TIC transforms an agency
Putting the human into Waupaca County’s human services
By Robert Cloud
For Chuck Price, director of Waupaca County Health and Human Services, Trauma Informed Care has been a transformative experience for the agency.
“It’s just as important for our staff as it is for the people we are serving,” Price said.
When using the Trauma Informed Care (TIC) model, social workers focus on how traumatic experiences have affected their clients, especially those who are children.
TIC recognizes that children who have behavioral problems may have a history of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs).
The experiences may include physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse, physical neglect, emotional neglect, intimate partner violence, mother treated violently, substance misuse within a household, parental separation or divorce.
The ACE test asks questions about the first 18 years of a person’s life in order to identify those traumas.
Instead of asking, “What is wrong with this person?” They ask, “What has happened to this person?”
Price said TIC is “bringing the human back to human services.”
He said conversations with clients are more effective when they help build relationships, when there is less talk about blame and more talk about the clients’ experiences.
“When people come through our doors, they don’t always know what they need,” Price said. “We have to build a relationship that allows them to take a client to where they can accept help.”
Keeping families together
When dealing with child welfare or juvenile justice cases, Waupaca County’s current goal is to keep the family safe and together in the community.
In the past, the child welfare system was designed to separate families and cause “shame and blame.”
“If we remove a child for even one day from their parents, that causes a fundamental trauma,” Price said. “A child’s perception is ‘My parents are my protectors.’”
The experience of family separation can be traumatic for a child and have long-term emotional and behavioral consequences.
TIC represents a paradigm shift, Price said.
“As a society we have told ourselves that we are rescuing these kids from bad situation,” Price said. “But we would be hard pressed to find any child who would not want to be with their parents.”
TIC leads to healthier communities, a well as healthier families, Price said.
TIC’s effect on staff
Waupaca County began training its staff with the TIC model in 2013.
The TIC model has affected the relationships among staff, as well as between staff and clients.
Price noted that prior to fully implementing TIC, a survey found that less than 10% of staff in the county’s Children and Families Services said they were satisfied with their work.
Price said there was higher turnover in the department and higher burnout among staff.
“They were supposed to be out there helping people get hope, but the staff did not have hope themselves,” Price said.
He noted TIC has helped the county’s staff become more confident in their decisions and more confident they have management’s support of their decisions.
“The No. 1 indicator for a client’s success is the hope that their case worker has for them,” Price said.
Correction: The article was corrected to indicate that the 10% of staff who were not satisfied were part of Children and Family Services not the entire department.