Health & Social Services, Wilm U to train staff in finding trauma victims

Exposure to events such as domestic violence shootings linked to crime, drug abuse, shorter lifespans.


The Department of Health and Social Services is partnering with Wilmington University to train more than 1,000 of its employees in better assessing and addressing the needs of clients statewide, many of whom have experienced trauma in their lives.

The announcement came as part of the kickoff of a yearlong Trauma-Informed Approach initiative.

Wilmington University’s nine-week training session for 26 supervisors and trainers from the DHSS Divisions of Social Services, Child Support Services and State Service Centers, began in January with the support of the DHSS Division of Management Services. The 54 hours of training blends face-to-face classroom learning at Wilmington University’s New Castle campus with online learning.

“Among our divisions with the greatest level of direct client contact, our goal is to create a workforce that understands what trauma is, how it affects people across their lifespans and the most effective ways to assess and meet our clients’ needs,” said DHSS Secretary Dr. Kara Odom Walker, a board-certified family physician. “This training is an important step in supporting and promoting recovery for our clients who have experienced trauma so they can build resilience and learn to thrive in their communities.”

The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study, conducted in 1995 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Kaiser Permanente, found that, among the 17,000 participants, more than 60 percent had been exposed to at least one adverse event, such as divorce of a parent, witnessing neighborhood violence, living with an adult with a mental illness or addiction issue, or other hardship.

The ACE Study found that traumatic life events in childhood affect survivors across their lifespan and lead to such challenges as family dysfunction, school failure, physical illnesses, psychiatric conditions, substance use disorder, exposure to risky relationships and behaviors, homelessness, criminal activity, unemployment or under-employment, and premature death, as many as 20 years too soon. A growing body of research shows that adversity is so common as to be nearly universal.

In Delaware, Governor John Carney’s Family Services Cabinet Council is addressing adverse childhood experiences as a way to reduce the impact of violence in Wilmington. In the City of Wilmington, 60.5 percent of children have been exposed to at least one taumatic event compared with 47.9 percent nationally.

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