The Residential Child Care Project – a longtime Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research program designed to improve the quality of care for children living in group care settings – received a $2.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to establish the Center for Creating Trauma-Informed Residential Settings and share two of its programs with residential care centers across the country.
The grant is part of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, a federal effort to develop a national network of services for children and adolescents who have experienced trauma.
“It’s incredibly exciting,” said Martha Holden, Residential Child Care Project director. “There is a push nationally to encourage residential settings to use trauma-informed and evidence-based models to guide their practice. We have years of experience in assisting organizations in improving the quality of care and implementing trauma-informed models.”
The programs promoted in the grant are called Children in Residential Experiences (CARE) and Therapeutic Crisis Intervention (TCI).
The CARE model is a research-informed framework created by Holden and the RCCP to improve social dynamics in residential care settings. The model engages all staff at a residential care agency in a systematic effort to provide developmentally enriched living environments, to create a sense of normality and to improve the socio-emotional and developmental outcomes for children. CARE is used in more than 50 agencies in the U.S., Canada, Australia and the U.K., all of which collect data and contribute to development of the knowledge base of what works in residential care.
TCI trains staff how to use trauma-informed practices to anticipate and de-escalate disruptive behavior, manage aggression and help students learn social and emotional skills.
Residential care organizations provide therapeutic interventions for children and young people who require 24-hour care. Children are often referred to these organizations from the child welfare, mental health or juvenile justice systems.
“A lot of these children have experienced trauma and adversity in their lives,” Holden said. “They may have developed antisocial coping behaviors. They may become aggressive or self-destructive. They can be extremely withdrawn. Our programs help organizations to create the conditions that help children and families engage in therapeutic interventions.
“In addition, these models assist and support staff in creating a therapeutic milieu in which routine day-to-day interactions become opportunities for the children to develop trusting relationships with adults, learn social skills and emotional self-regulation, and experience the everyday small successes that helps build self-esteem and achieve normal developmental goals,” Holden said.
The grant provides funding to develop tools that will allow researchers and facility staff to track implementation of programs and improve them, in addition to sharing research, strategies and learning from the programs nationally.
“Data-informed decision-making and monitoring are essential components of both CARE and TCI,” said Debbie Sellers, director of research and evaluation for the Residential Child Care Project. “We will develop tools that will help organizations examine change over time using data they already collect. … We will also continueour development of fidelity assessment tools that help organizations identify specific areas where they can improve. Sustaining good practice requires continual effort and vigilance that we hope to facilitate with these tools.”
Sheri Hall is a freelance writer in Ithaca, New York.