Trauma-Informed Care Practices to Welcome Back Staff & Youth During COVID

Below are some trauma-informed care practices your organization can implement to welcome back staff or youth after ongoing closings due to COVID-19:

Welcoming Back Staff

  • Create reasonable expectations: To make the transition as smooth as possible for staff, make sure that your expectations are reasonable while also making sure that staff are still addressing deliverables.
  • Take care of staff: Build time in to the work day to allow staff to take breaks that promote wellness. For example, give staff breaks throughout their day to get outside and get fresh air.
  • Create spaces for struggling staff: If staff members are struggling, provide them with resources—like an Employee Assistance Program. Find local partners and communicate how employees can take advantage of these programs.
  • Help staff cope: If youth share their experiences at home, remind staff of their mandated reporter requirements. If a staff member needs to share something with another staff member for better background knowledge, tell staff to:
    • Frame the conversation so it’s clear that you are about to share something emotional
    • Ask permission before you share with another staff member to make sure they are in the correct headspace
    • Feel comfortable opting-out of a conversation
  • Build in safety checks: Whenever there is a meeting with two or more people, give staff the opportunity to bring up safety concerns. These concerns could range from a leaking roof to a child being bullied. This gives space for staff to share their concerns regularly and continues to build a culture where safety is the focus.

Welcoming Back Youth 

  • Create a consistent and predictable environment: Plan programming so that it is structured and consistent in order to set-up youth for success.
  • Educate caregivers and youth: Before arrival, communicate ahead of time so that everyone knows what to expect. Consider communicating the following:
    • What will be different and the same?
    • What will be the new policies and procedures for safety?
    • What will be the new expectations for youth to keep each other safe?
    • How will the organization now address unsafe behaviors?
  • Identify triggers: In the past, you may have had a caregiver or youth disclose something about their past. Therefore, you may have knowledge of what certain triggers are for a youth. Before bringing back youth, consider if any new policies or procedures may have introduced that trigger. Identify ways you can eliminate that trigger or accommodate for that youth.

Signs of Trauma in Youth

  • Their behavior doesn’t make sense in the context or they are reacting in a fearful way where others don’t think the situation is fearful
  • Significant changes in attitude, mood or weight
  • They are focusing when they are sleepy (avoiding dreaming)
  • Developmentally enhanced
  • Patterns in behavior (same day, same time, same environment, etc.)

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network: COVID-19 Resources 
The National Child Traumatic Stress Network has a library of resources that discussCOVID-19’s impact on youth and staff. Below are a few that may be useful to your organization: 

Community Resources 
Within your local community, there may be other organizations you can connect with in order to learn more about trauma-informed care. Some places to start would be: 

  • Connect with your local foster care agency
  • Connect with your local university’s psychology department
  • Connect with your local Children’s Advocacy Center
  • Consider training your staff on Mental Health First Aid
  • Consider making a social worker a permanent staff position