Many trafficked children and youth experience chronic, repeated and varied trauma. This section provides resources on ways to improve your trauma-informed care practices to better serve children and youth who have suffered from all forms of traumatic stress.

Trauma may impact the way an individual:

  • Views themselves (self-esteem, self-agency)
  • Views others
  • Views the world in general (e.g., hostile or safe)
  • Interprets your intentions, words, facial expressions
  • Behaves (e.g., hostile, withdrawn, suspicious, inattentive, self-aggrandizing, using substances, running away from home/care)

The behaviors and attitudes that children and youth adopt may help them to survive in a very hostile environment but may be inappropriate and even harmful in other settings. It is critical that health professionals such as yourself understand the concept of trauma and the impact of traumatic stress, in order to build trusting relationships with children and families and offer critical services.

Adopting a ‘trauma-informed approach’ means recognizing the potential impact of trauma on a patient and their family, and making efforts to

  • Build trust
  • Decrease anxiety
  • Limit re-traumatization during the visit
  • Foster resilience
  • Empower the patient

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has created guidelines on trauma-informed care (TIC) and creating a trauma-informed organization.

The ‘Six Key Principles of a Trauma-informed Approach” include

  1. Safety (psychological and physical)
  2. Trustworthiness and transparency
  3. Peer support
  4. Collaboration and mutuality
  5. Empowerment, voice and choice
  6. Cultural, historical, and gender issues

Trafficked and exploited persons often experience considerable barriers to accessing appropriate medical and mental healthcare. Many of these barriers center around a lack of trauma-informed attitudes and practices by clinicians, and trauma-informed policies and procedures by healthcare facilities. This further emphasizes the need to use a sensitive, culturally-appropriate and empowering approach with patients and families, and to create guidelines and policies that embody the trauma-informed approach.

Additional Information

Last Updated



American Academy of Pediatrics