Defending Childhood

Written by Workhorse Marketing

by Julie Burch, Director of Marketing, Austin Children’s Shelter
Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Children’s exposure to violence, whether as victims or witnesses, is often associated with long-term physical, psychological, and emotional harm. In December, the U.S. Attorney General’s Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence released their final report, “Defending Childhood.” It in, the Task Force presents more than 50 recommendations for launching a coordinated national response to address children’s exposure to violence—as victims or witnesses—in their homes, schools, and communities.

The opening letter from the Task Force Co-Chairs states, “Advances in neuroscience and child development have taught us that the trauma children experience when they are exposed to physical, sexual, and emotional violence harms their ability to mature cognitively and emotionally; and it scars them physically and emotionally well into their adult lives.”

Among the recommendations, the report challenges our leaders to raise awareness of this crisis, to change social norms to protect children from violence, and to ensure that all children exposed to violence have access to trauma-informed services and evidence-based trauma-specific treatment.

Trauma-informed care is a new form of evidence-based interventions and services that Austin Children’s Shelter officially adopted two years ago, but in reality, the organization has followed the core principles for many years. This type of care acknowledges that the effects of trauma can change the way in which children perceive their environment and how they interact and react to the world. Staff at ACS respond to children and provide services in ways that minimize re-victimization, promotes healing and empowerment by giving them choices, and creates an environment of trust.

Our partnership in LIFT allows us to expand these trauma-informed approaches into new areas and with new partners. A coordinated community response that includes the medical community, schools, community and religious organizations, law enforcement and the legal system can not just improve outcomes for kids in the short-term, but will also ensure that they survive the trauma intact and prepared to meet the future with confidence. We intend to challenge all of Austin and Central Texas to work to end abuse and to be a place of healing for survivors.
Link to report: