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Toolkit: Trauma-informed practice in youth justice



Trauma-informed practice has become an increasingly used term across public services. The intention behind this approach is to increase awareness of the negative impact of trauma, while also preventing re-traumatisation.


Crest Insights was generously funded by the Hadley Trust to take a closer look at the way in which trauma-informed practices are implemented in the youth justice sector, from the perspective of experts, youth justice practitioners, and crucially, children and young people. In May 2024, we published our report Trauma-Informed Practice within the Youth Justice System: How is it working and what needs to change, with the aim of contributing to the evidence base, and examining how trauma-informed practice is understood and applied in youth justice services. 


We also identified a need to turn our findings into workable, usable, and practical resources for practitioners and strategic leads in youth justice and other agencies which work with children and young people. We want to ensure that these resources complement, and signpost to, the guidance and resources that are already available to services.   


Therefore, with support and input from our partners and from experts in this field, we have created this webpage as a ‘toolkit’ for services and agencies that are considering embedding trauma-informed practice, or wanting to continue their journey to trauma-informed working.

First Steps: deciding if trauma-informed practice is right for your service

First steps: making a decision to adopt trauma informed practice 

In our research, we heard about a variety of pathways to implementing trauma-informed practice. However, for each Youth Justice Service we spoke to, implementation represented an active and intentional change in practice.  


Trauma-informed practice should complement the resources and capabilities of your service. Within these parameters, you should consider how ‘enabling’ your service environment is for trauma-informed approaches, and to strive to create an environment that allows practitioners to appropriately deliver trauma-informed work - such as allowing practitioners the space and time to build their relationship with a child, or giving children and young people choice and agency to empower them while they are supported by the service.


In this video Michael O’Connor, Head of North Somerset Youth Justice Service, discusses how organisations can effectively implement a trauma-informed approach in their work, how this change can impact practice and the importance of co-production.

Measuring Impact: developing a theory of change and monitoring framework 

Our research identified that services face challenges in accurately monitoring and evaluating the impact and effectiveness of trauma-informed practice in their work. In particular, we found that our partner services struggle to record the outcomes that they see as most impacted by trauma-informed practice: ‘softer’ indicators of progress, such as a child or young person’s level of comfort with their caseworker, or engagement in activities and interventions.


To support services to translate the purpose of taking a trauma-informed approach into tangible and realistic measurements of success, we have developed a Guide to Monitoring and Evaluating Trauma-Informed Practice in Youth Justice.


This resource provides an overview of the current body of research on the outcomes associated with trauma-informed practice, and guides you through developing a Theory of Change, and a monitoring and evaluation framework for trauma-informed practice.

For a further resource to support you to monitor and evaluate trauma-informed practice in your service, please see the effectiveness of trauma-informed youth justice, a recent academic article that introduces a logic model for trauma-informed practice.

Developing a Theory of Change and monitoring framework 
Delivering training and support

Delivering training and support

Trauma-informed practice starts with training for staff on their understanding of trauma, its manifestations in children and young people and what it means for practitioners’ roles.


In our research, we heard about different models for trauma-informed training, including formal external and regular training available to all practitioners, group and 1-1 supervision with embedded clinical psychologists, and trauma-informed ‘champions’ who share specialist knowledge with their colleagues. The needs, capacity and capabilities of your service should inform how you train your staff in trauma-informed practice.

In this video Claire Williams, Team Practice and Performance Manager at Cwm Taf Youth Justice Service, reflects on how Cwm Taf Youth Offending Service trains its practitioners, and the role of Trauma-Informed Champions in their service. 


For more information, please see the overview of Cwm Taf's Youth Offending Prevention and Early Intervention Service.

Making changes to practice

Trauma-informed practice should be embedded throughout a child or young person’s journey with the YJS, beginning from their referral, through to their assessment, planning, and programme of activities.   


The practitioners we interviewed discussed the following ways of embedding trauma-informed practice: 

  • making changes to processes to better take into account the child’s circumstances and enable the child’s greater participation; 

  • taking time to build a relationship with the child; 

  • giving the child agency and choice where possible; 

  • adapting interventions to focus more on the reasons behind the child’s behaviour.


For more information, please see:

In this video Claire Williams, Team Practice and Performance Manager at Cwm Taf Youth Justice Service, reflects on how Cwm Taf developed TrACE, an assessment tool that helps practitioners to ensure they are trauma-informed in their approach to their work.


For more information, please see Cwm Taf Justice Service's Relationship Based Practice Guidance: A trauma-informed approach.

Case study of the Champions programme (Lancashire)                            
Making changes to practice
Creating supportive spaces for children and young people

Creating supportive spaces for children and young people

The justice-involved children and young people we spoke to were clear that, above all, they valued feeling comfortable in their youth justice service and with their caseworker, and being given choice and agency wherever possible.


Agencies should therefore consider approaches to working with children and young people that maximise their feelings of safety and comfort, in order to build a trusted relationship. This is in line with the principles of the trauma-informed approach as set out by the Home Office.

In this video Mifta Choudhury, Founder and CEO of YouthInk, introduces the lived experience charity YouthInk that is partnered with Southwark Youth Justice Service, and the impact of the work they do. 

Case study of Youth Ink (Southwark)

Other approaches such as Child First also help to create supportive spaces for children and young people and work in tandem with trauma-informed approaches. 

Interview with Michael about Child First and building prosocial identity
Reflective practice and building on existing resources

Continuous learning and reflective practice

Trauma-informed practice is a process of continuous learning, and a journey towards providing the most effective service to children and young people that reduces reoffending. It is important to remain reflective throughout the process of applying a trauma-informed approach, in order to consider how it is working and what lessons can be learned. To assist the reflective process, there are a range of tools and resources available to help you to consider questions like: 


  • When is trauma-informed practice effective, and for whom? 

  • Has your approach to trauma-informed practice (training, assessments, interventions) considered how different types of trauma – such as intergenerational or racial trauma – impact children and young people differently?

  • Do your staff feel confident and supported to deliver effective trauma-informed practice?


For further guidance, please refer to:

In this video, Mu’minah Iqbal, a Policy and Practice Research Assistant at the Race Equality Foundation, discusses the intersection between racism and trauma, how this can affect young people and how they can be supported. Mu’minah also gives an overview of the work that the Foundation is currently undertaking in this area.

Race Equality Foundation’s Research

It is critical to bring your partners along in the journey of implementing trauma-informed practice, to deliver effective multi-agency working. Consistency in the way partners work with and treat young people is important to creating a safe and trustworthy environment for that young person, as a key principle of trauma-informed practice. Lessons learned should be shared across your networks, and made accessible wherever possible. 

Case study: Practice bank (College of Policing)

For more collations of good practice, please also see the YEF toolkit and YJB resource hub.

If you would like to get in touch to discuss the toolkit or our Crest Insights research, please contact Director of Research, Sophie Davis at


Webinar: Implementing Trauma-Informed Practices in Youth Justice

Watch the recording of our webinar held on Thursday, 11th July, where Crest Advisory’s research team discussed the findings and recommendations from our latest research report on trauma-informed practices in the youth justice sector, and demonstrated our new online toolkit. Funded by the Hadley Trust, our toolkit brings together guidance and evidence for implementing trauma-informed practices in youth justice. The session also featured a Q&A led by John Poyton, Co-founder and Director of the Well Centre and Founder of Redthread, who contributed the foreword to this research.

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