Funded by the Administration for Children and Families, the research effort looks at lessons learned from state child welfare systems that rolled out demonstration grants awarded in 2011. This group includes Colorado, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Montana and North Carolina, though other states that have begun screening children involved with the child welfare system for trauma.

    Children in the child welfare system are far more likely than other children to experience trauma in the form of abuse and neglect as well as traumatic events in the system, such as a child welfare investigation and separation from caregivers. Although there was some variation in how states measured trauma, the trauma screening initiatives unsurprisingly found high rates of trauma exposure.

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