One of our major 2021 focuses at BGCA is looking at all of the work we do with what is referred to as a trauma-informed approach. Here’s what that means: Trauma is an event or series of events that are physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening. It might be a single event, like a major accident or the loss of a caregiver due to death or incarceration, or it might be an ongoing situation, like severe bullying or chronic poverty. Trauma has lasting negative effects on an individual’s mental, physical, social and spiritual well-being, and the data shows that more than two-thirds of children experience at least one traumatic event by the age of 16. (And this data comes from BEFORE COVID-19 times!)
When we take a trauma-informed approach to the work that we do, it means that we recognize, understand, and respond to the effects of all types of trauma, and integrate it throughout our practices, policies, and culture. It is a vital step in the path to equity, which is promoting just and fair inclusion and creating the conditions in which all young people can participate, prosper, and reach their full potential. There’s not a specific set of “things to do,” but there are some broad guiding principles to keep in mind. You can learn more about them, with some targeted suggestions around COVID-19 response on BGCA.net.
In today’s blog, we’ll be hearing from one of the people who is leading out on this work. Rachel Schutz, Vice President of Club Services & Trauma-Informed Specialist at Boys & Girls Clubs of the Portland Metro Area, shares her Club’s experience piloting the new Behavior Support Toolkit and the difference this approach has made for staff and youth.
At Boys & Girls Clubs of the Portland Metro Area we prioritize Equity and Trauma-Informed Care, and we use those lenses to ensure that all of our policies, practices, programming, services, and training meet those standards. We were extremely fortunate to have advanced access to the Behavior Toolkit from BGCA, allowing us to review, comb through, and test-drive the tools for relevancy, efficacy, and use in day-to-day Club. From even the first look, our team was astounded by not only the quality of the tools within it, but their seamless integration with our standards of equity and trauma-informed Care. We quickly realized that this toolkit was not just one to reference as a resource in an all-staff email, but to spend time with to build policy and practice around.
So, we did just that! As a leadership team we dove through all the materials, and started to use them as a framework to revise our own locally developed ones. From there, we used this toolkit as a blueprint for the creation of an organization-wide roll-up of all our behavior support trainings, materials, printouts, and incident reporting systems. From this analysis, and with the support of the Toolkit framework, we were able to create a comprehensive Behavior Support Policy that detailed behavior examples, staff actions and responses by position, printable resources, established policy, community resources, and a easy color-code system of responses, all rolled into a single, self-referential document, printed and bindered for each staff in our Clubs.
Having a universal Behavior Support Policy, with all the comprehensive materials included, was a game-changer for our staff. It established a uniform set of expectations and practices, ensured our in-the-moment responses were trauma-informed and equitable, connected the dots for our new staff about why and how we do what we do, and allowed for ease of communication and transparency to our families and administration. The Behavior Support Toolkit served as the catalyst to take all the various threads of policy, practice, and materials we had, and weave them into a tapestry of comprehensive support and action. You can see our policy as a sample in the Toolkit.
This January we began training all our staff across the board in the Behavior Toolkit and Support Policy. Our staff are now equipped with this greatly expanded toolbelt, more resources to respond in the moment, and a greater organizational understanding of our how’s and why’s for everything that we do. Training to use of the toolkit, as well as our policy around it, will be folded into our staff onboarding from here on out, and plan to lead regular workshops on continued development and utilization of it.
Trauma-informed care and equity can seem like very big concepts that are extremely difficult to put into practice. But with tools like this, it becomes much less daunting and much easier to just “do”. As one of our staff put it last week during training, “This is equity, but the actual steps to get there.”
Explore the Behavior Support Toolkit and begin applying a trauma-informed approach to behavior support in your Club now. In it, you’ll find tools and resources for every level of your Club, from organizational policies to activities frontline staff can run.