Sheriff: Knowing people’s experiences helps us deal with them
Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a seminar on trauma-informed care. It was well-attended with members from various disciplines such as law enforcement, education, health care and both local and national politicians.
For those who are not aware of what trauma-informed care is all about, it is a new way of looking at the factors that affect those with whom we come into contact not just as clients, patients, inmates or students, but rather looking at them from a humanistic perspective with respect to their unique personal experiences.
The actual definition of trauma-informed care (TICP) is as follows: “TICP is a strengths-based framework that is responsive to the impact of trauma, emphasizing physical, psychological and emotional safety for both service providers and survivors; and creates opportunities for survivors to rebuild a sense of control and empowerment.”
In listening to the many presentations, a powerful statement was made as to how we interact with those suffering from emotional trauma, and that is to ask “What happened to you?” rather than "What’s wrong with you?”
This is an important distinction, as we so often forget that those who are struggling in school, at home or in their relationships many times are facing many more challenges than what we may see on the surface. Only by taking the time to understand their history can we truly begin to help them move forward.
Throughout the seminar there were many strategies and experiences shared from the various jurisdictions represented as to how they are approaching these challenges. I would like to share just a few that we have been doing here in Kewaunee County.
The first is our Endangered Child Protocol, which is merely a process where we in law enforcement share information with our educators in the various schools to assist them in responding to a child’s behavior.
In the past, a disruptive child may have been dealt with as just that, a child who is being disruptive for no apparent reason other than to gain attention. By sharing information with law enforcement it may now become apparent that this same child is acting out due to trauma from events outside the school of which the educators have no knowledge.
You can only imagine what emotions and feelings a young person may be going through if there was a domestic incident in the home the night before, or if one of the parents was recently arrested in the child's presence.
We have already seen the benefit of sharing information in these instances for both the staff and the children involved.
Another initiative we have been involved in for the past few years is our sharing of information with Human Services.
In the past, we operated in what we call “silos of information” This is where we in law enforcement have our records and Human Services has theirs. This is an unfortunate reality in so many areas of our systems and one that can be corrected without spending a great deal of money.
We have entered into a Memorandum of Understanding with the Human Services Department where it is now able to provide our agencies with Crisis Plans. These plans contain general information regarding a client they may be working with. Although they cannot share specific information, we can share enough to allow our responding officers to learn critical details that may aid how we interact upon responding to a call for help from the individual.
There were so many great ideas being implemented throughout our state and I was very honored to be part of the conversation. In the end, our goal should be as stated by Dr. Stuart Shanker — “See a child differently, you see a different child”
Matt Joski is Kewaunee County Sheriff.
This article originally appeared on Green Bay Press-Gazette: Sheriff: Knowing people's experiences helps us deal with them