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Decision-making is defined as a method of selecting a particular option among a set of alternatives expecting to produce a desirable outcome. Decision-making is a complex process and can be particularly daunting depending upon an individual’s circumstances. Adults seeking financial assistance and other supports from public and private human services agencies may have significant challenges with the decision-making process due to their current circumstances.

Research suggests poverty affects higher-level thinking skills, including decision-making. One explanation poses a relationship between the state of poverty, the stress/trauma response, and impaired decision-making. For example, studies indicate that when people are experiencing fear and stress, they make less risky decisions. Now consider the difficulty of making significant life-changing decisions while living in impoverished environments where physical and/or emotional trauma is present.

The purpose of this paper is to summarize current research on the impact of poverty and trauma on types of decision-making associated with competent care practice. These findings have implications for the development of policies and programs that support trauma-impacted populations. By understanding the factors that

impede a client’s sound decision- making, as well as strategies that enhance a client’s ability to make beneficial life decisions, the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance (OTDA), local Social Services Districts (SSDs), and other providers will be better equipped to develop and deliver successful policies and approaches.

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