Empirically-guided assessment of complex trauma for children in foster care: A focus on appropriate diagnosis of attachment concerns.

Complex trauma is defined as repeated or prolonged exposure to traumatic events perpetrated within the caregiving relationship during early childhood. Diagnostic decision making is challenging for this vulnerable population, given the widespread impact of these experiences across domains of developmental, social, emotional, and behavioral functioning. One domain, attachment, receives considerable attention for youth within the child welfare system, leading to frequent diagnosis of attachment disorders (i.e., reactive attachment disorder and disinhibited social engagement disorder). This is concerning, given the rarity, level of misunderstanding, associated stigma, and lack of psychometrically sound measures to assess attachment disorders. This article provides an overview of complex trauma and its effects, with a focus on attachment concerns. It subsequently describes one statewide assessment program for youth in the child welfare system with a history of experiencing complex trauma, elaborating on strengths and areas of future growth. A case study demonstrates the program’s adherence to established guidelines and the resulting diagnoses and recommendations. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2019 APA, all rights reserved)