The following position is in alignment & collaboration with Fight Blight Baltimore.
On behalf of the Baltimore Legacy Chapter, Association of Black Social Workers,, we welcome the opportunity to submit our official position on bill 19-0410, The Trauma-Responsive Care Act. We are writing in support of the bill provided the recommendations listed below are adopted. The Baltimore Legacy ABSW cannot support the current iteration of this bill. Our recommendations are listed below with a brief justification based on our values, mission, and vision.
Background Information on Baltimore Legacy Chapter ABSW
The Baltimore Legacy Chapter, Association of Black Social Workers (ABSW), is an affiliate chapter of the National Association of Black Social Workers, Inc. We are a collective body of people of African ancestry, committed to unifying, empowering, and enhancing the quality of life for the Black community of the greater Baltimore area, through advocacy, service, professional development, and fellowship.
The mission of the National Association of Black Social Workers is to create a world in which people of African ancestry will live free from racial domination, economic exploitation, and cultural oppression.
During the late 1960s, the Civil Rights, Black Consciousness, and the Black Social Work movements converged in the struggle for Black liberation. Black social workers organized across the country in major cities to address racism, poverty, the need for self-determination and empowerment of the Black family and community.
The National Association of Black Social Workers (NABSW) was created in 1968 by a group of Black Social Workers who were convened for the National Conference on Social Welfare, the largest professional social work organization at the time. This group of Black Social Workers disengaged from that meeting to provide leadership and “a more consistent basis for unified action.” Actions were targeted at local, state, national, and international levels.
NABSW’s vision is guided by the Principles of the Nguzo Saba, which are Unity, Self-determination, Collective Work and Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith, and the Seven Cardinal Virtues of Ma’at, which are Right, Truth, Justice, Order, Reciprocity, Balance, and Harmony.
Baltimore Legacy ABSW makes the following recommendations for the current iteration of the bill:
(1) Task Force Composition
It is understood that the task force will comprise impacted individuals, and that there are many Black professionals and individuals involved with its creation and implementation. However, our recommendation addresses the need to confront the white supremacist notions that permeate through the policies and result in the harm of Black communities. It is our recommendation that the task force composition include the following amendments:
(2) Defining Trauma-Informed Care:
It is our recommendation that the definition used in this bill for the purpose of guiding the work of the task force and agency staff members be revised to include a historical context. As the bill is currently written, it is implementing the SAMHSA definition and understanding of Trauma Informed Care. According to SAMHSA, an organization is considered informed when it is able to be aware of the impact of trauma, recognize its signs and symptoms, and respond to trauma by integrating language and knowledge about trauma into its policies, procedures, and practices. This historical definition should include an understanding of the legal, systemic, cultural, and social methods through which Baltimore city agencies have created the conditions that are the source of and/or contribute to the collective trauma experienced by its Black residents. It is mentioned in the six principles of SAMHSA to have a historical approach; however, it is our recommendation that the historical approach be explicit in the definition of trauma informed care used by the task force.
(3) Trauma-Informed Training:
It is our recommendation that the trauma-informed trainings are developed by local, black-led organizations that specialize in understanding trauma from a holistic, racial equity, strength based approach. The trauma-informed training as identified in this bill is a “Didactic Course in trauma-informed care that is developed by the US Dept. of Health, MD Dept of Health, or Baltimore Dept. of Health” and provided by Baltimore Dept. of Health or its designee in collaboration with Task Force. As mentioned in Baltimore Awakes: An Analysis of the Human and Social Service Sector in Baltimore City, the mainstream, white-dominated institutions and research leaders often miss the mark when assessing issues of trauma in the Black community because they operate under a false notion of black pathology and white superiority. These institutions continue to harm the very communities they state they are trying to help.
(4) Task force Evaluation:
It is our recommendation that a community-based external party be employed to evaluate and assess the impact of the task force and the trainings. The Baltimore City Department of Human Resources is responsible for assessing the compliance of the task force in regards to federal, state, and local laws. Government agencies are accountable to the people whom they serve. Therefore, a collective body of community members, or a third party consultant should evaluate the effectiveness of the task force rather than an agency affiliate.
(5) City Agency Responsibility and Accountability:
It is our recommendation that the duties of the task force and/or agency staff include an analysis of each city agency in regard to their historical involvement in creating these conditions. It is no secret that Baltimore City’s government agencies have a history of being responsible for traumatizing and/or re-traumatizing Baltimore City residents. From the effects of redlining in 1911 to the current state of our most blighted communities, “people living in neighborhoods with blight are not only losing access to home equity, community history and public sector improvements, they are also being exposed to community based trauma resulting in long term stress from fear of unsafe property implosion, toxic exposure, and crime.” (Nneka N'namdi, Fight Blight Baltimore). While these are just two examples, they speak to the responsibility of the city to assess and acknowledge the ways in which is has contributed to the trauma experienced by Black residents.
With these recommendations, we honor the citizens of this majority Black city by centering the mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual health of Baltimore’s Black communities. We urge the council to take this opportunity to disrupt the deadly effect of white supremacist, business-as-usual, tactics used to address the challenges of our city. As the bill is currently written, it contributes to the falsehood that Black communities, leaders, and professionals are not capable of leading and being the center of our own healing. It is for this reason foremost, that we do not support the bill without these stated amendments.
It is recommended that the above listed amendments be made to Baltimore city council Bill 19-0410 in order for it to be considered an equitable legislative solution to the effects of trauma on our city.
Leandra Pauley, MSW
Social Policy and Advocacy Chair
Amanda Morgan-Henry, LCSW-C
Baltimore City Council Website
Fight Blight Baltimore Blog