Trauma-informed care can change kids’ lives

Published October 13, 2023

Trauma is more pervasive among America’s kids than you might think. And it’s part of what’s driving a youth mental health crisis.

“Two out of three young people today in this country, by the time they're 16, have had some traumatic event happen in their life,” says Jim Clark, President and CEO of Boys & Girls Clubs of America, which serves more than 3 million children with programs at more than 5200 Clubs across the country. Some participants’ past traumatic experiences could include abuse, an incarcerated parent, substance abuse in the home or more.

But trauma-informed staff can acknowledge those experiences, create safe spaces and support kids in forging their own healthy paths.

“Teams that work with youth directly can build the skills, tools and know-how to identify whether youth have experienced or are experiencing trauma,” says Clark. “If you're trained, you're able to identify it and then do something about it.”

What does “trauma-informed” mean?

A trauma-informed approach means understanding the impact traumatic experiences—like discrimination, bullying, violence in schools and communities, disruption in the home or family structure, exposure to socio-economic challenges and more—may have on a young person and creating a physically, mentally and emotionally safe environment that fosters healing.

Trauma-informed care can change a child’s trajectory

More health care providers, schools and many Boys & Girls Clubs are now training staff to create safe environments for kids who have experienced trauma. It matters, says Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Jim Clark, because trauma can have life-long consequences. “Past or ongoing trauma can affect academic performance, increase the risk of substance abuse, contribute to unhealthy relationships or lead to involvement in the justice system.”

Addressing trauma, he says, is a form of prevention. More importantly, it’s a compassionate approach to kids who need to feel seen and heard.

Partnering to support kids nationwide

A partnership between Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Blue Cross and Blue Shield (BCBS) companies aims to speed the adoption of the practice. “This partnership will scale Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s trauma informed approach to more than 5,000 Clubs by 2026,” says Kim Keck, President and CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield Association (BCBSA). “That means providing 12,000 training experiences for Club staff to help support the emotional and social well-being of more than 3 million children across the country.” BCBSA has committed $10 million to support the effort.

Boys & Girls Clubs of America has been training staff in trauma-informed approaches in Clubs for several years. This new partnership will help build capacity to train more Club Staff and empower them to better support youth served at their Clubs. Like Boys & Girls Clubs of America, Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies work locally and nationally. Similarly, both are dedicated to finding ways to address the country’s youth mental health crisis in ways that respond to individual communities’ needs. “We were thrilled to find a partner with Boys & Girls Clubs of America because it's an organization that has a similar mission and culture,” says Keck.

Keck says it’s well known there aren’t enough clinicians to meet all children’s mental health needs. BCBS companies are already working to expand access to mental health support in innovative ways. Keck hopes trauma-informed practices will “create new opportunities for pathways to healing for our children.”

About Boys & Girls Clubs of America
For more than 160 years, Boys & Girls Clubs of America ( has provided a safe place for kids and teens to learn and grow. Clubs offer caring adult mentors, fun and friendship, and high-impact youth development programs on a daily basis during critical non-school hours. Boys & Girls Clubs programming promotes academic success, good character and leadership, and healthy lifestyles. Over 5,000 Clubs serve more than 3 million young people through Club membership and community outreach.

About the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association
The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association is an association of independent, locally operated Blue Cross and Blue Shield Companies. All Blue Cross and Blue Shield Companies referenced are independent licensees of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.