Trauma & Healing


Native people are resilient – having gone through traumas across history with impacts that have devastated individuals, families and communities.  The high rates of child abuse, domestic violence, suicide, alcoholism and other social ills affect Native people today.

But there is hope.

Hope in a world where children are protected and happy, where families are free of violence, where no one has to know what it means to grieve for a loved one due to suicide, hope for strong healthy communities with people who lead with the heart of compassion, kindness and courage. 

Lakota Worldview

Ethleen Iron Cloud-Two Dogs and Richard Two Dogs share information about the Lakota Worldview, describing the four stages of life recognized in the Lakota community and the ceremonies that accompany each stage. These ceremonies are believed to contribute to a balanced life from childhood through returning to the spirit world.

The first video in the two-part series demonstrates what the journey is like when smooth and free from interruption, while the second video describes the four stages of life and what happens when imbalance and disruptions happen in each stage from childhood through returning to the spirit world.

For those interested in creating something similar for their own tribal communities, Rick and Ethleen share more information about their process and their thoughts for other tribal communities in this companion piece.

Indigenous Healing

we are all connected

Healing for Indigenous people is a powerful journey that can be collectively shared and/or can be a very personal path. This webinar explored and shared healing strategies from various Indigenous cultures as examples of how we are all connected.

individual & family healing

Healing for individuals and families can be a lifelong process that is unique for each person and/or family, it can be a stop and go process and can include searching and exploring different paths.

community & organizational healing

This discussion focused on how communities and organizations can engage in the healing process to increase their productivity, reach their goals and create a healing environment.

Case Study

Arctic Winds Healing Winds
Leadership for Results: Capacity Building

The project “Leadership for Results: Capacity Building” includes Alaska Native values/teachings and emphasizes that strong leadership—from all levels of society—is a key requirement in addressing issues that require substantial change. The project was piloted in 2015 with a group of Alaska Native leaders to help them strengthen their response to Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault in their villages. The program brought together fifteen key individuals from 3 villages as the first cohort with the overall goal to enhance and strengthen the leadership capacity around historical trauma (specifically domestic violence/sexual assault/child abuse) and to get measurable results while increasing the strength of community networks.

How Can Communities Bring Healing and Build Leadership from Within?

Innovative projects that demonstrate the capacity of communities to respond to issues that impact their children and families are featured in this series of five infographics. Arctic Winds Healing Winds, a non-profit organization based in Alaska, uses a proven model for community healing that nurtures and develops leadership and data management skills.
Child welfare agencies can learn from these projects and gain ideas on how to engage and collaborate with community members to create lasting solutions to whatever challenge you face.

in family assessment

Designed for child welfare professionals, this app provides tips and activities to help incorporate more mindfulness and self-care into daily practice.

Engaging Native Families
 A presentation by
Marilyn Bruguier Zimmerman

Marilyn Bruguier Zimmerman, Senior Director of Policy and Programs at the National Native Children’s Trauma Center, presented at the Child Welfare Virtual Expo 2020: Strengthening Families Through Prevention and Collaboration. During her presentation, Dr. Zimmerman discusses trauma-informed engagement and approaches in working with Native families.

Resources To Help Address Burnout and Increase Wellness in Tribal Child Welfare

While it is always important to take time for ourselves, these unprecedented and challenging times may be causing us to be more intentional about self-care. We know we can only be better at what we do when we take care of ourselves first.

Self-Care: Resources to Help Address Burnout and Increase Wellness in Tribal Child Welfare offers self-care techniques and tools for tribal child welfare professionals.

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Recorded Webinar:
Self-Care Techniques for Tribal Child Welfare Professionals

We have long known that when we focus on selfcare, stress is reduced and our capacity to engage with families is increased, ultimately creating better outcomes for children and families. This webinar explored what it truly means to care for ourselves and how to make selfcare an integral part of the structure and culture of our organization. 

