UM Researchers Help Shape National Policy on Childhood Trauma

November 19, 2014

MISSOULA – Researchers at the National Native Children’s Trauma Center of the University of Montana took part in a U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing Wednesday, Nov. 19, on preventing childhood trauma in Indian Country. The researchers also were centrally involved in a major report released Nov. 18 by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Richard van den Pol, director of the Institute for Educational Research and Service where the National Native Children’s Trauma Center is located, provided written and oral testimony to the Senate committee hearing that was chaired by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT).

Van den Pol noted that the amount of childhood trauma exposure for some American Indian and Alaska Native children can be as much as 500 percent greater than the general population. He emphasized that economical, evidence-based interventions for use in schools and community agencies can significantly reverse the impacts of trauma.  

The work of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network also was highlighted in van den Pol’s comments, as well as the impact that major studies such as the Adverse Childhood Experiences study have had on deepening the general public’s understanding of how addressing childhood trauma has a dramatic impact on adult well-being and public health costs.

Speaking alongside van den Pol was Yvette Roubideaux, acting director of Indian Health Services, and Robert Listenbee, director of the U.S. Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.  

Marilyn Bruguier Zimmerman, director of UM’s National Native Children’s Trauma Center, also attended the hearing as part of her work with the 11-member U.S. Department of Justice Defending Childhood Advisory Committee on American Indian and Alaska Native Children Exposed to Violence.

Zimmerman, a member of the Assiniboine-Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, was appointed to the committee in 2013 and has been involved in six field hearings and listening sessions across the U.S. during the past year.  

On Nov. 18, the DOJ committee chaired by former North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan and Native American musician Joanne Shenandoah, released an extensive report titled “Ending Violence So Children Can Thrive.” The report contained 56 recommendations for the U.S attorney general and Congress.

Examples of recommendations Zimmerman and the committee made include establishing a permanently staffed Native American Affairs Office within the White House, having the National Institute of Justice fund research on trauma screening for Native youth, and implementing widespread training in trauma and suicide prevention for all agencies serving youth in Indian Country.

Zimmerman also is part of a 12-member congressionally appointed national Commission to Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect Fatalities. 

For more information on UM’s National Native Children’s Trauma Center, visit http://iers.umt.edu/National_Native_Childrens_Trauma_Center. To access the DOJ report visit http://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/defendingchildhood/pages/attachments/2014/11/18/finalaianreport.pdf.

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Contact: Matt Taylor, associate director, UM Institute for Educational Research and Service, 406-243-5367, matt.taylor@mso.umt.edu.