Social Work Corner – Centering Healing with Community – July 2024

By CILA's Social Work Team

As social services advocates working with unaccompanied youth, we know that the children we serve undertake harrowing journeys and are often fleeing violence, poverty, and/or natural disasters, enduring significant emotional and psychological distress. We also know that our clients benefit from a trauma-informed approach to services that focuses on understanding and responding to the impact of their trauma. In this month’s social work corner, we encourage you to go further and consider a healing-centered approach to serving your clients, shifting your focus to their healing and growth.

Key Elements for Centering Healing

  • Cultural Humility: Understanding and learning about a child's cultural background is crucial. Culture is a factor that shapes how trauma is experienced and conveyed.
  • Strength-Based Perspective: This means focusing on the child's strengths and internal resources rather than solely focusing on their trauma. This encourages self-empowerment, a foundation for recovery and growth.
  • Holistic Approach: This means addressing their physical health, mental health, emotional wellbeing, and also their spiritual needs.
  • Family and Community Involvement: Engaging the child’s family and broader community ensures a support network that continues beyond your advocacy. Trusted family members and community leaders can play pivotal roles in the child’s healing journey.

Community Healing

A healing centered approach recognizes that trauma impacts entire communities, not just individuals. When children suffer, families and communities suffer with them. Thus, recovery must be a collective effort. How might this look?

  • Creating Safe Spaces for Healing: Safe community spaces where members can share experiences, offer support, and rebuild connections-fosters collective healing. You can help the youth identify these spaces in their community. Youth may choose/prefer community centers, parks, or even virtual groups where they can express themselves freely.
  • Encourage Community Rituals and Practices: These practices can help reconnect the youth to their heritage and traditions-offering a sense of normalcy and belonging.  Youth may include ceremonies like (birthday parties, baptisms, culture rituals, etc.), communal meals, and other shared activities.
  • Empowerment through Civic Participation: Encouraging the youth to become involved in their community. This provides an avenue to voice their thoughts and ideas regarding the needs of the community, and to be the change. They can work to create a safe, supportive, and respectful communal space.

For a deeper dive into this topic, see Medium’s “The Future of Healing: Shifting from Trauma Informed Care to Healing Centered Engagement,” by Shawn Ginwright.