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Introducing Benchmarks’ Standardized Assessment Protocol


According to leading research, 99% of children entering the foster care system have experienced trauma in their lifetime, and few of those children receive the trauma-informed healthcare they need to recover and prosper. These children are more likely to not only suffer short-term from their trauma, but long term as well. Children who do not receive effective, holistic healthcare experience a lifetime of mental health disorders, substance misuse, and physical illnesses, including diabetes, cancer, and heart disease—all of which can be traced back to their childhood trauma.

With this information, Benchmarks launched a new pilot in 2019—the Standardized Assessment Protocol. The Standardized Assessment Protocol, or SAP, aims to link children in foster care to trauma-intensive assessments and services. In addition to this linkage, SAP also seeks to cultivate a trauma-informed culture for child welfare staff and caregivers. This culture shift focuses not only on the children, but also on how staff and caregivers can monitor and find assistance with their own secondary traumatic stress. Benchmarks is pioneering this project with child welfare agencies in six counties and their respective Medicaid Managed Care Organizations.

SAP was born from Benchmarks’ Partnering for Excellence (PFE) project but was given the primary task of developing DSS sustainability within 2 years. This short implementation time is critical to scale up the pilot across North Carolina. Much like PFE, SAP’s child welfare partners utilize the Project Broadcast Screening Tool to screen children for trauma. Youth are then referred for a Trauma-Informed Comprehensive Clinical Assessment (TiCCA), which is a standardized mental health assessment that utilizes a standardized battery of measures and makes holistic, trauma-informed recommendations for children and families. The TiCCA has been shown to improve outcomes such as more appropriate clinical diagnoses so children can receive appropriate services and interventions in lower levels of care within the child’s home community.

The right diagnosis at the right time, leading to the right treatment that is close to home is the ideal way to set foster children on a lifetime pathway of overall better health. We look forward to sharing more about SAP in the future!

-Written by the SAP Team: Amanda Dolinger, Kelsey Catherwood, & Jamie Tilley

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