ABA Trauma-Informed Advocacy for Children and Youth

American Bar AssociationThe American Bar Association (ABA) is calling for legal representation that recognizes the impact of trauma and “reflects an awareness of trauma’s adverse impacts on children and youth in contact with the legal system.” It calls for collaboration to facilitate and support recovery. TLPI’s Education law clinic at Harvard Law School was highlighted as part of the solution. Below is an excerpt from the report. Read the full ABA report on Trauma-Informed Advocacy for Children and Youth.

Practice Reforms to Better Address Child/Youth Trauma

It is simply “good practice” for legal professionals who work with children and youth in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems to be aware of the effects of trauma and to engage in trauma-informed practices. There are many ways to raise awareness of the importance of trauma and trauma-informed practices among legal professionals, including law school clinics, continuing legal education and training, trauma-informed court initiatives, child welfare and juvenile justice initiatives, and cross-systems collaborations.

Awareness of trauma and its impact on children and youth can start in law school. Law schools can provide seminars on trauma. The Katherine and George Alexander Community Law Center at Santa Clara University offers a course on trauma and the law that informs students about trauma and teaches them techniques for representing traumatized clients. 70 Law schools can also incorporate information about trauma into other coursework, such as classes on criminal justice or mental health.

Clinics are another way to provide law students with the opportunity to learn about trauma. Harvard Law School and Massachusetts Advocates for Children formed the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative in 2004. 71  Harvard’s Education Law Clinic is part of the Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative. 72 Law students in the clinic learn about the impact of trauma on children’s ability to learn and engage in direct representation of parents whose children have been exposed to family violence or other traumatic experiences and are not receiving the special education services they require. 73

Trauma-informed courts can take steps to identify and provide appropriate services for children and youth who have experienced trauma. In the Stark County Family Court in Ohio, for example, which handles child welfare and juvenile justice cases, the court provides trauma training for judges and staff. 74 The court also utilizes a screening tool during the intake process to identify children and youth who have experienced trauma. 75 In addition to making its own practices trauma-informed, the court participated in the creation of a Traumatized Child Task Force which endeavors to inform the local community about trauma and build capacity for trauma treatment. 76


70 Inst. Redress & Recovery, Secondary Trauma: A Primer, SANTA CLARA LAW, http://www.scu.edu/redress/Secondary-trauma-a-primer/ (last visited Oct. 31, 2013).

71 Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative, MASS. ADVOCATES FOR CHILDREN, http://www.massadvocates.org/trauma-learning.php (last visited Oct. 31, 2013).

72 Education Law Clinic/Trauma and Learning Policy Initiative, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL (March 26, 2013), http://www.law.harvard.edu/academics/clinical/clinics/education.html.

73 Id.

74 Howard & Tener, supra note 53, at 26.

75 Id.

76 Id. at 32.



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