Reflections on the NACC Conference: The Need for More Education on the Role of Trauma in Child Development

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Tisha Ortiz

Tisha Ortiz

This year I attended the National Child Welfare, Juvenile, and Family Law Conference  in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and it was an amazing experience. I was delighted to see an abundance of child welfare advocates and discover that people were generally interested in helping vulnerable children. Growing up in foster care, this is a side of the child welfare system that is barely seen.

Oftentimes in foster care, it feels like no one understands how life in foster care feels or like no one actually cares about kids who don’t have parents to take care of them. At the NACC conference I received a different feeling. I felt warm and welcomed. People were genuinely interested in hearing my story about my time in foster care. They wanted to hear how I’m working to change the conversation around foster youth, mental health, and trauma. And they wanted to hear how I’ve dedicated the last few years to changing the system in California in order to help kids deal with trauma.

At this year’s conference, I attended different workshops and learned a lot that I could use in my advocacy work. I attended a workshop on a successful youth advocate program that is being used in Los Angeles as well as a workshop on the use of psychotropic drugs on kids in the foster care system. The psychotropic drugs workshop was a workshop that hit home for me, as I have dedicated the last few years to help curb the practice of overmedicating foster care children in California. This workshop was full of information, but in my opinion it left out an important factor: TRAUMA.

I would have liked to have seen a workshop on mental health and how trauma affects children at this year’s conference. I was a child who was put on 12 pills a day and had my trauma history and how it was affecting my mental health ignored. As a former foster youth and an Advocate with the National Center For Youth Law, I want to make sure that kids receive appropriate mental health services to help deal with traumatic experiences, and that their physical health doesn’t become compromised because the easiest way for states to deal with trauma is to prescribe a handful of pills. Speaking from personal experience: a bunch of medications doesn’t help deal with trauma but actually makes the trauma worse – especially when youth in the foster care system tend to be taken away from abuse and neglect only to be placed in similar or even more abusive and neglectful homes.


Note: The views and opinions expressed in this blog post are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the NACC.

Tisha Ortiz

Tisha Ortiz is a 23-year-old foster youth who is currently attending California State University, East Bay in Hayward, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice Administration with plans to attend Law School. Tisha is a former foster youth advocate through the National Center for Youth Law (NCYL), is on the Youth Advisory Board at National Association of Counsel for Children (NACC), and is a participating member in California Youth Connection (CYC).

1 Comment
  1. I am a domestic abuse survivor whose children have been severely impacted by abuse and the following family court battle for custody, with an abusive and personality-disordered individual. Legal action began while the children and I were homeless (escaping abuse) and has continued for over 10 years.

    The result? The abuser was given SOLE custody and I get only 1 visit a month with my children. The judge actually said if I want more visits them I have to get permission from my abuser. The abuser does not physically hurt me but he does inflict emotional and psychological abuse, holding the power of visits with my children as leverage against me.

    The family court did not understand or care to understand the effects of trauma and abuse on children. The family court judge and GAL refused to look at the evidence, doctor reports, police reports etc indicating abuse. The family court said ALL of the children’s behavioral and emotional problems were caused by their mother, and not the abuse. I was told that I am a bad mother because I am afraid of my abusive ex. I was told I was being “secretative” for being in an address confidentiality program for abuse victims. And I was told it was wrong for me to seek help for my children, and I should just accept reunification and stop talking about abuse. My child came for a visit with a bite mark – another time bruises on his leg – and the abuser is doing things to intimidate my children so they will not want to spend time with me… How am I supposed to stay silent? These are my children. As a mother, it is my responsibility to love and protect them. I am sickened and upset by what the court has done, and how they have refused to protect my children.

    The family court made a mission to reunite my children with their abusive father at any cost, and have punished me for raising concerns or reporting ongoing abuse. Both of my children have suffered from PTSD, anxiety, and serious behavioral and emotional problems. The trauma and abuse they have experiences is now compounded with trauma inflicted by family court – including forcible separation from their mother, and almost total removal from their cultural, religious and familial ties. These children have never had a real childhood.

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