Recorded Webinar:
Building a Trauma Lens

This webinar focused on building a trauma lens that lends itself to utilizing a trauma-informed approach when providing services to American Indian children and families involved in child welfare. A trauma-informed child welfare system is defined and participants gained an understanding of how trauma influences development and brain chemistry. Common impacts of trauma for children, adults, families and communities were discussed as well as considerations for trauma-informed strategies that act as a buffer against the potential negative impacts of trauma.

Recorded Webinar:
Protective Factors and the Science Behind Resilience

A trauma-informed approach to child welfare supports the health and well-being of workers and the children and families being served. This is the second webinar in the trauma and resiliency series offered by the Center for Tribes. We look at the science behind resilience as well as an in-depth exploration of protective factors that support resilience for children, families, and tribal communities.

Recorded Webinar:
Secondary Traumatic Stress

Tribal child welfare staff are exposed to the traumas of others on a regular basis and are at increased risk to experience symptoms of secondary traumatic stress. This webinar discussed the personal, professional, and organizational impacts of secondary traumatic stress and the unique resiliency factors present in tribal communities. Traditional practices and western methodologies that support resiliency and mitigate the impacts of secondary traumatic stress were shared.

Recorded Webinar:
Trauma-Informed Practice Strategies to Support Youth Transitions

During this webinar, presenters Lisa Stark and Alan Rabideau from the National Native Children’s Trauma Center focused on the importance of family engagement in minimizing experiences of trauma during youth transitions while bringing culturally relevant and trauma-informed practices to life.




Recorded Webinar:
Trauma-Informed Supervision in Tribal Child Welfare (Part 1 of 2): Maintaining Clear Roles with Realistic Expectations

During this webinar, staff from the National Native Children’s Trauma Center focused on Trauma-Informed Supervision in Tribal Child Welfare. Viewers of this first part of a two part webinar series will:
1. Learn foundational and tangible tips and strategies that can be utilized to enhance and/or develop culturally-responsive and trauma-informed supervision based in the six principles of trauma-informed care: Safety, Trust, Culture & History, Empowerment, Peer Support, and Collaboration.
2. Gain knowledge about strategies to maintain clear roles and set realistic expectations for caseworkers and those they manage.
3. Understand how establishing clearly defined job descriptions, roles, and duties support tribal child welfare staff.

Recorded Webinar:
Trauma-Informed Supervision in Tribal Child Welfare (Part 2 of 2): The Essential Need for Adaptive Leadership and Reflective Practice

The second part of this two-part webinar series is facilitated by National Native Children’s Trauma Center staff where they discuss practical trauma-informed strategies for tribal child welfare supervisors and programs that are grounded in cultural values.

  1. Participants will learn about adaptive leadership and reflective supervision, including trauma-informed strategies to meet the needs of their team.
  2. Participants will learn how trauma has the potential to influence approaches to supervision.
  3. Participants will have the opportunity to engage with each other and presenters during session for discussion of practical application of strategies.


Resource Lists

Compiled with thought and care, our resource lists contain curated articles and documents about important topics in the areas of healing and wellness.

Trauma-Informed Supervision in Child Welfare

The ways child welfare supervisors interact and supervise their teams are correlated with staff wellness, retention rates and job satisfaction, program operations, service delivery, and client outcomes. A key to engaging in trauma-informed supervisory practices in tribal child welfare is to make sure there are trauma-responsive practices in place to meet the needs of all staff. When staff members are supported through the professional hazard of trauma exposure, they are better able to deliver responsive and quality services to our relatives and communities.

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Trauma-informed Practice Strategies to Support Indigenous Transition-aged Youth resource cover

Trauma-Informed Practice Strategies to Support Indigenous Transition-Aged Youth

Connection to concrete resources provides additional opportunities for youth to gain the life skills necessary to navigate adulthood. The experience of trauma in childhood threatens and disrupts healthy development. Tribal child welfare programs and individual caseworkers who are aware of the impacts of adverse childhood experiences are better equipped to facilitate healthy healing and development and meaningful connections. Supporting Indigenous youth through their healing journeys correlates with positive outcomes as they become adolescents transitioning out of foster care. One way to support Indigenous youth through their foster care journey is by ensuring policy and practices are in place that focus on strengthening existing connections while building missing connections capable of supporting youth once their involvement with the foster care system has ended.

