5 Steps to Improve the Care of Children in Homes with Toxic Stress



The Importance of Youth Support & Services                                                                                                                                                                            New research reported by PACEs Connection in today’s newsletter informs us that people with neurological conditions are more likely to have experienced childhood trauma.  This further makes the case for a link between toxic stress and physical and behavioral health disorders.

The growing volume of research on childhood trauma and its link to behavioral health problems, medical problems, criminality, suicide, violence, and living on the margins of society are clear.  If we are to reduce the prevelence of these problems, we must solve the problem of child maltreatment, domestic violence, and paucity of family supports.  It is important to eliminate the idea that Children and Teens are “bad.”  They have likely expereinced trauma in childhood, often before the age of 6.

To change this situation we must look at the likely source of childhood toxic stress, which is child maltreatment, often within families. When we look at the source of this phenomenon, we find families in poverty, with family members suffering from substance abuse and mental illness. This is a source of childhood trauma within families.

Our support and help for families in poverty, and suffering from substance abuse and mental illness is insufficient in the US and perhaps around the world.  It is a difficult topic to admit that caregivers are unable to provide adequate care for their families without help.  While the social infrastructure bill is under discussion, it is important to also look at the needed support of families in distress, leaving the children of those families growing up in toxic stress resulting in substance abuse, criminality and violence.   The goal should be to prevent substance abuse, mental illnesses, criminal behavior, and violence through increased family supports, services, and treatment.

Therefore, the recommendation is to provide more services for families and the children in their care.   Departments of Social Services and behavioral health agencies need to be funded at a higher level and provide treatment services for youth and families.  We could also follow the lead of some European coutries in combining departments of social services and departments of juvenile services, thus supporting youth and their families together. To do this we must see the connection between childhood trauma and the social problems that they generate.


  1.  Increase funding universally for behavioral health agencies,  Departments of Social Services (DHS), and departments of juvenile services
  2. Provide sufficient behavioral health treatment services in any home where there is child maltreatment or domestic violence.
  3. When a youth enters a Department of Juvenile Services, provide behavioral health services for the entire familiy, not just the youth that enters the system.
  4. Link services of Behavioral Health Agencies to Departments of Social Services and Departments of Juvenile services
  5. Treat the entire family, not just the youth that has come to the attention of a public agency.

Dr. kathryn Seifert

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By drkathy

I am a psychologist and I own 6 mental health clinics in Maryland, ESPSMD.com. We specialize in working with troubled youth and their families. I have written 2 books and 1 assessment about youth violence and I lecture internationally on bullying and youth and family violence.

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