As Hopeworks began to learn more and more about the effects of trauma and the power of trauma informed care, it quickly became evident that just helping youth heal was not enough. Prompted by the youth, Hopeworks realized that youth could heal not just themselves, but also take their learning about trauma, adverse childhood experiences, and how to heal to them to the entire community.
Thus was the Hopeworks Youth Healing Team born.
What began as a pilot experimental project has grown faster than anyone expected. Beginning in June of 2014, Hopeworks staff began training youth about trauma, adverse childhood experiences, and ways to deal with them and how to teach others. By February of 2015, the Hopeworks Youth Healing Team had trained AmeriCorps Staff Members for the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, done an in-service for faculty at the Gesu School in Philadelphia, conducted a community training for their North Camden community, presented their work at the Institute for Violence Abuse and Trauma international conference in San Diego, trained every primary care physician in Camden, and trained youth service staff at programs in Pennsauken. Their work has been featured in the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Courier Post, and NJTV.
By presenting information about adverse childhood experiences in an engaging and non-traditional way, the young people of the Youth Healing Team are working to spread the information about the effects of trauma to audiences who would not normally hear about it. Thus far, their work has been amazingly successful. Described by participants as “transformative,” “life-changing,” and “an amazing experience,” the presentations by the Youth Healing Team are doing a great deal to change the conversation locally, regionally, and nationally!
Key to the teams success in training and spreading the word about trauma is, of course, the fact that youth of Camden are the ones both making and designing the presentation. They decide which elements of trauma informed practice and Adverse Childhood Experiences are most important, and have developed incredible and innovative ways to make an impact with this groundbreaking information.
Using readily available information, the Hopeworks youth healing team has, over the past year, developed a well-recorded methodology for recruiting youth, training them in the impact of Adverse Childhood Experiences over the lifespan, and facilitating the team’s development of innovative activities to convey these issues. To develop and practice this methodolgy, Hopeworks has actively partnered with organizations both regionally and nationally, including Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers, Rutgers University, Galindez Community Center, Teach for America, CPAC, ACES Connection, the Institue on Trauma and Trauma Informed Care, and the Institute on Violence, Abuse, and Trauma.
The Hopeworks Youth Healing Team is the start of a client centered movement that moves well beyond traditional psychoeducation, and actively involves young people who have experienced trauma and chronic stress in not just healing themselves, but their communities.
The model that Hopeworks has developed for the Youth Healing Team is modeled to become sustainable within 12-16 months, generating its own funds to support its operations. In the last 9 months, the Hopeworks Youth Healing Team has earned over $7,000 in earned income from conducting regional and national trainings.
By providing necessary information and training to service providers, companies, and non profits in an effective and innovative way, the Youth Healing Team not only provides opportunities for youth to heal themselves; it also provides an innovative and sustainable business model the funds itself through earned income.
The Hopeworks Youth Healing Team model has been developed with replication across multiple sites in mind. As this experiment has continued, staff and youth have kept careful records of best practices in youth recruitment, training, youth led scope and product development, and product evaluation and improvement.
In short, the Hopeworks Youth Healing Team has developed a “franchise model” designed to be imported into similar groups of youth and adults who have experienced chronic stress and Adverse Childhood Experiences, and who want to use their experience to not only heal their own wounds, but also those of their community.
Evaluations of the work of the Youth Healing Team have been overwhelming positive, with organizations engaging the youth describing the training as “some of the best experiences we have ever had.” On average, participants have rated the trainings in the following way (0 being the lowest, 100 being the highest):
I learned new information about adversity and its impact -- average 93/100
I better understand how ACES can affect a person’s life expectancy and their future -- 92/100
I am more interested in being involved in healing after the presentation 84/100
I understand that asking “what happened” is key to moving ahead with healing 95/100
- I better understand that ACES affect us all, not just youth 94/100