Posted in Social Work

Building trauma related social work skills.

Building trauma related skills while incorporating how we can each balance our lives and the social work we do comes from a wide array of opportunities available to us to build our skills in working in trauma, how we support ourselves and each other doing this challenging work. I am striving to be better prepared now to continue learning how to assess trauma, how to encourage the steps of healing and how to provide ongoing after/care supports through a number of resources currently available or I can advocate to have created in the future.

Discovering my own experiences and journeys of trauma throughout my life, using the lessons trauma-informed practice can provide, has made the journey personal for me. I like that in addressing my own trauma related experiences I have from my past allows me to create stronger helping hands rather than being aloof or emotionally detached from myself. This allows me to experience the best outcomes in working as a social worker when I am able to experience or empathize with my clients. It’s more genuine, honest and real, to share our ‘human understandings’ with others to encourage, model or support others to try challenging their areas of concern, it builds less isolation and encourages the development of a social safety network to assist all of us build our lives into what our potential can offer.

When we attempt to integrate a trauma-informed practice process with our own personal journey, it makes us one with the process; allowing us to see ourselves interwoven with all humans experiencing trauma. Tosone, Nuttman-Shwartz, & Stephens (2012) talk about the relational nature of trauma (232), or shared trauma in large trauma events where both parties experienced similar events as in large weather related events and draw a clear line between this and a clinician self-disclosing their personal trauma experiences attempting to build empathy or rapport with a client. This can create a tension in the therapeutic relationship, as Tosone, et al. stated “…the clinician, whether or not disclosing her own childhood trauma, may mistakenly assume she understands the client’s reactions based on her own personal experience. It is incumbent upon the clinician to ensure that her selective self-disclosure is in service of the client’s best therapeutic interests, not personal need.” (233).

My own personal thoughts about trauma have over the past years been drawn to reflect on the citizens of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. These folks have experienced the most grievous form of trauma; unending civil war, misery and starvation where murder of young men and sexual violence is used to defeat one tribal group, as conquering armies have done throughout history. At a more global level, I don’t know what a whole nation can do to heal and survive the trauma they’ve experienced over the most recent years. Children growing up in war, orphaned, starving – all from their own countrymen. How does a nation heal? Nelson Mandela had a vision for a country torn by civil war to heal. It must start with political decisions to seek peace.

Tososne, C., Nuttman-Shwartz, O., & Stephens, T. (2012). Shared trauma: When the professional is personal. Clinical Social Work Journal, 40(2), 231-239.

Posted in Featured, Social Work

Comfort Dogs Head To Orlando To Help Families & Victims Heal

(ANIMAL NEWS/SERVICE DOGS) Following the horrific nightclub shooting Saturday night, Chicago comfort dogs are headed to Orlando to help families & victims heal.

Source: Comfort Dogs Head To Orlando To Help Families & Victims Heal

Posted in Social Work

‘Identifying the Trauma Recovery Needs of Maltreated Children: An Exam’ by Adrienne Whitt-Woosley

Children in the child welfare system comprise a group characterized by their exposure to trauma via experiences of maltreatment, under circumstances presenting multiple risk factors for traumatic stress. High rates of posttraumatic stress have been observed in this population. However, there is currently no standard for the universal screening of children in child welfare for trauma exposure and traumatic stress. The purpose of this study was to analyze the trauma experiences of a sample of maltreated children and examine whether child welfare workers are effective screeners of traumatic stress symptoms with children from their caseloads. Method: A sample of children (N= 131) with trauma screenings completed by their child welfare workers and clinical measures of traumatic stress symptoms based on self or caregiver report was analyzed. Descriptive and correlational analyses were conducted. Hypotheses were tested with a series of four hierarchical regression models to determine whether workers’ screening information regarding child age, trauma exposure history and symptoms of traumatic stress were predictive of outcomes on the clinical measures completed. Results: Findings from the analyses revealed complex trauma exposure histories and high rates of traumatic stress symptoms among this generally younger sample of maltreated children. Additionally, the models tested supported workers’ efficacy in screening for symptoms of total posttraumatic stress and specific trauma symptoms of intrusion and avoidance. Workers were less effective in screening for the traumatic stress symptoms associated with arousal. Implications: These findings support the importance of identifying the trauma recovery needs of maltreated children and the utility of child protection workers in assisting with the trauma screening process. Implications are provided for associated practices, policies and training efforts regarding the implementation of a trauma screening protocol in child welfare. This would serve as a critical pathway for creating trauma-informed systems that better address the needs of maltreated children and their families.

Source: ‘Identifying the Trauma Recovery Needs of Maltreated Children: An Exam’ by Adrienne Whitt-Woosley

Posted in Social Work

Forceable Separation and Inter-Generational Trauma

How the Government of Canada began to institute the forcible separation of Aboriginal people from their land, culture and identity in order to have them adopt European lifestyles was launched with the Residential School system. It is the position of this article that this calculated strategy caused significant cumulative trauma in multiple generations of Aboriginal people.

Prior to those events,the social policy adopted by the Canadian Government in 1876 with the passing of The Indian Act is an example of how the federal government supported the extinguishment of Aboriginal peoples as separate and distinct peoples from the dominant European identity. This shift in federal policies from one of protector of both Aboriginal people and their lands, as set out in the “Royal Proclamation of 1763” (INAC, 1996) resulted from an increased desire to assume ownership of Aboriginal lands in the West to bring settlers, institute private property rights and establish Municipal Governments, (Tobias 1976).

Children raised in a strict, disciplined environment with substandard care and no personal affection has left generations of Aboriginal people without traditional survival skills, ceremonial rituals and little extended family contact. This loss of ceremonial rituals attacks the spiritual core of an Aboriginal person. Without ceremonial mourning rituals they do not have knowledge or access to rituals allowing proper mourning of the substantial grief experienced (Brave Heart, DeBruyn, 1998).

Without the safe expression of grief and bereavement, this unresolved grief is a key concept in understanding the Aboriginal experience in Canada.The suppression of language and ceremony is a clear example of policies of Canada’s government intended to remove Aboriginal’s identity to be replaced with European dominant values and culture. Brave Heart (1999) discussed this trauma as having multiple impacts on individual functioning leading to serious long-term mental and emotional disturbances. Children raised in Residential Schools reported increased stress when parenting their own children, inadequate feelings, and report confusion in how to parent children (Brave Heart, 1999).

Research has shown, (Smith et al. 2005) significant and extreme emotional injury and mental health concerns were caused by forced removal of children from their parental care under the Indian Act, where they were taken to Residential Schools where no traditional relationships continued, nor traditional parenting roles modelled and where negative experiences like physical, sexual and emotional trauma and abuse were perpetrated on children by the institutional staff.

Brave Heart, M.Y.H., & DeBruyn, L. (1998). The American Indian holocaust: Healing historical unresolved grief. American Indian and Alaska Native Mental Health Research: Journal of the National Center, 8(2), 60-82.

Indian and Northern Affairs Canada. (1996). Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. Retrieved March 7, 2007, from

Maria Yellow Horse Brave Heart (1999) Oyate Ptayela: Rebuilding the Lakota Nation Through Addressing Historical Trauma Among Lakota Parents, Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 2:1-2, 109-126, DOI: 10.1300/J137v02n01_08. To link to this article:

Tobias, J. L., (1976). Protection, civilization, assimilation: an outline history of Canada’s indian policy. Sweet Promises, A Reader for Indian-White relations in Canada, 127 – 144.

Smith, D., Varcoe, C., & Edwards, N. (2005). Turning around the intergenerational impact of RS on aboriginal people: Implications for health policy and practice. Canadian Journal of Nursing Research, 37, 4, 38-60.

Posted in Articles Annotated, Featured

Parental experience of child protection intervention: a qualitative study

An Annotated Article: Dumbrill, G. C., Child Abuse and Neglect, 30 (2006) 27-37, Parental experience of child protection intervention: a qualitative study.

This article describes how the inherent imbalance of power between parents and child welfare caseworkers cannot be rectified. In this article, Dumbrill presents a conclusion from his study showing the equal distribution of power between parents and child welfare caseworkers may not be possible. Focusing on a group of 18 parents from both Ontario and British Columbia, the client respondents were from lower socio-economic families experiencing the full spectrum of mandated and voluntary child intervention types. Following a grounded data gathering process, Dumbrill mapped a decision making process where parents’ responses to child intervention caseworkers shows that based on fear, parents cannot fully embrace collaboration with caseworkers.

Parents understanding of caseworker’s use of power is a key concept to begin an intervention with a family. Checking parents’ assumptions of the power imbalance between parents and child intervention staff must be a starting point for caseworkers. Parents are filled with fear in their contacts with child intervention staff because judgements about family life are made without the parents’ voice being heard in the process. This is seen as power over the family, causing a fight response by parents. This key judgement issue without listening to parents’ voices establishes the belief in parents child intervention staff impose their opinions on families, creating a clear power imbalance.

