Assessing Childhood Trauma: A Guide for Justice Professionals

Assessing Childhood Trauma: A Guide for Justice Professionals
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1 Resources
Recorded on: 2020-03-05
Unit 1 Slide Deck: Assessing Childhood Trauma
Unit 2 Workbook: Assessing Childhood Trauma. A Guide for Justice Professionals
Unit 3 Recording: Assessing Childhood Trauma

This is the second installment of this Justice Clearinghouse series on childhood trauma. While the first one provided an introduction to childhood trauma, this one offers pointers on the things to look out for that indicate childhood trauma when assessing individuals. Looking at problematic behaviors through a trauma-informed lens allows responders and advocates to provide better care and guidance and be more effective in their intervention and treatment approaches.

Back on Justice Clearinghouse is this session’s instructor Duane Bowers. A Licensed Professional Counselor and Educator, Duane’s specialty is working with survivors of trauma, child exploitation, trafficking and families who suffer loss. He also provides support, supervision, and training for organizations and professionals working in this field all over the US and Canada. He is the author of  Guiding Your Family Through Loss and Grief and A Child is Missing: Providing Support for Families of Missing Children.


Specifics discussed in this webinar include:

  • A refresher on the first part of the webinar series.
    • The types of trauma that children may be exposed to.
    • The three key things that children experience during trauma.
    • Understanding traumatic response in relation to PTSD.
    • How traumatic response impacts the cognitive, emotional, physical and mental aspects of a child’s life.
    • The idea of intergenerational trauma and the various modes by which this occurs.
    • The process of brain development.
    • The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES) Study where the concept childhood trauma and how it affects individuals throughout their life is based upon.
    • What happens in the brain, particularly the amygdala, hippocampus, corpus callosum and cerebral cortex, amidst traumatic response and how it impacts their functions.
    • How memory includes all experiences through the five senses, as well as emotions.
  • Important elements to remember and consider during assessment.
    • The importance of not just looking at behavior when qualifying an individual for trauma.
    • Statistics that highlight the link of abuse and trauma to mental health disorders.
    • Instances related to the caregiver that makes children experience a stronger traumatic response.
    • Focusing on the child’s perspective when unpacking inappropriate sexual experience.
    • Characteristics that put an individual at a higher risk for a traumatic reaction.
    • The different qualities of the event that determines the level of trauma it may inflict on a child.
    • The types of behavior that may indicate the probability of trauma in children.
    • A look into trauma and how it manifests as behaviors and thinking patterns in children of different ages.
    • Tips on how to better understand what children want to express through trauma narrative gestures.
    • The most common feelings of children who have been traumatized and overcoming these negative emotions through hope.


Points that Duane clarified during the Q&A were about:

  • Neglect as a form of trauma.
  • The difference of intergenerational trauma to secondary trauma.
  • How parents and other elders can best share with children their traumatic experiences safely.
  • What it means to have a culture of trauma within a family,
  • How childhood trauma may impact an individual’s well-being and relationships in the future.
  • What happens when the amygdala shuts down the hippocampus.
  • Witnessing and participating in pet abuse as an Adverse Childhood Experience.


This webinar is part of a three-part series:


Audience Comments

  • “I think it is so important for providers and professionals to understand that children don’t have to see or hear DV first had to be negatively impacted by it. This really reiterated that for me.” — Amanda
  • “A lot of really good information about changes to the brain.” — Andrea
  • “Absolutely everything (was helpful). An extremely important topic.” — Anita
  • “This was good info. Our department is looking to become more trauma-informed so this was definitely relative to the direction we are moving toward.” — Cori
  • “I found the entire presentation beneficial, but the breakdown of the age categories and the traits displayed was something I found helpful.” — Ginger
  • “The most valuable viewpoint was a global understanding of how early childhood experiences affects brain functioning, and how lack of interventions result in dysfunctional adults.” — Gloria
  • “Great simple explanations of trauma and how it affects the perception, reactions, and processes.” — Margaret
  • “The portrayal of a wide variety of trauma, and explanation detailing how trauma is passed on from one person or caregiver to a child. Just being able to learn more about how individualized trauma experience and results are is very helpful in developing a deeper understanding.” — Maddy


Additional Resources
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Online Course: Understanding Trauma and Trauma Informed Responses
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