Newly Created Trauma-Aware Room at Clackamas ODHS Office Gives Families Privacy, Decreases Stress

The trauma-aware designed room to help reduce stress for visitors and staff.
On the wall hangs the donated painting, “Refuge” by Lisa Waggoner.

Family coach Mily Wallace-Padilla always wished the Oregon Department of Human Services North Clackamas office had a specially designed trauma aware room for families to meet in. That office houses both the Self-Sufficiency Programs and the Child Welfare Division.

Often families come in that are in crisis and having a special room to talk would be more compassionate, trauma informed and more effective. The Oregon Department of Human Services is committed to being a Trauma-Aware agency.

“Not having have such a room was creating a lot of stress for our families and for family coaches to really be able to engage with them. We would just meet in our cubicles. It was uncomfortable. Sometimes people don’t share everything in the intakes and there was no privacy. You can hear other intakes. When you’re a family coach and care about what you do, there is a lot of emotional energy when you have to chase kids, who understandably might run around the office, and then we’d have to effectively return to the conversation,” Wallace-Padilla said. She works helping people who have been in domestic violence situations.

Then, two things happened. First, while participating in the Metro Leadership Class— which helps ODHS employees develop leadership and management skills—she found herself needing a project. Second, her office at 166440 SE 82nd Avenue began renovations – a perfect time to design a space for a trauma room.

“This room gives families a nice please to share their stories and feel comfortable in a private setting.”

Mily Wallace-Padilla, ODHS Family Coach

At first, finding the space for a trauma room was a challenge. Everyone had an idea of how they wanted to use the renovated space. She was offered a supply closet – but she made it work.

The supply closet at the ODHS North Clackamas office before it was turned into a trauma-aware room.

Wallace-Padilla worked with a fellow family coach, Natalie Lawrie, who also happened to be a color consultant. They picked grays and mauve colors for the new space — colors that are calming and inviting. The lighting with lamps is indirect, not glaring like the overheard fluorescent lights in many offices. The art and other decorations are meant to be inspirational and uplifting.  

A local artist, Lisa Waggoner, donated a painting, named, “Refuge,” that is the centerpiece of the room. It’s colors of pinks and blues create a calming feeling.

The room opened recently for use. The comments from those using it have been very positive.  

“One of the things that a co-worker shared with me is that a survivor stated that the room is inviting, relaxing and comfortable. Also, family coaches have been sharing that is easier to do intakes in that room without distraction. We also got a great feedback from community partner on how thoughtful is that we pick trauma inform colors for the room that helps survivors feel less overwhelmed during their difficult situation, Wallace-Padilla said.  

Most of the items, such as the cushioned chairs in the room, were donated. Program funds were only used to purchase the little couch and the computer table.

The room is stocked with snacks, water, tissues, hand-sanitizer and unscented wipes. An air purifier cleans the air in the room for the health and safety of those using it.

“Some families come into our offices and they haven’t eaten all day and they’re in a crisis,” Wallace-Padilla said.  “This room gives families a nice please to share their stories and feel comfortable in a private setting.”

The Oregon Department of Human Services is committed to being a trauma informed organization building resiliency in agency staff and interacting with one another in a way that is aware of and responsive to the impact of trauma in the lives of individuals.

About Author

Christine Decker is a Public Affairs Specialist for the Oregon Department of Human Services. Before working in communications she was a working journalist.

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