Trauma-Informed Practice Strategies (TIPS) For Supporting Caregivers of Native Youth in Out-of-Home Care

Trauma and healing experiences have rippling effects on youth who are living in an out-of-home placement, impacting their out-of-home caregivers and the youth’s placement stability. Tribal child welfare programs help caregivers and youth in tribal foster care to develop healthy relationships that teach, offer support, and facilitate healing when they use trauma-informed strategies that support caregivers and help youth remain connected to their tribes and cultures. This resource provides strategies and suggestions for both tribal child welfare programs and caseworkers to incorporate trauma-informed practices into their work supporting kinship and non-relative caregivers.

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Trauma-Informed Youth Transitions
in Child Welfare

Being mindful and aware of trauma experiences will help tribal child welfare programs decrease the negative effects youth may experience throughout the various transitions associated with removal, placement(s), and reunification. No two youth are exactly the same but all youth bring their thoughts, feelings, and questions with them as they transition in, through, and out of foster care.

Trauma-Informed Language
in Tribal Child Welfare Documentation

Documentation is the case road map for each youth and family that is served by a tribal child welfare program and it begins the moment safety concerns are brought to the attention of the agency. When documentation is trauma-informed and responsive to the individual trauma experiences of youth and families it can provide consistent insight and justification for decisions that support the healing and thriving of our relatives.

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Trauma-Informed Visitation
in Child Welfare

Youth have a fundamental right to their families. A caseworker can help facilitate a safe and supportive environment during visitation by recognizing interactions and behaviors that are trauma reactions to the removal experience and by responding with trauma-informed strategies that minimize re-traumatization during a family’s time together. By increasing knowledge and skills about how to support and prepare parents or caregivers and their children for time together during visits, a caseworker is better equipped in their ability to be responsive and meet the unique needs of each family.

Honoring Life, Preventing Loss: Building Capacity Around Suicide Prevention in Tribal Child Welfare Programs

While depression and suicide affect everyone, American Indian and Alaskan Native people are at a higher risk, and Native youth are especially vulnerable.

If you are interested in learning more about how to support suicide prevention efforts within your tribal child welfare program and community, the resources compiled in this list from the Center for Tribes provide models and strategies for prevention efforts as well as lessons for effective implementation.

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Trauma & Resiliency

Recognizing the impact of trauma on children, families, and professionals within the local tribal community context is an important piece of the trauma-informed and trauma-resilient puzzle. It is an ongoing relationship-building process to recognize and identify the strengths and resiliency of individuals
and families.

Intergenerational & Historical Trauma

The resources and links in this guide provide more information on what historical/intergenerational trauma is, how it is experienced by Native communities, and how traditional cultural practices may be able to help Native people and communities heal.

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Adverse Childhood Experiences Resource List cover

Adverse Childhood Experiences

ACEs are known to have lifelong detrimental impacts on a person’s well-being. While many ACEs materials exist, few focus specifically on American Indian and Alaska Native children. We’ve compiled those here along with other websites and tools that may be helpful in your work to support tribal children, youth, and families.

Resources For Healthy Generations

The inter-connection of substance abuse, child welfare, and domestic violence are unhealthy, inseparable partners. Acknowledging that each community is unique, these resources are intended to build on each community’s strengths of today and the past. These efforts are intended to help families develop a sense of what is healthy for now and for future generations.

Genetic memory: How Trauma Can Change DNA

What is genetic memory? How can we know things we never learned? Emerging science is pointing to a broader understanding of genetics and what many indigenous cultures have long understood about how things are passed from one generation to the next. This resource list The newest resource list shares introductory information on genetic memory, the soul wound, and the interconnectedness between genetics and intergenerational/historical trauma, PTSD, and adverse childhood experiences.
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The Children's Bureau, within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, funds the Capacity Building Center for Tribes. The contents of this website and the resources herein do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Children's Bureau. 

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