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Trauma Informed Care

Helping individuals move from “What’s Wrong?” to “What Happened?”

Too many people are suffering from the impacts of ongoing trauma, whether it’s caused by violence, crime, poverty, racism, or systemic inequality. 

Trauma and adversity, built up over time, contribute to inequitable outcomes in every area of life and can even alter the structure of the brain. In fact, science has shown that physical effects from trauma can even pass from generation to generation.

Together, with our partners, we’ve helped train those who work directly with people impacted by trauma. All for the goal of building a more trauma-informed region, where social service workers, educators, first responders, and others are better equipped to help those on their path to healing.

10-Years of community healing


invested in building capacity and creating awareness through training, workshops, and other efforts


professionals trained


local residents who were reached and received trauma informed services 


Nearly everyone has experienced stress, but trauma occurs when stress overloads the nervous system. Common triggers include violence, neglect, discrimination, and poverty.

While some effects remain unknown or unseen, trauma can result in long-lasting adverse outcomes, especially on children. This can lead to depression, anxiety, substance use, and increased risk for chronic diseases, behavioral disorders or suicide.

Adverse childhood experiences (what are known as ACEs) are potentially traumatic experiences that can divert critical windows of brain development. Something close to 60% of all adults in the U.S. report having one ACE, 25% have 3+ ACEs, and 16% have 4+ ACEs. And such adverse experiences are more common in community environments that suffer from poverty, racial discrimination, community disruption, lack of opportunity, poor housing quality and/or violence.


More On United Way’s decade of leadership in Trauma-Informed Care.

United Way has led the way in training over 20,000 professionals in trauma reaching over 2,000 organizations across PA and NJ. The synergy we built amongst regional partners, both directly and indirectly,
impact our region's trauma-informed plan.
- Suzanne O'Connor, Senior Advocate, United Way
As an early adopter of implementing a trauma-informed approach, Ms. O'Connor has led the way in advocating and developing trauma-informed programs and partnerships across our communities.


Teaching trauma training programs 

In close collaboration, United Way and Lakeside Global Initiative developed, deployed and scaled a systematic trauma training program to provide our region with the resources and tools necessary to understand trauma. These programs are tailored for different audiences, including parents, educators and behavioral health specialists. By realizing the widespread impact of trauma and by learning the signs and symptoms of ACEs through our programs, these professionals can now combat the inequitable outcomes that trauma causes. Click here to sign up for any upcoming courses.


Forming best practices

In 2018, we launched Trauma-Informed Philanthropy with our partners, Philanthropy Network of Greater Philadelphia and the Scattergood Foundation. This guide highlights best practices in leveraging resources and relationships to advance trauma-informed practice and move from knowledge to action, and is a follow-up to Trauma-Informed Philanthropy Volume 1.


Helping teachers with free courses 

Caring and understanding educators are essential to creating a trauma-informed region, so United Way and Lakeside Global Initiative partnered with the School District of Philadelphia to provide free trauma-informed care courses for school staff. Funded by United Way, these classes were offered to counselors, school psychologists, principals, administrators, and teachers. By the end of 2020, more than 3,500 people participated, with 232 members completing the entire series and certified as “trauma competent.”

Delaware County Trauma Alliance

When Delaware County began its mission to become more trauma competent, United Way bridged the gap by creating instrumental partnerships.

This relationship resulted in the Delaware County Trauma Alliance, which deployed training programs to first responders and social service agencies, as well as judges and attorneys for juvenile court. This shift in approach created systematic change within the DELCO judicial system, resulting in a drastic reduction in juvenile detention and fewer children returned to foster care.

“If it wasn’t for United Way, coming into Delaware county and us sharing all of this knowledge and resources with the other counties in the state, I don’t know where everyone would be. There has been such tremendous growth in understanding trauma.” – Shannon Thomas, DELCO System of Care Coordinator

Support programs like this through the Impact Fund.