Trauma Screening Tool

The Children’s Trauma Assessment Center’s child trauma screen is used to guide clinicians and child welfare caseworkers in evaluating children ages 0-18 who have been exposed to trauma and may be at risk for other concerns, including PTSD and complex trauma. The comprehensive checklist helps pinpoint emotions, behaviors, attachment concerns, and school problems the child may be experiencing, and can be utilized in the treatment planning process. There are two versions of the screen, one for children ages 0-5 years old and one for children ages 6-18 years old. Below are links to each trauma screen.

CTAC Trauma Screening Checklist (Ages 6 - 18)

CTAC Trauma Screening Checklist (Ages 0 - 5)

CTAC Trauma Screening Checklist (Adults)

What is considered a traumatic experience?

Trauma occurs when there is an overwhelming event or events that render a child helpless, powerless, or creates a threat of harm or loss to the child or to someone critically important to the child. Examples include physical, sexual or emotional abuse, chronic neglect, exposure to domestic violence, inconsistent caregiving due to parental substance abuse or mental illness, community violence or multiple moves within the foster care system. 

What is traumatic or toxic stress? 

When a child experiences strong, frequent, or prolonged trauma without adequate adult support, the child is in a chronic state of fight, flight or freeze. This is natural human instinct that is necessary for survival; however when a person is in this state repeatedly or for prolonged periods of time, it leads to levels of stress that are toxic to the developing brain and body. 

What is the impact of traumatic or toxic stress?

As a result, regions of the brain involved in fear responses tend to over-develop, often resulting in under-development in other areas of the brain, impacting a child’s ability to learn, regulate emotions and behaviors, use effective coping skills, engage in positive relationships, and so much more. 

Toxic stress has a cumulative effect. Children who have experienced untreated trauma have a greater likelihood of developmental delays, academic failure and future mental and physical health problems, including heart disease, diabetes, substance abuse, depression, and earlier death. 

Children with ongoing traumatic exposure also often struggle with a positive self concept, perhaps blaming themselves for the abuse, feeling powerless, unworthy or even unlovable. They may experience the world as an unsafe and scary place, not able to trust others to take care of their needs. As a result, children can demonstrate a variety of behavioral issues that are difficult to manage and understand.

How do I learn more about trauma?

You can review all our training opportunities here.

Staff Picks for Trauma-Related Books for adults and children

The staff at the Southwest Michigan Children's Trauma Assessment Center has compiled a list of books related to trauma and other topics. You can view/print off the list here.

Change the lens, change the conversation.

We must change the conversation about children from “What’s wrong with you?” to “What’s happened to you?”

Children with difficult or disturbing behaviors are often labeled as oppositional, inattentive, lazy, manipulative or naughty. Knowing how trauma is impacting a child’s brain and his or her sense of self is a starting place for caregivers and service providers to understand the root causes of behaviors. This shift in understanding can lead to a renewed sense of hope and the development of creative and trauma-informed approaches in working with the child to re-wire the brain and build resilience. A brain-based, trauma-informed approach allows for healing and sustained wellness.

Additional Resources

Helpful Websites:

Helpful Videos:

This video discusses how violence and trauma affect children, including the serious and long-lasting consequences for their physical and mental health; signs that a child may be exposed to violence or trauma; and the staggering cost of child maltreatment to families, communities and the Nation. Victims lend their voices to this video to provide first-hand accounts of how their exposure to violence as children affected them.

This video discusses the serious consequences of children's exposure to violence and trauma, such as substance abuse and mental health and behavioral problems and the increased severity of symptoms experienced by children who have suffered multiple forms of victimization. It also features some of the evidence-based treatment strategies for children and their families that researchers and experts consider effective.

This video discusses the important role that community- and faith-based programs, services and agencies play in protecting and responding to children. It features three programs that exemplify a successful community-based approach to children affected by violence and trauma. However, because every community is different, it is important that service providers and allied professionals tailor their responses to most effectively meet their community's particular needs.

Video of Children, Violence, and Trauma—Community-Based Approaches

Center on the Developing Child: Harvard University Multimedia

How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime, Nadine Burke Harris

Beyond the Cliff, Laura van Dernoot Lipsky - TED Talk

The Raising of America documentary

Resilience documentary

Paper Tigers documentary