Northamptonshire Police force has become one of the first in the country to introduce a new trauma informed approach to dealing with children brought into custody.
Known as Trauma-Informed Custody, the new approach aims to better support children who have been arrested, help improve understanding of the effects of childhood trauma, recognise vulnerability, and reduce repeat offending.
A significant number of children brought into custody have experienced highly stressful and potentially traumatic events or situations during their childhood or adolescence. This can affect the behaviour, disposition, and development of children, and lead to risk-taking, offending behaviours and self-harm.
Custody and detention officers have received special training to become trauma- informed helping prevent replication of traumatic experiences and avoiding custody staff adding to the chronic stress their youngest detainees are already likely carrying.
Chief Inspector Julie Mead said: “Being arrested for the first time as an adult can be frightening, so for a child that can be a traumatic experience in itself.
“We know a high proportion of children in our custody suites are likely to have experienced some kind of trauma or adverse event in their childhood. So, the approach we are now taking with every child, is that they are more likely than not to have a history of trauma.
“Being brought into custody is not meant to be a punitive process for any detainee. This is not about being soft on children. We treat everyone with dignity and respect – no matter their age or how they present to us.
“However, in terms of children, we are now recognising that trauma can have lasting adverse effects on a child’s functioning and on their mental, physical, social, and emotional well-being.
“We need to be thinking ‘what happened to you?’ ‘What has brought you to this point?’ We need to look at things using a more trauma-focused lens.
“What we don’t want to do is exacerbate trauma further or re-trigger it while children are in custody – as this won’t help the detainee or indeed the victim.
“The children we see are often in crisis, so we look to decrease their distress, reduce the risk of self-harm, and help these young detainees to understand exactly what is happening to them. Our aim is to keep them in custody for only as long as necessary."