Year of Publication

2016

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

College

Social Work

Department

Social Work

First Advisor

Dr. David Royse

Second Advisor

Dr. Mary V. Sprang

Abstract

Children in the child welfare system comprise a group characterized by their exposure to trauma via experiences of maltreatment, under circumstances presenting multiple risk factors for traumatic stress. High rates of posttraumatic stress have been observed in this population. However, there is currently no standard for the universal screening of children in child welfare for trauma exposure and traumatic stress. The purpose of this study was to analyze the trauma experiences of a sample of maltreated children and examine whether child welfare workers are effective screeners of traumatic stress symptoms with children from their caseloads. Method: A sample of children (N= 131) with trauma screenings completed by their child welfare workers and clinical measures of traumatic stress symptoms based on self or caregiver report was analyzed. Descriptive and correlational analyses were conducted. Hypotheses were tested with a series of four hierarchical regression models to determine whether workers’ screening information regarding child age, trauma exposure history and symptoms of traumatic stress were predictive of outcomes on the clinical measures completed. Results: Findings from the analyses revealed complex trauma exposure histories and high rates of traumatic stress symptoms among this generally younger sample of maltreated children. Additionally, the models tested supported workers’ efficacy in screening for symptoms of total posttraumatic stress and specific trauma symptoms of intrusion and avoidance. Workers were less effective in screening for the traumatic stress symptoms associated with arousal. Implications: These findings support the importance of identifying the trauma recovery needs of maltreated children and the utility of child protection workers in assisting with the trauma screening process. Implications are provided for associated practices, policies and training efforts regarding the implementation of a trauma screening protocol in child welfare. This would serve as a critical pathway for creating trauma-informed systems that better address the needs of maltreated children and their families.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

http://dx.doi.org/10.13023/ETD.2016.196

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