Children and Young People

Consulting with Children and Young People and organisations about the Trauma-Informed Wales Framework

Following the publication of Trauma-Informed Wales: a Societal Approach to Understanding, Preventing and Supporting the Impacts of Trauma and Adversity work has been taking place to understand how to engage with services, communities and people across Wales. The Framework supports a coherent, consistent approach to developing and implementing trauma-informed practice across Wales, providing the best possible support to those who need it most.

In order to successfully implement the Framework, there is a need to meaningfully engage with children and young people to understand what this means for them in their communities and for the services they interact with and to co-produce resources to support them.

Platform coordinated a project to build on work already started in partnership with ACE Hub Wales, Traumatic Stress Wales, Save the Children, NSPCC, Barnardo’s, and Children in Wales to start to bring the Framework to life, understand what it means in different contexts and to embed trauma-informed practice across all our interventions and interactions with children and young people.

Methods

Between February – March 2023, Platfform co-ordinated:

  • 9

    Engagement workshops with a total of 123 children and young people and 20 parents

  • 3

    Full Group Meetings with key organisations

  • 7

    Meetings to discuss with individual organisations who work with children and young people

The engagement sessions with children, young people, and parents took place in different settings, with different age groups. For many of these groups, safe relationships already existed due to their connection or involvement with an organisation and the wider infrastructure of support this offers. For sessions where existing relationships did not exist, time and care were taken to build safety and trust.

Each session covered a brief overview of the Framework, the purpose of the engagement session in gaining insights from parents, children and young people, how the information gathered would be used and our commitment to feeding back to everyone on what happens next.

These sessions aimed to discover the following:

  • What do children, young people and families already know about trauma and trauma-informed approaches? Checking understanding in terms of language – specifically the use of the word trauma.
  • What ways do children, young people and families enjoy learning?
  • Where do they get their information from?
  • What types of resources would they like to see being developed?
  • Any examples they can share where communities, services, families are doing this really well?
  • Any ideas they have for how we can get the message out across Wales?
  • Any important considerations they would like us to take account of?

Findings

What children, young people and parents told Platfform:

Tell a story and give examples, explain why this is important to us, why do we need to know. We like short stories and videos. Make it make sense to us and our world. Not all of us will understand the word trauma, and will need to learn what is meant by this term and what impact trauma can have.

This makes the topic less scary, it has to be fun and engaging so we can feel engaged and also be distracted if a topic is difficult to engage with.

This could be a triggering topic for some children, young people and parents. Give plenty of warning, focus on the positives, give control, tell us where we can get help, provide aftercare when needed.

You don’t need to focus solely on trauma to get this message across, depersonalise it where possible, focus on what we all need and what having a healthy mind/body looks like. Take a different approach for certain groups of children and young people, for example for care experienced young people, they may need more detailed or different information. Ideally we should feel better after learning about this topic not worse.

Think about what different groups of children, young people and families need, maybe different languages, cultural considerations. For example, if we have moved to Wales from a different country, parenting practices may be different and this can be a big adjustment. Similarly, there may be language barriers or unintended consequences of engaging with children without speaking to their parents – e.g. for gypsy and traveller families already feel traumatised and excluded, they may interpret this as us not caring what they think or not valuing their input. Think about the different accessibility needs of people who are neurodivergent or have different developmental needs. It’s helpful to see people with similar life experiences to us so we feel we can relate to the experiences and information.

Not a one size fits all, we all get our information from different sources, e.g. YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, websites, school assemblies, story books, workshops, games (including Minecraft!), activities and events. Where possible involve young people to deliver the messages to other young people or even to adults to help them see things from our point of view.

Everything should lead back to one place, e.g. a dedicated website or HWB, the education platform was suggested. Things should be easy to find by googling as this is often how we get information (both young people and parents).

How can children change things and how can adults help children to change things? Young people can take part in things and tell each other, but we can’t always change our circumstances, how do we access our rights, how do we challenge bad practice and poor responses/services? What about our families? Help us by highlighting what we can do for ourselves and help us recognise when we may need help and how to access this.

Other feedback:

““Yes we need to let children and young people know about this but a lot more emphasis should be put on making sure professionals, families and communities know about this because in reality children and young people have less power and control and cannot be the drivers to bring this to fruition - this should be done for us” ”

Young Person, aged 17

““The younger Mums in our generation do understand this more, but we are coming from generations before us where trauma it not acknowledged, e.g. older people say I was beaten and I turned out ok. Moving to a new country has a big affect on you as a parent adapting to a new culture and also on your child… the change is a lot to cope with and you do need help with that transition”. ”

Parent of infant

What organisations supporting children and young people told us:

All organisations engaged feel passionately about the Framework and recognise the importance of helping children and young people understand what it means for them. There was a consensus that working in line with the principles that underpin the Framework and taking a co-production approach is integral to taking this work forward.

• We need to consider how we talk about trauma and how we manage these discussions, considering what be the intended / unintended consequences
• We need to understand what we can do to capture baby and infant age groups
• We need to think about how we engage with groups that are traditionally labelled “hard to engage” and with those likely to still be experiencing trauma without alienating, traumatising or retraumatising anyone
• We need to avoid making assumptions, we plan for challenges/barriers to engagement for some groups but don’t predetermine the outcome of conversations
• We need to be clear about definitions of trauma and adversity, and that not everyone is affected the same way by traumatic events and to recognise that protective factors are different for different groups
• We need to ensure that we are focussed on trauma prevention as much as trauma responses (being strengths-based, not solely deficit focussed e.g. both ends of the continuum of relational health)
• We need to recognise that language is important and we need to be careful not to lose meaning when making things more accessible or when we translate it into other languages
• We need to keep language simple and open as this process may reignite individual’s personal experiences of trauma
• We need to make sure there is a clear and strong feedback loop showing where and how their contributions have made a difference or been incorporated to make it meaningful for children and young people
• We need to ensure those facilitating engagement sessions have appropriate skills to respond to/manage any potential distress e.g. understanding triggers around mental health and trauma when asking questions
• We need to make sure mechanisms are in place to support children and young people whilst talking about trauma/their trauma
• We also need to ensure that those facilitators have their own support in place to mitigate vicarious trauma
• We need to make use of our strong links already established to reach as wide an audience as possible, analysing data on who we have reached to date and identifying gaps
• We need to establish areas of interest before launching into sessions with children and young people to make it meaningful and relevant to them – have a template script/format for every session but adapt to the context/audience as appropriate
• We need to adapt learning styles and to effectively engage with all abilities/levels of understanding (reading ages, listening skills and neurodivergent children and young people). This may involve narrowing down the main points to get across the message as simply as possible
• Finally, we need to avoid stigma and only thinking about this from a mental health ns, keeping the focus on the principles in the Framework as they outline the approaches that benefit individuals and communities for all may assist.