Enhancing Law Enforcement Response to Children Exposed to Violence and Childhood Trauma

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Enhancing Law Enforcement Response to Children Exposed to Violence and Childhood Trauma

The IACP and the Childhood Violence Trauma Center at the Child Study Center at the Yale School of Medicine and supported by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), U.S. Department of Justice, are engaged in an initiative to increase the capacity of law enforcement to identify and respond to children exposed to violence and childhood trauma. 

Background

Police officers are frequently the first responders to situations that pose powerful threats to the safety and well-being of children and families. Police are in an ideal position to both identify and initiate the process of recovery for children and families traumatized by violence.

As part of this initiative, the IACP and Yale provide resources and tools necessary to equip law enforcement professionals in their vital role in helping children and families through identification and trauma-informed response to violent events.When prepared with training and tools, police officers are in a stronger position to protect and serve the community.

When children are not identified, and supported in recovery following exposure to violence, they are at greater risk for:

  • School failure
  • Mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and personality disorders
  • Substance abuse disorders
  • Involvement with the juvenile and criminal justice systems
  • Repeated victimization, and perpetration of, sexual and physical violence, and domestic violence
  • Perpetration of community violence
  • Higher rates of chronic physical illness
  • Early death.

Two of the most powerful predictors of the negative and costly long-term outcomes of failures of recovery from traumatic childhood exposure to violence are:

  • failure to identify those children who have been exposed to violence
  • absence of adequate social support.

When police officers are equipped to provide trauma-informed, developmentally-appropriate responses to children exposed to violence:

  • They can create a safe environment to help the child re-establish a sense of security and stability.
  • They can play an important role in helping the child and family begin to heal and thrive.
  • Children’s’ attitudes towards police can be shaped in the moment, or a seed can be planted to reshape attitudes towards police in the future.
  • A foundation of trust between the police, youth, families, and the community is developed.
  • When community-police relations are enhanced in this way, improvements in officer safety can be expected.
  • Officers feel more effective and satisfied in their work.

Project Partners

Childhood Violent Trauma Center at the Yale Child Study Center

The Yale Childhood Violent Trauma Center is the Trauma Section of the Yale Child Study Center. The Yale Child Study Center is renowned for its research, clinical services, training programs, policy work, and local, state, national, and international collaboration conducted by its faculty. For more than two decades, faculty of the Childhood Violent Trauma Center have combined direct clinical experience with advances in scientific and practical knowledge and translated this into the development of groundbreaking interventions for traumatized children and families. The multi-disciplinary CVTC team provides trauma-informed treatments and services to children and families, builds professional knowledge through clinical research, and advances the field of child trauma treatment through collaboration, training, and dissemination. The Yale Child Study's centers strengths are reflected in the breadth and integrative nature of research, clinical services, and training of the CVTC.


Since 1991, the Center Childhood Violent Trauma Center (CVTC) at the Yale Child Study Center has been on the cutting edge in developing collaborative efforts to address the children exposed to violence (CEV) epidemic. The Childhood Violent Trauma Center has:

  • Developed and implemented innovative multi-disciplinary collaborative program models such as the Child Development-Community Policing (CD-CP) model and the Child and Family Traumatic Stress Intervention (CFTSI), which provide immediate coordinated police, mental health, and social service interventions, in addition to follow-up services and mental health treatment to children and families exposed to violence and trauma.
  • Provided CEV training, technical assistance and consultation to law enforcement, first responders, and emergency management personnel nationwide.
  • Provided nationwide consultation in times of crisis (school and community mass shootings including Sandy Hook, the terrorist attacks of 9/11, and natural disasters such as Hurricanes Katrina and Rita) to communities, law enforcement agencies, mental health providers, schools, media outlets, and local, state, and national government leaders.
  • Supported public awareness and policy initiatives relating to CEV.
  • Provided extensive direct clinical services to children and families exposed to violence and other traumatic events.


In partnership with the New Haven Department of Police Service, the Child Development-Community Policing (CD-CP) model was developed to capitalize on the significant role that law enforcement can play in responding to and aiding in the recovery of children and families exposed to violence. CD-CP program services have operated continuously in the City of New Haven since 1991 and CD-CP has been replicated in numerous communities across the country and internationally. In addition, strategies and approaches from the CD-CP model have been adapted to meet the needs of agencies and jurisdictions who seek to provide trauma-informed responses to children and families exposed to violence, but who may be working independently (without close clinical partners). 


The New Haven Department of Police Service has been instrumental in the development of the  classroom training curriculum, National Toolkit, and online training series. They lent their professional expertise to ensuring that the case scenarios were realistic and consistent with law enforcement practices, as well as representing a range of possible differences in police attitudes and level of engagement. We offer special thanks to members of New Haven Command Staff, as well as the Lieutenants and Patrol Officers who are expert in police practices as well as deploying trauma-informed policing strategies.


This project is supported by Cooperative Agreement No. 2012-CV-BX-K056 awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions contained herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice. References to specific agencies, companies, products, or services should not be considered an endorsement by the author(s) or the U.S. Department of Justice. Rather, the references are illustrations to supplement discussion of the issues.

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