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Network Coaches Present at Philadelphia Trauma Conference

By Gabe Halperin-Goldstein

August 7, 2019

Center for Hunger-Free Communities staff members Jenay Smith and Dominique Jenkins presented a professional workshop on building trauma-informed spaces in the welfare system at the Philadelphia Trauma Training Conference hosted at Jefferson University July 30 to August 1.

The conference, in its third year, brings together professionals from across industries in Philadelphia to discuss programs and research that incorporate trauma-informed principles.

Smith and Jenkins shared the model used by the Building Health and Wealth Network (the Network), which empowers members by providing them with unconditional support, a therapeutic environment, and connection to other community members. The program is unique within this system because the curriculum prioritizes addressing trauma and introducing new financial literacy skills instead of focusing on getting members jobs.

As part of the presentation, conference attendees participated in community meeting, one of the fundamental elements of building a healing environment. Smith and Jenkins stressed that being trauma-informed is important for the Network and similar programs because of the many challenges of the welfare system for both program participants and staff members supporting them, such as lack of adequate funding and programs that do not account for the everyday realities of participants’ lives.

The Network, which works specifically with Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program participants, demonstrates that a trauma-informed approach is effective in the welfare system. Program data indicates a dramatic increase in use of bank accounts and saving behaviors as well as decreased rates of depression.

Smith and Jenkins serve as coaches for the Network focusing on life skill development, S.E.L.F. empowerment, and financial literacy.

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