By Tim Kowols
The Kewaunee County Sheriff’s Department, Kewaunee County Human Services, and other local entities are working together to ask the right questions when it comes to addressing trauma. The strategy, known as trauma-informed care, emphasizes the physical, psychological, and emotional safety of the service providers and the affected person when approaching a situation. Kewaunee County currently uses TIC for its endangered child protocol and crisis plans. Sheriff Matt Joski says using TIC has been helpful for all parties involved.
Joski says the collaboration is especially crucial when approaching individuals that may have a history they are unaware of when they arrive on the scene. You can read the rest of Sheriff Joski’s article on TIC online with this story.
I had the opportunity to attend a seminar on Trauma Informed Care. The seminar was well attended with members from various disciplines such as Law Enforcement, Educators, Healthcare workers and both local and national politicians. For those that are not aware of what Trauma Informed Care is all about, it is a new way of looking at the factors that affect those whom we come into contact with not just as clients, patients, inmates, or students, but rather looking at them from a humanistic perspective with respect to their unique personal experiences.
The actual definition of Trauma Informed Care is as follows: “TICP is a strengths-based framework that is responsive to the impact of trauma, emphasizing physical, psychological, and emotional safety for both service providers and survivors; and creates opportunities for survivors to rebuild a sense of control and empowerment.”
In listening to the many presentations, there was a powerful statement made as to how we interact with those suffering from emotional trauma and that is to ask “What Happened to You?” rather than” What’s Wrong With You?” This is an important distinction as we so often forget that those who are struggling in school, at home, or in their relationships many times are facing many more challenges than what we may see on the surface and that only by taking the time to understand their history can we truly begin to help them move forward.
Throughout the seminar there were many strategies and experiences shared from the various jurisdictions represented as to how they are approaching these challenges. I would like to share just a few that we have been doing here in Kewaunee County.
The first is our Endangered Child Protocol which is merely a process where we in law enforcement share information with our educators in the various schools to assist them in responding to a child’s behavior. In the past, a disruptive child may have been dealt with as just that, a child who is being disruptive for no apparent reason other than to gain attention. By sharing information with Law Enforcement it may now become apparent that this same child is acting out due to trauma from events outside the school of which they have no knowledge. You can only imagine what emotions and feelings a young person may be going through if there was a domestic in the home the night before, or if one of the parents were recently arrested in their presence. We have already seen the benefit of sharing information in these instances for both the staff as well as for the children involved.
Another initiative we have been involved in for the past few years is our sharing of information with Human Services. In the past we operated in what we call “Silos of Information” This is where we in Law enforcement have our records and Human Services have theirs. This is an unfortunate reality in so many areas of our systems, and one that can be corrected without spending a great deal of money. We have entered into an MOU with Human Services where they are now able to provide our agencies with “Crisis Plans”. These “Plans” contain general information regarding a client they may be working with and although they cannot share specific information, we can share enough to allow our responding officers critical details that may aid us in how we interact upon responding to a call for help from the individual.
There were so many great ideas being implemented throughout our state and I was very honored to be part of the conversation. In the end our goal should be as stated by Dr. Stuart Shanker: “See a Child Differently, You see a Different Child”