Screening for Success: Developing a New Tool to Address Trauma

Screening for Success: Developing a New Tool to Address Trauma

Every youth who enters foster care is different. But one common thread that they all share is trauma — both from the abuse or neglect that led to the removal from their home and the separation from their family itself. Because each child processes this trauma differently, finding the right foster homes is an important, but difficult task.

In 2018, Washington University of Medicine in St. Louis conducted a needs assessment for our treatment foster care (TFC) program and identified two factors that contribute to successful foster care placements:

  1. Being able to pinpoint a child’s unique triggers that can bring on unfavorable behavioral responses or extreme emotional episodes.
  2. A commitment from foster parents to understand and apply practical intervention strategies to help the youth in their care find success in all environments.

Based on the assessment, we are now collaborating with the university’s occupational therapy department to develop a home/environmental sensory screening tool that will be used before the placement of a foster child in a TFC home.

“We are exceptionally excited about this opportunity,” said Dr. Lanette Madison, Cornerstones of Care’s director of programs and services for the St. Louis community. “The screening tool will help us to better screen for and reduce environmental variables which serve as trauma triggers for our kiddos.”

With this screening tool in place, we will be able to answer critical questions and develop strategies to address potential issues before they reach a crisis point. For example, where in the home is quiet space to help a child calm down? What are the child’s known triggers that make their emotions difficult to regulate? Are any of the triggers things that can be removed from their environment?

“Ultimately, the aim is that this will equate to fewer placement disruptions for children in foster care, increase stability, improve safety, and enhance whole person wellness. This will serve as a game changer for us, and we are grateful for this opportunity,” says Dr. Madison.

Though the project is still in development, we are already looking forward to the ways it will help us come alongside our TFC parents as they help youth heal from the trauma.

Learn More About Foster Care Needs in St. Louis