Office of the Child Advocate and UMass Chan Medical School Launch State Center on Child Wellbeing and Trauma

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Recognizing the urgent need to address childhood trauma in the Commonwealth, the Massachusetts Office of the Child Advocate (OCA) and Commonwealth Medicine, the public service consulting and operations division of UMass Chan Medical School, announced today the launch of the Center on Child Wellbeing and Trauma (CCWT). The CCWT will support child-serving organizations and systems in becoming trauma-informed and responsive through training, technical assistance, professional learning opportunities, and other practice advancement support.

The Center is a natural progression of the critical work the OCA has done over the years to improve services for children and families, melded with the academic knowledge and public health service expertise of Commonwealth Medicine.

“At a time when the experience of childhood trauma is being exacerbated by a global pandemic, I am proud we are taking this important step to ensure all systems that interact with children are trauma-informed and responsive,” said Maria Mossaides, director of the Office of the Child Advocate. “At the OCA, we focus on the unique need of children because we know that if they have access to high quality services, it can change the entire trajectory of their lives. The CCWT will give organizations the supports they need to help children who have experienced trauma recover and thrive. We are grateful to the Massachusetts Legislature and Governor Baker for recognizing the need for such supports and for their substantial investment in the CCWT.”

“Childhood trauma can have a life-long effect on a child, impacting their physical and mental health, learning abilities, and ultimately their path to success. I am thrilled that the Massachusetts Legislature and Governor Baker have prioritized child wellbeing by helping create the CCWT,” said Lisa M. Colombo, executive vice chancellor, Commonwealth Medicine, UMass Chan Medical School. “Commonwealth Medicine is honored to be part of this forward-thinking initiative, and I look forward to seeing it flourish as it delivers supports and assistance to the Commonwealth’s child-serving organizations.”

Research has shown that the experience of childhood trauma is pervasive. Trauma can have a significant impact on a child’s development, with long-term consequences for physical, mental, and emotional health that can last into adulthood.  The right supports, however, can facilitate a child’s healing and recovery.

“Every entity that works with children likely works with some children who have experienced trauma. These providers have done heroic work, particularly during this difficult time. But often organizations and systems are not properly equipped to provide children with the supports and healing environment they need,” said Audrey Smolkin, executive director of CCWT. “In some cases, these systems can also cause or amplify trauma. Our hope is that the CCWT can provide the tools and resources to reduce trauma and increase healing.”

Issues like workforce turnover, limited time for staff training, and other capacity issues exacerbate all of the challenges these organizations face, even those actively seeking to provide trauma-informed and responsive care. The CCWT will focus on redesigning child-serving systems to reduce trauma infliction and re-traumatization and support children’s healing and wellbeing.

To support child-serving organizations in becoming trauma informed and responsive, the CCWT will provide targeted training and technical assistance, including:

  • Organizational assessments to help identify areas of strength and areas for further work
  • Targeted technical assistance/coaching support based on identified areas of need
  • Training opportunities, which may include sessions on trauma, vicarious trauma, racial trauma, LGBTQ+ issues, protective and preventative childhood experiences and/or self-care
  • Opportunities to participate in Professional Learning Communities
  • A resource website and online training opportunities

Establishing a center on child wellbeing and trauma was a 2020 recommendation of the state Childhood Trauma Task Force, which is chaired by the OCA. The Fiscal Year 2022 state budget, which was passed by the Legislature this summer and signed into law by Governor Charlie Baker, invested $1 million to support the creation and initial operation of the CCWT. State Senator Harriette Chandler (D-Worcester) filed an amendment to the budget securing this funding for the CCWT.

“The Commonwealth is committed to protecting the safety and wellbeing of our children. Access to the appropriate support is vital to a child who has experienced trauma, which may impact a child developmentally, emotionally and physically,” said Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. “The Center’s launch will ensure programs available to children have the supports necessary to identify, assess, and provide impactful trauma informed services.”

“I would like to express my deep gratitude to the Office of the Child Advocate and Commonwealth Medicine for developing this innovative and transformative approach that will support the wellbeing of the Commonwealth’s children,” said Senate President Karen E. Spilka (D-Ashland).  “As we begin to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we must prioritize the long-standing mental health needs of the Commonwealth’s children, particularly those who have experienced trauma. The Center will serve as a critical resource that will help expand access to high quality, trauma-informed supports for some of our most vulnerable residents.”

“I am so proud of the long-awaited launch of the Center on Child Wellbeing and Trauma, especially in these challenging pandemic times,” said Senator Harriette L. Chandler (D-Worcester). This Center is years in the making and will serve as a model for other communities and states to address childhood trauma and its impacts. I want to congratulate the Office of the Child Advocate and the UMass Chan Medical School for launching this innovative space that will serve as a hub in the Commonwealth and make a tremendous difference in our children’s lives.”

“As the Commonwealth continues to explore innovative, impactful avenues to better serve our children, it is fantastic news that the Massachusetts Center on Child Wellbeing and Trauma is opening in Worcester,” said State Representative Jim O’Day (D-West Boylston). “I am ecstatic about how many children will thrive, due to the critical work of the CCWT. I look forward to working with the CCWT and improving the lives of children across the state.”

In its first year, the CCWT will launch targeted projects to support child-serving organizations in various sectors—testing and refining the model—with the goal of expanding services in its second year and beyond.