adolescence, caring for children, Center for Victims of Torture, child and youth survivors, children, Children's mental health, exposure to traumatic events, exposure to violence, mental health, mental health services, torture survivors, trauma, trauma informed advocate, violence, witnesses
Not long after reading the UN’s Annual Report of the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, we came across this interesting article recently published in the StarTribune about a newly created position of “Trauma Informed Advocate” at the St. Cloud (MN) Police Department. St. Cloud is a community located approximately one hour from Minneapolis and St. Paul and is the county seat of Stearns County.
According to the St. Cloud Police Department, “Police officers who encounter a child exposed to a traumatic event such as domestic assault, household fire, car accident, assault, or another traumatic event will refer the child to the advocate who will connect the child with specially trained service providers within 24-48 hours.” The idea for a Trauma Informed Advocate originated two years ago after the Stearns County Domestic Violence Partnership was informed of a program in Greensboro, NC that provided specialized services to children who were witnesses to domestic violence.
The StarTribune article mentions that the St. Cloud Police Department’s Trauma Informed Advocate is the first one to exist in Minnesota.
While most of the survivors CVT sees are adults, we do know children can also be survivors of horrific events. In fact, at our Minnesota and international healing sites we provide services to child and youth survivors, adapting techniques to their developmental levels. In our experience, events that occur during a “sensitive period” in child development can have very significant long-term effects. Unfortunately, these vulnerable times can continue through adolescence.
I believe young people are much more vulnerable to the effects of torture. There is nothing more terrifying than that which you don’t understand, and children don’t have the same cognitive abilities or emotional coping skills as adults. They often can’t organize what happened during traumatic events into a coherent story.
CVT Director of Client Services Dr. Andrea Northwood