Beyond Individual Trauma: Towards a Multi-Faceted Trauma-Informed Restorative Approach to Youth Justice That Connects Individual Trauma With Family Reparation and Recognition of Bias and Discrimination

Published 09/11/2021
Type Article
Author(s) Meghan Spacey, Naomi Thompson
Corresponding Authors

This article outlines findings from surveys and interviews with young people and their parents/caregivers in a Youth Offending Service (YOS) in London. The YOS worked to a model of three elements, these being: trauma-informed practice; restorative justice; awareness of unconscious bias. The article presents a literature review that explores these key elements of the YOS model before presenting the findings that emerge from the data. We found the trauma-recovery approach builds resilience, hope for the future, and a positive sense of self-identity in young people. Within this, restorative practice between young people and parents was identified as a unique and impactful form of the trauma-recovery process. Awareness of bias and a non-judgemental approach also appeared to impact positively on young people, with some limitations. Integrating restorative practice and awareness of bias into the trauma-informed approach built a unique multi-faceted approach to trauma-informed care that took account of individual, family and institutional trauma. This integrated approach makes possible trauma-informed restorative practices centred on reparation of harm done to young people, including by the professionals and institutions that should protect them. We argue that truly restorative trauma-informed youth justice interventions need a combined focus on the individual and systemic traumas experienced by young people in order to recognise how their lives are impacted not just by individual or family problems but by broader issues of structural inequality.