Supporting Families of Color: How Racial and Complex Trauma Affect Parents of Color Navigating Family Court During the Time of COVID and Beyond

Report by Tricia Stephens, LCSW-R, Ph.D.

Prepared for the Early Engagement Workgroup Reunification Day at Bronx Family Court

This report is intended to provide family court officers and child welfare professionals who engage with child welfare involved (CWI) parents, introductory knowledge on the trauma-informed approach. Readers will be introduced to the importance of using the trauma-informed approach in their work with CWI parents, with a focus on the impact that language has on the way in which CWI parents are depicted and responded to in the courtroom. Definitions of key terms are provided first, followed by an overview of the trauma-informed approach and its application to working with CWI parents.

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, this report has been updated to include recommendations for trauma-informed practices that best support families during a period of collective/shared trauma.

Then the section titled, “What parents want you to know”, provides direct input from parents on their experiences, needs and perspectives. Finally, a composite vignette which compares traditional language to trauma-informed language is presented.

Acknowledgments: This report would not have been possible without the contributions and insights provided by child welfare affected parents and their allies. Special thanks to Jeanette Vega, Nancy Fortunato, Caitlin Becker and Lauren Shapiro.