Making Sense of Trauma:
Practical Tools for Responding to Children and Youth
The Families Affected by Sexual Assault (FASA) Program has developed a one day training workshop titled Making Sense of Trauma: Practical Tools for responding to children and youth. The workshop was designed for and delivered to Child & Family Services Workers, Foster Parents, Youth Care Workers and other professionals working with traumatized children and youth. The workshop will be provided 16 times annually, equally split between Winnipeg and other regions of the province. Each child welfare authority in the province will have equal access to workshop dates. Families Affected by Sexual Assault Program The Families Affected by Sexual Assault [FASA] program has been working with families in Winnipeg for over 25 years. The program operates out of New Directions for Children, Youth, Adults and Families located at 491 Portage Ave., Winnipeg, MB, Canada. We provide therapy to families with children under age 18 who have been sexually assaulted by someone who is not a caregiver or sibling. We also provide therapy to families with children under 12 exhibiting sexual behaviour problems. FASA staff offer consultation to families, educators, and professionals, including community groups and others interested in education on issues related to childhood sexual assault and sexual behaviour problems in children under 12. Consultation provides an opportunity to determine which service is required, and what the most appropriate service might be. We provide both phone and in-person consultation.
Over the last five years our clinical team has received extensive training to better understand the relational, neurobiological and developmental impact of trauma on children, youth and their families. As a result of our training, our clinical work has shifted as we have integrated a trauma- informed perspective in our work with children and their families. A neurobiological perspective of trauma helps all persons (children, youth, caregivers, and professionals) make sense of behaviours as adaptive coping responses, and neurobiological patterns which have been created out of traumatic experiences. Blame and guilt are removed when trauma is better understood.
Children and youth who come to the attention of child welfare are likely to have been exposed to multiple traumatic events. Typically the incident that precipitated child welfare contact and the reality of agency involvement cause children to feel that they have somehow contributed to or are responsible for the family’s situation. Child abuse, neglect, and witnessing violence are some of the most common sources of child trauma, and cause for placement. Unfortunately, removing children from their homes and from their families is also traumatic and increases the risk of traumatic stress.
The traumatic experience of child abuse, neglect, and separation, especially when combined with poverty, can lead to a host of behavioural or mental health issues for children and youth, and a possible increase in psychiatric, social, and behavioural problems. Children, when removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect and placed in care, have a heightened risk for mental health problems, especially trauma-induced stress. “Trauma survivors are at risk of being re-traumatized in every social service and health care setting. This is often due to a lack of knowledge about the effects of traumatic events and a limited understanding of how to work effectively with those impacted by trauma.” Child welfare providers, foster parents, and mental health workers support children and their families who have experienced multiple traumas. The one-day trauma-informed training will enable those who work with children and youth to alter their perceptions of the patterns that they see in families and the responses of children and youth. Typically service providers respond to the traumatic event or events. Neurobiology teaches us that we need to respond to the nervous system. We know from our trauma-informed work as therapists that clients report a decrease in symptomatology, a greater sense of control over their behavior, and improvements in their relationships. This trauma-informed training may transform the current way that child welfare or mental health systems provide services to these children.
Goals and Objectives
This workshop will assist service providers who care and support traumatized children, youth and their families within child welfare and child and adolescent mental health services to be better able to do their work in a way that promotes trauma resolution. Additionally the training will address the need of service providers or caregivers for information and specific techniques to build their sense of efficacy in their role in trauma resolution.
- To introduce and enhance a primary understanding of the neurobiological impact of trauma on children and youth;
- To teach a framework and language to better explain to children and families the impact of trauma;
- To teach specific methods (tools) to manage dysregulated affect in children;
- Develop the knowledge of how a trauma-informed approach to casework practice builds resilience through case planning and trauma-informed service delivery; and
- To teach a way of working with traumatized children and youth that leads to an overall decrease in symptoms, a greater sense of control over their behavior, and improvements in their relationships.