Trauma in Children Part 3

Being in a care environment which is sensitive to trauma helps heal the brain and helps the child build further trusting relationships

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What is trauma-informed care?

In Part 1 & Part 2 of this series on Trauma in Children, we explained what developmental trauma is, and the way it changes children’s brains, and the way safe, loving relationships heal children’s brains. In this post we will explore the idea of trauma-informed care. Within the world of Out-of-Home Care (foster care) you will often see reference to a program being ‘trauma-informed’ – but what does this really mean?

Stretch-A-Family and our foster carers work with children and young people who have often had a phenomenally difficult start to life. Children who have experienced trauma need adults who understand this to assist them in their journey of healing and healthy development. This is the core foundation of trauma-informed care.

Trauma-informed care helps the child move beyond focusing on moment-by-moment survival. Understanding the detrimental impact of trauma on the child and how they feel is vital in supporting them to feel safe. Until they do, it can be nearly impossible for them to achieve important developmental or educational milestones. Our carers & caseworkers provide opportunities to discuss with the child or young person their past experiences, who they are now, where they want to be in the future, and the kind of help they might need to get there. Being in a care environment which is sensitive to trauma helps heal the brain and helps the child build further trusting relationships.

Sometimes a child or young person’s previous methods of coping are not the healthiest or safest options. Survival strategy behaviours that may have made sense in an unsafe or abusive situation will not help the child in the rest of their life. We work with them age-appropriately around any unhealthy behaviours and, without pushing them beyond their capacity, nurture them to grow and learn new ways of responding. This then allows space for further emotional and academic learning.

Trauma-informed care is about much more than providing a roof, meals and a physically safe home.

It is providing a connected and therapeutic relational environment that actively works to undo the damage done by developmental trauma. SAF and our carers work using this key nurturing relationship with the child to help them move beyond their significant disadvantage, to overcome trauma and thrive. Trauma-informed care gives our kids the opportunity to reach all their potential as healthy, successful, functioning people as they move into adulthood.

All SAF carers receive initial and ongoing training in trauma-informed care, and about how to help children process trauma.

Beyond the many excellent articles and videos explaining trauma and its impact on the developing brain linked in this blog series, there is lots of really easy to read, quality material available to help adults explain to children what may seem hard-to-understand concepts. Have a look at author Dan Siegel’s books The Whole Brain Child and Brainstorm.