Parents who perceive caseworkers to be exercising power with them described supportive activities that assisted them becoming collaborative with caseworkers reach their mutual goals. Activities such as advocacy with other organizations or structures to access resources and practical assistance of a temporary relief to stabilize the family clearly showed as sharing power with parents creating solutions to common goals. However, parents’ were clear despite their perceptions of their caseworkers were supportive they never really let go of the fear if their voice or actions turned, a supportive caseworker can easily turn against their plans to have their intervention end successfully. Parents’ perceptions to worker use of their power is viewed as a core factor in influencing parents either responding to power with conflict or to power with collaboration.

This article’s limitations are first, the sample was very small and may not successfully be transferred to larger populations without further study. Second, recent practice frameworks have not been reviewed in this same light which may shed more information regarding efforts to increase consumer acceptance of intervention planning, such as Signs of Safety and Child Intervention Practice Framework. As a social justice response, I believe the Distributive Justice model of Iris Marion Young (Young, 2005) validates Drumbill’s conclusion best. The five faces of oppression; exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism and violence can each be applied to the child intervention engagement scenario to validate the fear parents experience during periods of intervention.

My question is, to resolve this ethical dilemma, in your opinion, are the Signs of Safety or the Child Intervention practice framework changes in our intervention practice sufficient to bring this power imbalance to a more equitable level, and if not, what legislation or policy changes would you suggest?

Reference: Young, Iris Marion (2005), “Five faces of oppression”, in Cudd, Ann E.; Andreasen, Robin O., Feminist theory: a philosophical anthology, Oxford, UK Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell Publishing, pp. 91–104, ISBN 9781405116619

Posted in Articles Annotated, Ways of Knowing

The Western Structure of Knowledge

An Annotated Article: Grosfoguel, R. (2013). The Structure of Knowledge in Westernized Universities Epistemic Racism/Sexism and the Four Genocides/Epistemicides of the Long 16th Century. Human Architecture: Journal Of The Sociology Of Self-Knowledge11(1), 73-90. Retrieved from:

It is the position of this post that the western structure of knowledge centres on the impact of Rene Descartes’s writings in the early 1600’s. This is an article summary, see the article URL link below to review the article and it’s reference. This article discusses that the mid-17th century Cartesian “I think, therefore I am” (ego cogito) and the 150 years of “I conquer, therefor I am” (ego conquiro) is merged by the genocide/epistemicide of the “I exterminate, therefore I am” (ego extermino). The ‘I exterminate’ is the socio-historical structural mediation between the ‘I conquer’ and the ‘I think’: as in

“I conquer, therefore I am” leads to, “I exterminate, therefore I am” leads to “I think, and therefore I am like God”.

How Descartes Influenced Western Ways of Knowing:
Descartes ‘I think, therefor I am’, creates a separation between the mind and body; a dualism. It is universal in its knowing, like the God-Eye of post-Roman Christianity. The ‘I think, therefor I am’ learns certitude in truth by conducting an internal dialogue within oneself, to ask questions and come up with answers in an internal monologue with self. (Grosfoguel 76) The fact this internal monologue does not occur in a social relation with others is the initial beginning of the Western Ways of Knowing being detached from the environment of others, viewing them as inferior. Objectivity is interpreted to mean neutrality, whereas Subjectivity infers biased, invalid, irrelevant, unserious, that is, inferior knowledge. (Grosfoguel 76)

How Male European Elite Dominate Western Thought:
The Imperial Mind approach is based on 150 years of conquering and colonial expansion beginning in 1492. The segway between the “I Conquer, Therefore I Am” and the “I Think, Therefore I Am” required one more connector to link the two from “I am Master of All I See” to “I Am Like God”. That is what led to the extermination and genocide of non-Europeans and Women. It is this “I Exterminate, Therefore I Am” that is the causal link from an all-conquering male European elite to an all knowing God-like male European elite and the forefathers of our modern Western Ways of Knowing and Western Academic leadership.

Thus, modern Descartian male ego centered perspectives continue to dominate the Ways of Knowing, extinguishing as inferior any perspective outside the limited historical perspective of the racist/sexist Western Academic world view. (Grosfoguel 88).  Grosfoguel recommends breaking with the male european based epistemologies, as they are based on racist and sexist genocidal practices: that universal conformism is inherently corrupted due to its corrupted source.

This recommendation supports the breakdown of modern academic ways of knowing by embracing other world views and diversifying epistemological understandings of ways of knowing to include non-Europeans and Woman as having equal ways of knowing just as certain as others.