Creating socially-conscious, and eco-aware trauma-informed trainings for those who serve children and families.


Wisconsin has become known as the state trying to become the first comprehensively trauma-informed state. As a result, many programs and projects have launched, trying to minimize the frequency of traumatic experiences, as well as the impact of trauma when it occurs. The Wisconsin Hawthorn Project is one of those projects.

What We’ve Done So Far

September 2018-June 2019

The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, in collaboration with Natural Wisdom Counseling LLC, developed and implemented a trauma-informed curriculum and training for agencies and organizations working with children and families.

The Core Curriculum on trauma-informed care was provided for free in each of the five regions during November and December 2018. Additional Core Curriculum trainings were be available upon request through May 2019.

The inaugural Train-the-Trainer Learning Collaborative took place January 14, 2019 through May 17, 2019.

Why focus on trauma?

There has been much recent research on the prevalence and impact of trauma and traumatic stress on individuals and families.  A traumatic event or situation can be anything that threatens a person’s sense of emotional or physical safety.  Often a traumatic event or situation will also create the sense of a loss of control, loss of power, and increased sense of helplessness and fear. In childhood, these harmful experiences, often referred to as Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), can leave people more vulnerable to environments and behaviors that can lead to poor health. The more ACEs an individual has experienced, the higher their risk can be. The organizations and systems that children and families interface with have the power to re-traumatize and they have the power to promote resiliency. 

Given the significant array of risks traumatic experiences pose to children and families and the impact that responsive organizations and systems can have on promoting resiliency, the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, and Natural Wisdom Counseling LLC have recognized the need to develop Trauma Informed Training for child and family-serving organizations. As a result, we joined forces to create the Wisconsin Hawthorn Project to house a curriculum and deliver trauma-informed trainings and technical assistance to programs, agencies, and organizations that primarily serve children and families.

During the proposal process, it became clear that in order to reach such a large audience with diverse workplaces and needs, in such a short period of time, we would need an innovative, interdisciplinary, community driven approach. And then the Wisconsin Hawthorn Project was born—incorporating standard trauma-informed care principles (SAMHSA) with Interpersonal Neurobiology, Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health, Mindfulness-Based Interventions (like Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction), Body-Based Interventions (like aikido), and Nature-Based Interventions (like Gestalt Equine Psychotherapy).

Frequently Asked Questions:

What is the meaning behind the name?

“Hawthorn” in the name of Wisconsin Hawthorn Project was chosen intentionally, due to the therapeutic metaphors that the hawthorn holds. It is a plant native to Wisconsin that has tender flowers, nutritious berries, and protective thorns. The hawthorn has been known as a symbol of hope since the Victorian era, and has been utilized for both physical and emotional ailments in the cardiovascular system.

Cumulatively, hawthorn not only holds a medicinal value to the human heart, it is also a model for an integrated life. While being able to offer vulnerability through its flowers, and gifts of fruit to its neighbors, it also is resilient in its nature. Thorns are inherently protective and remind us that not all parts of life call for a romanticized version of vulnerability and generosity. Learning how to self-protect is integral in resilience and recovery from traumatic stress.

Why do you have so many versions of the videos?

Videos are not automatically accessible to everyone. There are people who need captions, American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation, Cued Language Transliteration (CLT), a transcript, and/or other language interpretation in order to access the content. In order to make the videos (and content) as widely accessible as possible, the Wisconsin Hawthorn Project prioritized Spanish subtitles, ASL, and CLT versions of the videos in addition to a baseline version with English captions. (English, Spanish, and ASL are the three most commonly used languages in the United States.)

What is the timeline for the project?

Overall Timeline: September 2018 - June 2019

Curriculum Development Timeline: September 2018 - December 2018

Core Curriculum Training Timeline:
First Round: November 2018
Second Round: January-May 2019 (upon request)

Train-the-Trainer Learning Collaborative Timeline:
January 2019 - May 2019

Ongoing Technical Assistance and Consultation:
January 2019 - May 2019

Final Reporting Timeline: May 2019 - June 2019

What are the benefits of participating in the Train-the-Trainer Learning Collaborative?

  1. Contribute to the customization of curriculum addendum.

  2. Participate in trauma-informed organizational change.

  3. Receive ongoing consultation and technical assistance to support trauma-informed training and a trauma-informed workplace.

  4. Receive a $4,000 stipend for completing the four-month Learning Collaborative.

Is any particular type of program, agency, or organization given priority for these training opportunities?

Yes. First and foremost, you must primarily serve children and families. Additionally, you must have a mission that communicates those values.
For example, The mission of the Department of Children and Families (DCF) is to promote the economic and social well-being of Wisconsin’s children and families. DCF is committed to protecting children, strengthening families, and building communities. 

How is this different from or similar to other initiatives in the state (Wisconsin Trauma Project, Fostering Futures, etc.)?

Any trauma-informed initiative in the state will have some overlap with the others, although they are all separate. Here is a little more information:

Fostering Futures is an inter-agency, interdisciplinary collaborative, aiming to support trauma-informed policies and practices throughout systems of care. For more information, see their Frequently Asked Questions.

The Wisconsin Trauma Project is housed at the Department of Children and Families and focuses on two primary areas:
1) provision of TF-CBT trainings to mental health clinicians
2) provision of trainings for families and caregivers via a Trauma-Informed Parenting Workshop.
Their third component, systems change, is delivered by Fostering Futures.

The Department of Health has Trauma-Informed resources and trainings available in collaboration with Fostering Futures.

The WI Office of Children’s Mental Health is also providing single-day special topic trainings, often with intermediate and advanced content, regarding Trauma-Informed organizational change.

So that leaves the Wisconsin Hawthorn Project. As an initiative of the Department of Children and Families, this short-term project aims to both expand the reach of the trauma-informed trainings to agencies who have not had direct access to the other programs and expand the depth of the training and organizational change through innovative strategies.