Model of care

Trauma is a common experience for individuals who have been trafficked. As discussed in our resources, Trauma and Trauma bonding, trauma can have a significant and long-lasting impact on an individual physically, emotionally and psychologically.

An individual's behaviour may be shaped by trauma as a result of their natural impulse to survive and their ability to cope. Even when the individual has exited, these behaviours may continue.

For this reason, and as promising practices from the industry advise, Covenant House has chosen to ground our model of care in a trauma-informed approach. By ensuring staff can provide trauma-informed care, we are taking the right step towards helping to offer and teach new skills.

Trauma-informed care


Trauma-informed care is a strengths-based framework that is grounded in an understanding of and responsiveness to the impact of trauma, that emphasizes physical, psychological, and emotional safety for both providers and survivors, and that creates opportunities for survivors to rebuild a sense of control and empowerment. 1

In simple terms, it's an understanding of how violence and victimization can impact someone and how trauma may shape an individual’s behaviour. The goal of trauma-informed care is to reduce harm and increase empowerment.

Working from a trauma-informed perspective is not easy. Be prepared to work in grey zones (where situations and solutions are not straightforward or clear). There's a delicate balance between being trauma-informed, and managing both behaviours and safety. It requires patience, flexibility and understanding as a service provider and overall as an agency.

At Covenant House, the trauma-informed care we provide emphasizes the four principles below.

Centrality of the relationship

Establishing a trusting relationship is key to supporting survivors

Individualized support

Developing a tailored plan with active direction from the survivor

Focus on resiliency and strengths

Fostering self-confidence to promote positive development

Agency support for service providers

The importance of your personal health and well-being

Importance of collaboration

Sex trafficking is a layered problem which has complex consequences. In order to effectively combat the issue, it will require broad capacities, perspectives and specializations from diverse players within a team, and also within a larger community. Collaboration is critical at every level, and it's imperative to break from silo-thinking.

Approaching community organizations and enhancing the survivor’s network of support is critical and will be a regular component of your daily activities. Based on a trauma-informed approach, here are promising practices on how to proceed:

  • Call police only with victims’ permission.
  • Make calls on their behalf in their presence.
  • Accompany them to appointments, if desired, and/or
    to community agency.
  • Be transparent – keep them informed.
  • Be an advocate.

For more suggestions on how to support survivors using a trauma-informed approach, please read our Promising practices resource.

  1. Hopper, E.K., Bassuk, E. L., & Olivet, J. (2010) Shelter from the Storm: Trauma-Informed Care in Homelessness Services Settings. The Open Health Services and Policy Journal, 3(2), 80-100. doi: 10.2174/1874924001003020080