Community Engagement in St. Joseph County, Indiana

Change Matrix is privileged to be working with the trauma-informed system of care, SJC CARES, in northern Indiana to develop it’s governance and infrastructure. After 6 months of carrying out activities to create conditions for a system of care, SJC CARES is ready to formalize decision making and priority functions for the next year. The conversation about priority function started with a recognition that youth and family voice is critical to the success of the system of care. Leaders acknowledged that in order to have youth and family members as meaningful and equal partners, SJC CARES would have to provide support and training as they grow into their partnership role. The conversation about priorities then turned towards those members of the community that may not provide formal services and supports, but play a critical role in the lives of children, youth and families. These natural supports also require support from SJC CARES so that wherever a child or youth goes, they are greeted and treated in a way that is consistent with a trauma informed approach. Soccer coaches, Pastors, after school providers, and theatre directors must all know about the impact of trauma on developing brains, identify the ways in which trauma can show up as behaviors in children and youth, recognize that they can play a role in mitigating the impact of trauma and avoid re-traumatization. Engaging these community members requires that SJC CARES create opportunities for dialogue among natural supports in the community and those who can offer an increased understanding of trauma. Through this bi-directional dialogue, SJC CARES hopes to understand where community members are in their understanding and acceptance of the trauma-informed framework, community strengths to build on, barriers to a community wide trauma informed approach and the roles agency leaders. Organizational partners, and community supports for youth and families can play a part in engaging the entire community in a network of compassionate and effective care for all in the community.