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Prevention and Education > Resources > Trauma-Informed

Trauma-informed Organization Resources

In 2021, Children’s Home Society began a journey of transformation. Leadership saw that to achieve our mission of preventing, treating and healing trauma, we would need to become a trauma-informed organization.

A trauma-informed approach is defined by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) as:

a program, organization, or system that realizes the widespread impact of trauma and understands potential paths for recovery; recognizes the signs and symptoms of trauma in clients, families, staff, and others involved with the system; and responds by fully integrating knowledge about trauma into policies, procedures, and practices, and seeks to actively resist re-traumatization.”

An employee-led work group came together to help facilitate the journey. All employees are trained in the topic, a multi-stage internal awareness campaign was implemented, staff-created articles and videos are distributed and work group members are available for support.

Children’s Home Society also offers training to other groups on becoming trauma-informed.

The TIO Committee

The TIO Committee was tasked with determining what a trauma informed organization would look like and how it would be achieved. We eventually identified three themes:

  1. Employees may have trauma in their own backgrounds and must be self-aware in how those experiences may show up in their work with colleagues or clients
  2. Employees can suffer secondary or vicarious trauma through working with clients—most of whom have experienced trauma
  3. Employees can experience triggers or additional trauma through interactions with other staff or practices in the workplace

Trauma and its results are ever-changing and enormously complex. Distinctions between one’s own and others’ trauma triggers and responses can be difficult to discern. The more the committee looked at this, the more urgent our work became.

To learn more about the TIO Committee, contact Tifanie Petro at or 605-484-2620, or any committee member:

  • Alexie LeZion – Shelter for Family Safety
  • Angie Smith- Foundation/Finance
  • April Roselles- BH Residential
  • Clara Jacob – Marketing
  • Courtney Sargent – SF Residential
  • Emily Hall- Shelter for Family Safety
  • Ericka Bohle – Education
  • Gabby Larson- SF Residential
  • Jen Crisp Griebel – Occupational Therapist- Education
  • Kate Feilmeier – Shelter for Family Safety
  • Krista Buchholz — Shelter for Family Safety
  • Lacey Hoogland – HR
  • Mckaela Larkin – Education
  • Micah Allen- SF Residential
  • Monica Eaton-Harris- Child Advocacy Center
  • Nichole Knepp- Community Based Services
  • Ondrea Patzlaff – Residential
  • Tara Chayka – Education
  • Tifanie Petro – Advocacy and Prevention Education

Trauma in Our Backgrounds

Fundamental to a basic understanding of our own trauma is knowing about Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). These situations or events harm children’s developing brains and lead to the adult onset of chronic diseases, depression and other mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence, as well as financial and social problems.

Groundbreaking research, the CDC-Kaiser Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, measured 10 ACEs, which include:

— Physical, sexual and verbal abuse

— Physical and emotional neglect

— A family member who is:

  • depressed or diagnosed with other mental illness
  • addicted to alcohol or another substance
  • in prison

— Witnessing a mother or step-mother being abused.

— Losing a parent to separation, divorce or other reason.

Subsequent to the ACE Study, other ACE surveys have expanded the types of ACEs to include racism, gender discrimination, witnessing a sibling being abused, witnessing violence outside the home, witnessing a father being abused by a mother, being bullied by a peer or adult, involvement with the foster care system, living in a war zone, living in an unsafe neighborhood, losing a family member to deportation, etc.

ACEs are common. At least two-thirds of adults (64%) have at least one. And if you have one there’s an 87% chance that you have two or more.

Like most adults with ACEs, CHS employees with ACEs bring their past to work with them every day. Unlike most adults, however, CHS employees may be more aware of their ACEs due to working with our clients, most of whom have suffered trauma.

How Trauma in Clients Affects Us

Vicarious/Secondary Trauma and Compassion Fatigue is a process through which one’s own experience becomes transformed through engagement with another individual’s trauma.

