Jackson Bunch, Ph.D.
Department of Sociology
Experiences and Expressions Screener Background
The Montana Experiences and Expressions Screener (EES) emerged from an effort by the U.S. Office for Victims of Crime’s Vision 21: Linking Systems of Care (LSOC) for Children and Youth program, a six-year demonstration project in two states (Montana and Virginia) with a mandate to bring together relevant systems and professionals to provide early identification, intervention, and treatment for child and youth victims and their families and caregivers.
In late 2014, Montana was selected by the U.S. Office for Victims of Crime (OVC) to serve as one of two national demonstration sites for the LSOC project. With support from OVC, the Montana Board of Crime Control (MBCC) and the University of Montana Criminology Research Group (CRG) set out to assess available trauma-informed resources for children and youth in Montana and the barriers impeding their delivery. That research led to the creation of a plan for identifying children and youth in danger of falling through existing social service safety nets. Central to that plan is the introduction of a screening instrument, the Montana EES, capable of detecting trauma and victimization in young people that can be utilized across youth-serving organizations.
To aid with construction of the Montana EES, MBCC and the CRG convened the Vision 21 Screening Tool Workgroup, a collaborative body comprised of representatives from the Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS), the National Native Children’s Trauma Center (NNCTC), a licensed clinical social worker, the executive director of a youth service organization, a registered nurse, a family law attorney, the National Child Trauma Stress Network (NCTSN), and the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges (NCJFCJ). Community focus groups and a service provider survey conducted by the LSOC team further informed instrument construction. The Connecticut Trauma Screen constructed by Lang and Connell (2017) served as a primary template for creation of the Montana EES.
There are two versions of the Montana EES. The first is for children up to 8 years old; the second is for young people 9 through 17 years of age (Juvenile Justice may conduct the screening on 18-year-old individuals under special circumstances). The Montana EES was not developed to be a mental health assessment, nor was it designed to diagnose symptoms. Instead, it was created to serve as a brief screening tool capable of allowing laypeople, as well as service providers, to efficiently identify potential need specifically related to trauma and victimization. Montana EES questions were designed to detect the most common symptoms of trauma and victimization through an exploration of experiences and some expressions typically related to stress. The purpose of this screener is to identify children and youth with potential need and to facilitate referrals for a mental health assessment or other appropriate services.
The LSOC research team constructed this manual to assist youth-serving providers with Montana EES administration. This manual includes information about child traumatic stress and the effects of adverse experiences. It also explores strategies for demystifying the subject of abuse, building rapport with individuals and their families in advance of screening, gaining parent or guardian permission to screen with the Montana EES, and making service referrals. Techniques for administering the screening tool, navigating mandatory reporting laws, and managing responses and disclosures of trauma are also included. This manual further includes a LSOC Community Referral Matrix that may be used to refer individuals screened by the Montana EES and their families for services, if screening results suggest such a referral is appropriate.
Because the information collected through screening is may be considered sensitive in nature, it is important that Montana EES administrators have the training necessary to deliver it in a trauma-informed manner. Eight training segments must be completed prior to Montana EES administration.