Historical trauma is the collective trauma experienced by specific racial, ethnic, or cultural groups. It often stems from major events and has lasting, multigenerational impacts. Examples include the enslavement of Black and African American people, the Holocaust, discrimination against LGBTQIA2S+ individuals, and the U.S. Indian boarding school policy.

These traumatic events have caused multigenerational disparities and inequities among affected families and communities, including higher rates of mental and physical illness, substance use, incarceration, poverty, homelessness, and contact with child welfare. These individuals and families are also more likely to experience systemic barriers and discrimination related to race, ethnicity, and culture.

It is essential to understand how historical trauma continues to affect families’ socioeconomic status, their interactions with child welfare, and other experiences of bias and inequity. Establishing trauma-informed, equitable, and culturally responsive policies and practices are key steps in addressing historical trauma. This requires organizations and professionals to be willing to learn, address their personal biases and privileges, advocate for family and cultural connections, incorporate lived experience at all levels of their work, and implement strategies to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion. These philosophies are foundational to culturally responsive practice.

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