The human services sector — like all professional fields — is one that must incorporate new research and understanding of the interconnectedness between the body, behavior, history and environment in order to stay relevant. Professional development around issues such as cultural competence, gender identity, impact of socio-economic status, and equity have strengthened organizations’ ability to better partner with their clients as they work to accomplish targeted goals or recover from hardship.
Sometimes increased awareness and the translation of new knowledge or perspectives into practice can be completed on a personal level, but often it must happen at the level of organizations and systems in order to have its greatest impact. Organization and system change require commitment and coordination – and funding.
In late 2011, professionals in Johnson County, Kansas, representing systems of care and correction were just hearing about “trauma-informed care” and wondering what it meant for their organizations. Did this impact their clients or their staff? Should becoming trauma-informed as an organization be a priority? What process and training was necessary to becoming a trauma-informed organization or system? And who could help local organizations get there?
With awareness about the impact of trauma increasing, United Community Services of Johnson County (UCS), a nonprofit focused on human services planning, convened an initial group of interested organizations to explore what it would mean for them to become trauma-informed. The group, who came to be known as the Johnson County Trauma Informed Care Task Force, wanted a collective way to explore the issue and how it related to them – but UCS immediately recognized that the planning, training, and coordination of such an effort would require resources. Resources to support the time for convening and facilitation, getting educated about best practices and training resources, working one-on-one with staff to build buy-in, the delivery of training and related materials, and support for the creation and implementation of action plans within each member organization.
The Health Forward Foundation’s Applicant Defined Grant funding made it possible for UCS to provide the planning support essential for Johnson County agencies to lay the groundwork for a trauma-informed community within their own organizations.
Finding funding for a change process that is driven by a community’s collaboration is often difficult. The Health Care Foundation recognized early on that the vision of creating a trauma-informed community in Johnson County would likely not be a simple one-and-done effort. Instead it would be an ongoing effort, shaped by local partners and their capacity for change, and require organizational culture shift to be successful. Understanding that changing organizational practice and culture takes time, the Foundation provided three years of support for the process of planning, training, implementation, expansion and sustainability.
The groundwork laid by member organizations and supported with resources from the Foundation has resulted in:
- hundreds of trained staff at dozens of public and private organizations
- 100-plus educational presentations and increased awareness across the county
- ongoing quarterly trainings for members’ new staff
- increased secondary trauma resources
- bi-monthly meetings of the Task Force within the county’s Community Violence Action Council (COMVAC)
- ongoing team meetings within member organizations to assure the gains made by the effort continue growing.
The Health Care Foundation has been a critical partner in Johnson County’s effort to create a trauma-informed community – a vision that local organizations will continue striving for in order to assure better outcomes for their clients and staff, and ultimately all residents of Johnson County.