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Case Study: Department of Social Services


Department of Social Services, Allegany County, New York


In 2006, the Department of Social Services (DSS) Commissioner at the time, Vicki Grant, saw the need for the families involved with DSS and staff to address trauma.

Under her leadership and in collaboration with other local stakeholders, meaningful actions that have led to improved experiences and outcomes for people seeking services and supports in the community as well as for staff have continued to cascade through the region, presenting a compelling example for other local leaders looking to make meaningful change in their organizations/agencies and/or their communities to draw from.

Some of the key actions that have led to sustained and ongoing change include:

  • DSS-funded training for Trauma Systems Therapy programming and asked two other agencies to collaborate with families through the Office of Community Services and the local Counseling Center. This collaboration is still active!

  • Partnered with the University at Buffalo School of Social Work’s Institute on Trauma and Trauma-Informed Care to create trauma-informed “champions” in learning collaboratives, with 30 trauma-informed champions graduating from the first Allegany County cohort in partnership with the School of Social Work

    • ITTIC is a research center that provides training, consultation, coaching, and evaluation for organizations and service delivery systems to support the sustained implementation of trauma-informed change

    • Eventually, expanding to train others as trauma-informed champions at no cost so that they could bring back lessons learned and spearhead trauma-informed change in their setting. Among others who have joined this movement over time, early leaders and partners in expanding this approach include:

      • Cuba Cultural Center, which supports persons living in poverty and/or with food insecurity

      • County Community Action Agency

      • Probation Department

  • Seeing the need for additional relevant training was brought in successive years to supplement and complement the trauma-informed work:

    • Solution-Focused Trauma-Informed Care

    • Motivational Interviewing

    • Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy in conjunction with the local child advocacy center

    • Coached visitation

  • Creation of a list of resources for high-quality treatment within the county and in surrounding counties has facilitated improved coordination of trauma-informed care across service systems and sectors and greater access to services and supports among community members.

    • Among other resources that have been created and shared, this up-to-date list can be found on the website, and also has been shared on social media to promote reaching as many community members as possible

    • Offers trauma-informed resources, education, and tools for professionals and those seeking trauma-informed treatment

  • Training on trauma-informed approaches is also now offered to the community for free via a collaboration of volunteer trainers, ensuring representation of and increased participation among those with lived experience who are most impacted.

  • Monthly virtual workshops with local, state, national, and international participation are held for free to promote ongoing conversations and support for implementation.

    • Other events include presentations (live and online), conferences, and education seminars, E.G., meetings of the Board of Legislators, county-wide convenings of guidance counselors, etc.)

  • Outreach to other surrounding counties - continuing to tap other trauma-informed committees’ wisdom and coordinate work together (E.G., partnered with Cattaraugus County on trauma-informed committee work to help replicate Allegany County’s model)

  • As part of the work, trauma-informed champions penned a resolution draft that Commissioner Grant brought forth in 2018 to the county legislature to encourage the entire county to become trauma-informed. It took a great deal of advocacy and commitment to advance this resolution, which included presentations to department heads and county administrators and bringing it back to the legislature.

    • The resolution was adopted -- and they were the first County in New York to do so!

    • Its provisions advocating for trauma-informed training went out to churches, schools, agencies, hospitals, county departments, etc., formally enshrining adopting trauma-informed approaches as a priority across the county in policy, ideally cascading further through the community in collaboration with the strictly public entities mentioned in the resolution, thus producing a more comprehensive and coordinated system of trauma-informed care.

  • The group working on these issues grew as other agencies were invited to create a county-wide committee to move trauma-informed transformation forward. Ardent Solutions also offered to write a grant to assume leadership of this committee, demonstrating the power of partnerships like these to leverage strengths and resources while working together to create meaningful change.

  • This ultimately grew into the Trauma-Informed Communities Throughout Allegany County (TICTAC) Coalition, with financial support from the Health Foundation for Western and Central New York. TICTAC's Mission is to embrace the principles of a trauma-informed approach by:

    • Increasing community and professional knowledge about trauma

    • Providing agencies with tools and support to assess and enhance their culture, policies, and protocols to be trauma-informed

    • Creating a learning community of trauma-informed champions who are dedicated to their trauma-informed care journey

    • Currently, 30 different organizations representing nine sectors are represented in the TICTAC Champions program, including school districts, government agencies, faith-based organizations, health care systems, higher education institutions, victim services agencies, early childhood programs, adult literacy programs, and human service agencies.

    • Created subcommittees over time as it has grown, which keeps engagement going

    • NOTE: Ardent Solutions also helped secure this grant, which expanded the campaign into new counties

Notable examples of impact include:

  • Other agencies have started on their trauma-informed paths since these activities have started:

    • ACCORD (community action agency) corporation has trained its entire staff and requires trauma-informed programming

    • Sheriff’s department and probation dept. has instituted wellness programs to ensure that officers and staff are equipped to play a role in disrupting cycles of trauma and re-traumatization among community members who become justice-involved

  • Systemic policy changes across several organizations and agencies

    • E.G., the monthly newsletter highlights a trauma-informed principle, changing the language to be more trauma-informed, onboarding training on trauma-informed care is required, staff successes and accomplishments highlighted on bulletin boards, implementation of trauma-informed supervision, etc.

    • Many built a strong foundation of wellness initiatives to address the impact of the work – e.g., trauma-informed-care-focused self-care in-person and web-based peer support groups for staff, all-staff wellness check-ins, etc.

  • The use of data to support change impacts, including trauma-informed pre- and post-assessments for champions who participated in learning activities, indicated increases in knowledge across all domains of consideration for trauma-informed change implementation based on the model of change utilized.

  • Recently received an award from the Health Foundation for Western & Central New York to expand this trauma-informed care model to four additional counties in rural Western New York

As exemplified by the amount of state partners that have looked to Allegany County’s example to replicate in their own communities, this work has led the charge to improve experiences and outcomes for many people with lived experience.

Wise words on implementing this sweeping, meaningful, and coordinated change from former Commissioner Vicki Grant in closing: “I could go on and on, but the biggest strength I have observed is the quality of the relationship and relationship-building with individuals and agencies. We have done more together than we ever did within our silos. That is key!”

Want to share your community’s efforts to implement trauma-informed care? We want to hear from you! Please contact CTIPP’s Director of Communications and Outreach, Laura Braden Quigley (, to develop a case study for our Resource Center.


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