That is, trauma may not only impact the individual who experienced it. It can also impact those around them, including you as the staff member. Client trauma can also trigger feelings around an employee’s own trauma.

workplace fatique

Signs of Compassion Fatigue:

  • Reduced sense of efficacy at work.
  • Concentration and focus problems.
  • Apathy and emotional numbness.
  • Isolation and withdrawal.
  • Exhaustion.
  • Jaded, bitter pessimism.
  • Secretive addictions and self-medicating.

Risk Factors for Compassion Fatigue:

  • Being new to the field.
  • Having a history of personal trauma or burnout.
  • Working long hours and/or having large caseloads.
  • Having inadequate support systems.

Trauma in the Workplace

Even in an organization that is providing trauma-informed practices with those we serve, employees can still experience reactive or psychologically unsafe practices within the workplace. How can we ensure that we have workplaces that are supportive, encourage growth and help staff succeed?

For trauma-informed workplace wellness to be effective, we need to create a network of community support that holds teams together while allowing for individuality, authenticity, and community-building. Executive Director of SAFE of Columbia County and Author Ellyn Bell has identified seven trauma-informed workplace wellness practices:

1. Allow Vulnerability

When we allow ourselves and others to show vulnerability, we create a sense of personal safety that allows for stronger workplace teamwork and performance.

2. Engage in Honest Interactions

When we engage honestly, we state the facts and work through the details.

3. Interact With Integrity

Integrity requires holding ourselves to a standard of self-honesty, putting judgments aside and working from a place of presence and compassion. This allows others to trust that their interactions with us are sincere and authentic, and minimizes hidden agendas, power games and meanness in general.

4. Practice Empathy

It’s not easy to see from another’s point of view, but in doing so we open new doors to our hearts and minds. Practicing empathy in the workplace requires that we challenge our own fiercely held beliefs and our sense of fragility.

5. Listen Attentively

Put everything else aside when someone from your team is speaking with you. Give them your full attention and prevent your own personal narrative from getting in the way of hearing what they’re saying. Active listening will help your team understand one another better.

6. Find Opportunities for Shared Professional Growth

Opportunities to grow together as a team in a safe, supportive environment are fantastic ways to increase workplace happiness.

7. Laugh Together

If you can laugh with your team, have fun and be a little silly from time to time, you can go miles toward creating an environment where people can blossom.

What About Non-Direct Care Staff?

About 25% of CHS employees do not provide direct care to clients. Trauma-informed principles are equally important for non-direct care staff to understand. A workplace can become a trauma-informed organization only if all employees are on the same page.

Non-direct care staff may have ACEs and traumatic experiences in their backgrounds. They also can be impacted by trauma in the workplace. Understanding these factors can be enormously helpful to everyone in coping with stress, mental health and relationships.

As an example, let’s say a non-direct care employee named Liz reports to another non-direct care employee named Roz. Over the weekend, Liz’s longtime pet passed away. On Monday, Liz seems a little cranky to her co-workers. Towards the end of the day, Roz enters Liz’s office to give her a huge assignment with a tight deadline.

Liz feels overwhelmed and snaps at Roz. This triggers Roz, who didn’t sleep well the previous night, and has troublesome health issues. Both feel badly following the interaction.

What might be a trauma-informed approach to this situation?

  • Liz could share with Roz that her beloved dog died over the weekend and ask if they could discuss the project the following day
  • Roz could notice that Liz wasn’t as cheerful as usual and ask if something is wrong
  • Roz could notice that Liz wasn’t as cheerful as usual, back off, and tell her they’d discuss it the next day

When we can manage our own reactions or emotions about a situation, we are better prepared to help others navigate their journey as well. At the organizational level this can mean ensuring that we are showing up to meetings regulated and ready for conversation, deciding not to send that gossipy email to our coworker, or even taking the time to help hold others accountable when we see physically or emotionally unsafe situations happening in the office.

If we wish to share a common language and understanding, it helps to ensure we are breaking cycles of re-traumatization instead of contributing to them.


