Improving professional practice is challenging. One-time workshops certainly have short-term benefits, but don’t drive or sustain long-term change. Training on new ideas or practices that don’t match a provider’s organizational context can be just as unproductive. Finally, to promote trauma-informed care for children requires that the systems that serve families (human services, education, etc.) are not working at cross-purposes, that they all have similar approaches and care philosophies. A tall order.
The Cross Systems Training Institute (CSTI) seeks to address these issues, championing a tightly integrated and customized approach to staff development and training.
This approach starts with the CSTI’s highly skilled members, 18 professionals representing four key systems—the School District of Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Departments of Human Services, Public Health and Children’s Behavioral Health. These leaders have various training and staff development responsibilities within their organizations. They boast significant expertise in training, curriculum development, program design, supervision, mentoring, and professional development.
CSTI trainers act as change agents, promoting skill building and professional development around trauma-informed care within their own organizations. At the same time, they are working together to develop, design, and disseminate curricula and other training activities aimed at supporting trauma-informed care throughout Philadelphia.
After meeting monthly at the beginning of the initiative to learn together from national and local experts about the nuances of early childhood development, trauma, and best practices in the field, CSTI’s members have developed a variety of tools and materials that can be applied within their own organizations and across systems. These include:
Training manuals, train-the-trainer sessions, and didactic seminars to establish a common baseline knowledge of child development, trauma, and resiliency; Customized, experiential workshops that are integrated into each organization or system’s program development and quality improvement activities; and training, coaching, and ad hoc support to supervisors on how to use team meetings, case conferences, and other regularly scheduled gatherings to facilitate their staff’s professional development.
Several departments and organizations are already making important changes based on CSTI trauma-informed trainings. For example, the Department of Human Services (DHS) has added required reading material about trauma, including Sandra Bloom’s book Creating Sanctuary, to the curriculum for new employees. The School District of Philadelphia provided training on trauma-informed care by Bruce Perry, MD, to 200 kindergarten teachers. The Health Federation of Philadelphia is routinely incorporating Sandra Bloom’s Community Meeting format into their staff meetings and has a published workplace policy supporting trauma informed practice. This approach helps to create and model organizational safety and reduce stress among participating staff.
In 2007 the CSTI developed the Multiplying Connections Core Competencies and a foundational training manual, Becoming Trauma Informed, based on these competencies. Becoming Trauma Informed has been delivered to more than 1,500 children's services professionals in Philadelphia and around the nation.