Identifying and Addressing Parental Trauma and Behavioral Health Need: The Role of the Child Welfare System

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Journal of Public Child Welfare

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Parents involved with the child welfare system often have been exposed to traumatic events throughout their lives and have behavioral health service needs. Although connecting parents to trauma-informed behavioral health care has potential to reduce the risk of recurring maltreatment, limited research has focused on child welfare system capacity to respond to parents’ needs in a trauma-informed way. Based on a quantitative survey and secondary analysis of qualitative focus group data, this study examines child welfare and behavioral health workers’ perceptions of a county child welfare agency’s readiness for understanding, assessing and addressing parental trauma. Findings suggest that child welfare staff understand how parental trauma impacts parenting, but do not perceive that the system was ready to adequately assess, and address parents’ needs in a trauma-informed way. Lack of regional behavioral health services and integration between child welfare and adult behavioral health systems were noted to be major barriers.


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