Trauma — it’s a heavy word. One that holds a lot of weight for many, and one that informs our practice here, at Covenant House Vancouver.
What is Trauma?
A person’s trauma can be traced back to a singular event, a series of events, or it can be intergenerational. It can cause harm to their physical, mental, emotional, spiritual, or cultural well-being. Trauma can transpire in many ways. It commonly occurs through a life-threatening experience, or from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse. Many of the youth who walk through our doors have experienced some form of trauma. Trauma can be both the cause and the byproduct of homelessness.
How Does Trauma Affect Youth?
Trauma can have a significant effect on the development of a young person’s brain and sensory system, especially when it is experienced over time and without the presence of safe and protective relationships. It negatively impacts their ability to make decisions, to regulate emotions and feelings, to control impulsive urges, to competently live independently, to build healthy relationships, and to follow through with a plan. This is why we are committed to being a trauma-informed agency and practice trauma-informed care when supporting youth in crisis.
What is Trauma-Informed Care?
Trauma-informed care is an approach to working with marginalized communities and emphasizes physical, psychological, and emotional safety. Rather than act as a separate program, trauma-informed care is woven into all our programs. Within our existing framework of attachment-based interventions, we believe that safe relationships are the vehicle by which youth can begin to address and heal from their trauma.
It functions on six widely accepted and integrated key principles:
- Emotional and physical safety
- Choice and empowerment
- Trustworthiness and transparency
- Peer support
- The recognition and validation of cultural, historical, and gender preferences
What Does Trauma-Informed Care Look Like?
1. Specialized Staff Training
All staff receive training related to trauma-informed care, and program staff participate in specialized training to ensure that they have the knowledge to create a welcoming space for all youth.
2. Attachment Model of Care
Youth at Covenant House Vancouver work with the same social workers and specialists for the duration of their time with us — even if they choose to leave our programs and return in the future. This way, youth do not have to revisit their traumatic experiences by explaining their background multiple times to different people.
3. Enhanced Mental Health Services
Youth at Covenant House Vancouver have access to support for their mental health that helps them heal from their trauma — services such as free clinical counselling and timely psychiatric care. These supports are typically not accessible to underserved populations.
To learn more, view our Trauma-Informed Practice Position Statement here and listen to our latest podcast, Under One Roof, where talk about the The Importance of Trauma-Informed Practice.