Durbin, Davis Introduce New Legislation to Support Children Traumatized by Community Violence

CHICAGO – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and U.S. Representative Danny Davis today unveiled the Trauma Informed Care for Children and Families Act, which is designed to address the toxic stress and trauma that impacts many children from Chicago’s most violent neighborhoods.

“As we work to address the root causes of violence, we need to focus on the impact that community violence and other traumatic experiences have on Chicago’s children,” said Durbin.  “During a visit to the Cook County Juvenile Detention Center last year, I learned that more than 90 percent of youth in the facility had one thing in common: each had experienced trauma earlier in his or her life.  Childhood exposure to traumatic events can alter a child’s brain chemistry and without the right help may manifests in a variety of ways: trouble paying attention, acting out in class, depression, fear, anger, or fighting.  In the long run, unaddressed trauma can impact mental and physical health, school success, income, employment, and can contribute to a continued cycle of violence.  Our bill recognizes the ripple effect that trauma can have and seeks to provide our children with the support to address their emotional scars.  Each and every child in Chicago deserves no less.” 

“A new study from the Heartland Alliance has documented the deep nexus between violence, trauma and poverty. The study reinforces the urgency of treating trauma and how untreated trauma is not only destructive to the individual child but leads to more violence and poverty,” said Davis. “We are desperately short of resources to address childhood trauma, to help heal children suffering from trauma and to begin to break the cycle leading to mass childhood trauma.  This bill will begin to marshal effective evidence-based treatments and interventions for our youth.”


A 2013 study found that in the Chicago communities most impacted by violence, one in three kids ages 15 to 17 had lost a close friend or family member to violence and nearly one in five had witnessed a murder firsthand.  

Far too many kids carry the emotional weight of community violence and other traumatic experiences, such as the daily stress of abuse or neglect at home, a parent battling addiction, or an incarceration or a deportation of a loved one.  And the effect of this trauma can impact a child’s long-term success and wellbeing. Yet only a small fraction of the children in need of support to address trauma receive such care.  Nationally, more than 75 percent of children in need of mental health services do not receive the appropriate care. 


The Trauma Informed Care for Children and Families Act seeks to reach kids where they are – schools, at home, health and social service providers, and after-school programs, among other locations.  The bill would equip teachers, doctors, and other adults serving children to recognize the signs of trauma, weave this knowledge into their practice, and make the policy changes and workforce investments needed to provide support to those who need it. To achieve this, Durbin and Davis’ legislation would:


  • Provide more teachers, doctors, social service providers, and first responders with the resources necessary to help children who have experienced trauma by allowing funding for more than two dozen federal grant programs to be used for this training. Funding streams include Head Start, formula funding for public schools, social services, health care, child welfare, home visiting for parents with at-risk children, among others;
  • Expand Medicaid coverage for child trauma services, increase mental health care in schools, and enlist trained mentors and community leaders to help;
  • Expand loan repayment and graduate school behavioral health training programs to increase the number of clinicians in our communities, and enhance teacher-training programs;
  • Create a large grant program to bring together stakeholders to identify needs, collect data, and target efforts. It also allows communities to pool federal grants from multiple agencies and focus the funding on increasing trauma services for children.
  • Create a federal task force to recommend improvements for identifying, referring, and supporting children and families that have experienced trauma.

The Trauma Informed Care for Children and Families Act has been endorsed by dozens of national and Chicago-area organizations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, Center for Childhood Resilience (Lurie Children’s), Erikson Institute, Illinois Justice Project, Instituto del Progreso Latino, La Rabida, National Education Association, NAMI-Chicago, Ounce of Prevention Fund, University of Chicago Medical Center, and the YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago.