Developing Concepts, Frameworks and Applications of a Trauma-Informed, Human Rights Perspective in Social Work Practice
Our alternative project for reaccreditation focuses on the
development, implementation and evaluation of a trauma-informed,
human rights (TI-HR) oriented curriculum, exploring and developing
frameworks and applications of a TI-HR perspective across all
levels of social work practice — micro, mezzo and
The social work profession has given little attention to
trauma-informed practice principles and in the United States, the
profession lags behind its international counterparts in promoting
human rights and infusing human rights principles into social work
practice and policies.
The School of Social Work curricular focus on trauma-informed
and human rights perspectives in social work practice fits well
with the pressing social issues and needs in the Buffalo-Niagara
region, home to the University at Buffalo.
The Buffalo-Niagara region has been challenged in the past 30
years by population decline, a high poverty rate and slow economic
growth. These challenges informed our decision to offer a
curriculum emphasizing a trauma-informed and human rights
perspective for social work practice.
Project Component 1 - Conceptualization
Component 1 of the Reaffirmation Project is responsible for
interviewing agencies and clients as to their usage and knowledge
around the five main principles of trauma-informed care, as well as
The five main principles of trauma-informed care are: safety,
trustworthiness, collaboration, empowerment and choice, as
experienced by staff and clients (as developed by Fallot,
Component 1 is using qualitative methods to gather and study the
necessary data. Focus groups and individual interviews with
multiple levels of personnel in social service agencies have been
conducted, as well as interviews with clients from some of these
To date, there have been five individual interviews with key
personnel from agencies, seven focus groups with agency employees
and four client interviews (with more to come).
Project Component 2a - Curriculum
The goals of Project Component 2a are to:
- Develop and implement model curricular modules that integrate a
trauma-informed and human rights perspective in the foundation and
advanced year curriculum.
- Develop a Student Self-Care Plan program.
- Integrate a trauma-informed and human rights perspective into
To achieve these goals we are:
- Conducting focus groups with students and faculty.
- Redesigning course evaluations, field learning contracts and
field practicum evaluations.
- Soliciting input from field educators on the Student Self-Care
- Redesigning student exit surveys.
Project Component 2b - Trauma-Informed Personal Self-Care Plan
Self-care is a tremendously important aspect of personal mental
and physical health maintenance and enhancement for students during
their training. Self-care knowledge, skills and practice developed
during training can also form the basis for ongoing professional
self-care subsequent to graduation.
As part of the School of Social Work’s Reaccreditation
Project, we are developing a number of self-care resources to be
made available to students in the program.
The materials presently in development include:
- A Self-Care Workshop that will introduce
students to the concept of self-care and provide them with
materials, skills and other resources to facilitate the development
of their own personal self-care plans. This workshop will be
conducted at each student orientation.
- A Self-Care Binder to be distributed to all
incoming students at orientation. It will contain printouts of a
range of self-care materials, including a step-by-step plan for
developing a personal self-care program, informational readings,
exercises, self-administered measures, restorative activities, web
resources, a recommended reading list and a referral list.
- A Self-Care Webpage on the School’s
website to provide links to the aforementioned materials, as well
as additional resources.
- A Self-Care UBLearns Website to house
professional (copy-righted) readings and other materials, to make
them available for download by registered students and faculty.
Readings will include articles on vicarious traumatization,
retraumatization, compassion fatigue, burnout, stress, resilience
and psychotherapy for professionals, among others.
To evaluate the self-care program, baseline data will be
collected from entering students on their awareness of a range of
issues including vicarious traumatization, stressors, utilization
of self-care strategies for reducing stress and enhancing
resilience, and their intentions to develop and implement a
personal self-care plan.
A follow-up evaluation will be conducted to evaluate the
accessibility, applicability, utility and effectiveness of the
materials and training provided.
Project Component 3 - Evaluation and Assessment
We will develop and revise assessment tools for measuring the
extent that organizations, including the UB School of Social Work,
incorporate a trauma-informed, human rights (TI-HR) perspective in
their service delivery and organizational culture, as well as
students’ TI-HR-related knowledge, self-efficacy, attitudes,
practice behaviors and behavioral intentions.
Surveys of community organizations personnel and student interns
will assess their TI-HR-related organizational characteristics;
TI-HR-related knowledge, attitudes and skills among agency
personnel; the provision of training on client rights; and
agencies’ perceptions of their current provision of care from
a TI-HR perspective.
Field agency personnel will be recruited for on-line surveys
through use of emails, using the field educator and field liaison
listserv maintained by the School’s Field Education
We will also survey students. Students will complete assessments
of their (a) knowledge of TI-HR approaches to social work practice;
(b) attitudes towards a TIC-HR perspective; (c) self-efficacy
concerning TIC-HR-oriented practice; (d) behavioral intentions with
respect to implementing TI-HR approaches; and (e) TI-HR-oriented
behaviors exhibited in their field placement.
Field educators will also be asked to assess these variables, in
the mid-term and final field evaluation of students’
Project Component 4 - Field Education
We will establish enhanced field education collaborations
focused on integrating a trauma-informed, human rights (TI-HR)
perspective into social work practice.
In collaboration with a new TI-HR Field Education Consortium, we
will select three to five agencies that wish to establish enhanced
field collaborations with the UB School of Social Work.
We have identified potential agencies interested in joining this
consortium through our Field Education Community Advisory Group,
and the agencies that full-time faculty are currently consulting
with on issues of trauma, the treatment of trauma and