Books, Videos and Websites

Bessel Van Der Kolk, M.D. or Book: The Body Keeps the Score

Beyond Consequences; Heather Forbes Books: Beyond Consequences Vol 1 & 2, Dare to Love, Help for Billy

Brene Brown Books: Dare to Lead, Daring Greatly, The Gifts of Imperfection, Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connections

Dr. Bruce Perry and Books: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, What Happened to you?, Born for Love

Centers for Disease Control

Complete ACEs Research-

Dan Siegel,; Books: The Whole-Brain Child, No-Drama Discipline, The Developing Mind, Mindsight, Parenting From the Inside Out, Brainstorm, Aware

Jim Sporleder & Heather T Forbes, Beyond Consequences Institute Book: The Trauma- Informed School -- A Step-by-Step Implementation Guide for Administrators and School Personnel

Juli Alvarado-Alvarado Consulting and Treatment Group Book: The Quest for Peace in a Broken World; Emotional Regulatory Healing ERH

Karen Reivich & Andrew Shatte, Book: The Resilience Factor: 7 Keys to Finding Your Inner Strength and Overcoming Life’s Hurdles

Karyn Purvis; TCU Institute for Child Development Book: The Connected Child and numerous videos on TBRI (Trust Based Relational Intervention)

Marc Brackett; Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence Books: Permission to Feel: The Power of Emotional Intelligence to Achieve Well-Being and Success; Emotional Literacy in the Middle School and TedTalk:

Nadine Burke Harris, Center for Youth Wellness Book: The Deepest Well Ted Talk:

Peter Levine, Books: Waking the Tiger: Healing Trauma: the Innate Capacity to Transform Overwhelming Experiences. Trauma and Memory: Brain and Body in a Search for the Living Past: A Practical Guide for Understanding and Working with Traumatic Memory

Post Institute; Bryan Post Free resources online Books: The Great Behavior Breakdown, From Fear to Love: Parenting Difficult Adopted Children, How to Heal the Attachment Challenged Angry and Defiant Child

Dr. Ruby Gibson, Books: Our Bodies As Record Keepers. My Body My Earth: Somatic Archaeology Meditations. “Brain Spotting”

Resma Menakem. Book: My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending our Hearts and Bodies

Organizations, Websites, Articles and Videos

• ACEs Connection (

• ACEs Too High – ACES 101

• ACE Interface: The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study

• American Academy of Experts in Traumatic Stress

• Building Adult Capabilities:

• Building Resilience: Healthy Children

• Center for Pediatric Traumatic Stress

• Child Trends

• Compassion Resilience Toolkit

• Community Resilience Initiative

• Dr. Ruby Gibson on Somatic Archaeology

• Echohawk Lefthand Resilience

• Epigenetics Primer Video

• Flipping Your Lid - Hand Model of the Brain –

• Helping Foster and Adoptive Families Cope with Trauma - A Guide for Pediatricians

• How Brains are Built: The Core Story of Brain Development. Video:

• How Can Trauma Affect My Young Child?

• International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies

• Kids Mental Health Info

• National Center for Children Exposed to Violence

• National Child Traumatic Stress Network

• National Child Traumatic Stress Network Learning Center - for Child and Adolescent Trauma

• National Trauma Consortium

• Parenting After Trauma: Understanding Your Child's Needs - A Guide for Foster and Adoptive Parents

• Positive Supports

• Refrigerator Sheet: The Whole Brain Child by Daniel Siegel and Tina Payne Bryson.

• SAMHSA National Center for Trauma-Informed Care

• Six Core Strengths for Healthy Child Development: An Overview.

• Stress Health

• The Trauma Informed Care Project

• Through Our Eyes: Children, Violence, and Trauma Video

• US Department of Health & Human Services (

Social Media

ACEs Connection – SD -

Facebook - Center for the Prevention of Child Maltreatment –

Facebook – South Dakota ACEs and Resiliency Connections

Trauma Informed Care

Critical to safe and supportive crisis intervention

7 Trauma-Informed Workplace Wellness Practices to Strengthen Your Team


Trauma-Informed Care - Bing video

Trauma and the Brain - Bing video

Check out these resources for more information.