One of the things I really appreciate about being a foster parent is the support and training we receive. We have a certain amount of classes we are required to take that help equip us to deal with the behaviours that are common in kids who have experienced trauma. Any kid who is apprehended by Children’s Services is going to experience trauma. Just the word “apprehended” sounds traumatic!!
We just completed a course last week on trauma and it’s impact on the developing brain and I’d love to share a brief overview of what we learned. This is not my own information but is shared directly from “Childhood Trauma, Stress and the Developing Brain” Government of Alberta, Children’s Services.
First of all, how do you assess what trauma is? Finding a spider in your teacup might be very traumatic for some, but not for others! There was a study done where 10 Adverse Childhood Experiences were identified and you can find the questionnaire in the link below.
The quiz is simply a yes or no answer and your score indicates the level of childhood adverse experiences you have had. 2/3 of people check at least one. The three types of ACEs are abuse, neglect and household dysfunction. Where things get really interesting is when the study compared the current health status and behaviours to the ACE scores of participants.
Sounds too technical? The statement that stood out to me was that things you had no control over as a child produce behaviours that look like a choice now. Their theories say that damage done to your brain by trauma can actually make you predisposed to violence, broken relationships, addictions, depression and auto-immune diseases. Sobering things to think about when you realize that we live in a broken world where selfishness often harms others. Too easy to judge others choices when we have not walked in their shoes.
However trauma does depend on the individual’s perception of an event and how that event gets processed. Simple trauma involves a limited exposure, short duration, the presence of support and is typically not focused on an individual… being in a car accident could fall into this category. Complex trauma is often interpersonal (betrayal by someone) multiple exposures, prolonged or longer duration and higher intensity and lack of support. Being abused or witnessing abuse could fall in this category. Hidden trauma would include poverty, racism, homophobia and inter generational trauma and is often harder to identify.
All of these things can shape our beliefs about ourselves and others as well as how we interact with the world around us. So how does that help me to care for the children who come into my home now? Behaviours are symptoms. If you change the question from “what is wrong with you?” to “what has happened to you?” your focus becomes trauma informed care.
I can only imagine the stress of coming to a new country and starting a family in the midst of the unfamiliar. The other mother of the children in my care navigated a terrifying new reality as she started her family, lost her husband and watched her world crumble. Those stresses have impacted her children. We can help them by providing stability, safety and care. They thrive on being listened to, feeling a part of a family and being encouraged to try new things. We can offer our resources to them and limit their stress for this season.
I’ll share a bit more about the stress response and what we learned about it in another post.
Suffice it to say that in all of these sobering statistics one thing keeps rising to the surface.
YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE!
Take the time to watch this video and hear the testimony of one who was forever changed because someone chose to see beyond the behaviours.
So be that one! Encourage someone today. Get behind your kid, your spouse, your neighbour, your friend, and cheer them on. You may not know all the details of the battle they have fought but you can stand with them to face the future.
We’re trying to do this for 2 beautiful children who are loved by their creator and for whom there is a hope and a future.
In the midst of the mess