Michelle Sicignano, LMSW

Michelle Sicignano, LMSW

Social Justice Solutions | Staff Writer
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Resource: The National Child Traumatic Stress Network

by Michelle Sicignano, LMSW, Staff Writer, Social Justice Solutions

The National Child Traumatic Stress Network is a joint project funded by SAMSHA, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, in an effort to gather research, promote awareness, and disseminate information on “one of our most under-recognized public health problems,” child traumatic stress.

“Childhood traumas vary from physical and sexual abuse to community and domestic violence, life-threatening illness, natural disasters, and the sudden loss of parents, siblings, and other loved ones. Though children are resilient, they can also be profoundly affected by these experiences. With help, they can recover and thrive. Without it, trauma’s effects can derail their childhoods and reverberate into adult life. Yet child traumatic stress remains one of our most underrecognized public health problems.”

“Ongoing, large-scale studies have traced the legacy of untreated childhood trauma into adulthood. People with histories of childhood trauma, particularly severe or repeated trauma, are at higher risk of developing psychiatric disorders such as depression. They are more likely to abuse alcohol and other substances. Their bodies may respond abnormally to stress. Even the risk of chronic physical conditions, such as heart and lung disease, may be significantly increased.”

With abundant research, information, and training, (with opportunities for CE credits for APA and NASW) it is an invaluable resource, not only for those who work with children, but also for those of us who can benefit from developing an understanding of the impact of untreated or poorly treated trauma on development and on an individual’s ability to lead a healthy, self-directed life path. Failure to recognize the impact of trauma along the developmental trajectory is to ignore a well documented, well researched major public health issue.

For a brief overview to aid in understanding traumatic stress, use this link to take you to The 12 Core Concepts: Concepts for Understanding Traumatic Stress Responses in Children and Families

The  12 core concepts spelled out in the article are: Traumatic experiences are inherently complex; Trauma occurs within a broad context that includes children’s personal characteristics, life experiences, and current circumstances; Traumatic events often generate secondary adversities, life changes, and distressing reminders in children’s daily lives; Children can exhibit a wide range of reactions to trauma and loss; Danger and safety are core concerns in the lives of traumatized children; Traumatic experiences affect the family and broader caregiving systems; Protective and promotive factors can reduce the adverse impact of trauma; Trauma and posttrauma adversities can strongly influence development; Developmental neurobiology underlies children’s reactions to traumatic experiences; Culture is closely interwoven with traumatic experiences, response, and recovery; Challenges to the social contract, including legal and ethical issues, affect trauma response and recovery; Working with trauma-exposed children can evoke distress in providers that makes it more difficult for them to provide good care.


Anyone working with children and youth in any capacity can benefit from the resources provided by the NCTSN.

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