Trauma-Informed Culture at The Family Centre

In the fall of 2016, The Family Centre embarked on a journey to becoming a trauma-informed agency. This came after several years of increasing our knowledge in brain development, attachment, the impacts of trauma, and poverty as a systemic issue. We also committed to the calls to action from the Truth & Reconciliation Commission (TRC). These learnings have laid the foundation for this next progression of work to occur.

It is essential to acknowledge the impact that trauma has on how services are both received and delivered. We must reduce the likelihood of re-traumatization and restore a sense of safety, power, and self-worth for individuals that we are serving. It is critical that a trauma-informed lens is applied to both the services level, as well as the administrative or systems level, with the goal being to better support and respond to all children and families that access our services and particularly those that have experienced trauma. We also acknowledge the support our employees require to provide trauma-informed services.

Our work primarily bases upon the Creating Cultures of Trauma Informed Care (CCTIC) model, with the drivers being the five core values of trauma-informed care: safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration, and empowerment (Harris & Fallot).

As a part of our commitment to continue the momentum, we are proud to be sharing updates of our work. This is an opportunity to reflect, celebrate changes that have been made, ensure ongoing growth and development, keep trauma-informed care in the forefront, and keep us accountable for ongoing work.

Over the past couple of years, we have gathered an immense amount of feedback to capture client and staff voice regarding their experiences with our agency. This feedback has served as the guiding force behind the areas targeted for attention and improvement. Some of the changes made have been more tangible and visible, while other efforts are harder to capture as they involve changes to culture.

We are pleased to share some trauma-informed strategies that we have implemented to date:

  • Increased collaborative information sharing to reduce the chance of individuals having to re-tell their story more than once;
  • Seeking more client voice and feedback through focus groups, phone interviews, and suggestion boxes;
  • Updated policy and procedure to ensure that they reflect the values of trauma-informed care, are sensitive in avoiding feelings often associated with traumatic experiences, and include acknowledgement of how different aspects of an individual’s identity affect their experiences of trauma;
  • Enhanced trauma screening process and tools, resulting in increased training and support to staff and leading to more thorough, supportive, clear and consistent messaging to individuals receiving the screening;
  • Heightened awareness and acknowledgement of the role that physical space and environments have as sources of potential triggers and the need to ensure they contribute to physically and emotionally safe experiences;
  • Improved signage that is welcoming, helpful, clear, and visible, while also easing access by removing barriers to shared spaces;
  • Re-identified a washroom into multipurpose: gender neutral, family with change table, and for people with limited mobility;
  • Trained all staff in “Trauma 101”;
  • Developed “Supervision within the Context of Trauma-Informed Care” training for supervisors to strengthen our overall capacity to support staff in self-care and secondary trauma;
  • Increased training and support for non-direct (office) staff on what to do in the event of a serious incident;
  • Revamped recruitment practices to increase clarity, consistency, transparency, and information sharing for potential new hires;
  • Enhanced the role of our Indigenous Advisory Committee to work through TRC recommendations and on how we can begin to shift practice;
  • Reviewed and enhanced marketing and communications materials to ensure they reflect diversity, inclusivity, and trauma-informed language.

The trauma-informed strategies have improved:

  • client care and support by providing more opportunities for choice, collaboration, empowerment, voice, clarity, transparency, and safety
  • staff support and training in self-care and secondary trauma
  • interpersonal relationships by involving all staff in the work and ensuring opportunities to provide input
  • overall efficiencies (less documentation, repetition, and improved clarity and transparency).

We will continue the development of these healing practices to better support the children and families that we touch every day. We will continue to seek ongoing feedback from clients and staff to help us determine impacts on how being trauma-informed has affected experiences.

Additionally, we have begun planning to become certified in the CCTIC model in spring or summer of 2020. We are also excited to announce that we will be starting a trauma-informed oversight committee with representation from individuals that have experienced trauma. The committee will provide ongoing input and direction as we continue our journey to strengthen our culture of trauma-informed care.