Congressional Baby Caucus Briefing on Trauma

The Congressional Baby Caucus, led by Representatives Denny Rehberg (R-MT) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) held a briefing this morning on, “The Effects of Trauma on Infants and Toddlers: Creating Informed Policy to Prevent a Lifetime of Negative Consequences.” Representative DeLauro actively moderated the panel with passion for exploring this issue and identifying solutions. The panel of experts included Frank W. Putnam, M.D., of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and the University of North Carolina; Alicia F. Lieberman, PhD, of the University of California, San Francisco and San Francisco General Hospital; and Dorinda Silver Williams, LCSW-C, ACSW, of ZERO TO THREE.

Dr. Putnam offered an overview of national maltreatment data and research indicating a link between the recession and increased maltreatment. He then discussed the risk associated with adverse childhood experiences and the effects of childhood trauma on early brain development and long-term physical health and social development. He concluded with a discussion of evidence-based interventions and prevention programs, calling for policy support for funding, quality standards, investment in research, and cross-systems collaboration. Dr. Lieberman took a clinicians perspective relaying the case story of a traumatized child and how critical trauma-informed care was to improving the child’s symptoms, functioning and development trajectory. Dr. Lieberman’s recommendations focused on improving training and technical assistance of workers in community-based services and ensuring intergenerational treatment for both the parents and young children as a best practice.  Williams explained the trauma related experiences of children in military families, whether its due to death, or the return of a parent struggling with a trauma related disorder.

Administration on Children Youth and Families Commissioner Bryan Samuels offered special remarks on how trauma threatens young children’s social and emotional well-being. He talked about the need to elevate the goal of child well-being to the same level as safety and permanency within the child welfare system. He also pointed to the progress made in the recent reauthorization of IV-B of the Social Security Act that requires states to screen for trauma and develop a plan to address the developmental needs of young children. In addition, he highlighted the Administration’s recent funding of five trauma grants in Massachusetts, North Carolina, Connecticut, Colorado, and Montana for training and implementation of evidence-based trauma interventions and including technical assistance through collaboration with SAMHSA.

The briefing covered several policy recommendations, including improving the quality and capacity of social services like Early Head Start and child care; adequately funding research and technical assistance like the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, improving workforce supports in systems serving vulnerable populations; fostering trauma informed systems through programs like the Race to the Top Early Learning Challenge Fund; and maintaining funding for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program amidst the budget negotiations.

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