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For more than three years, SCAN has been leading efforts across the region to educate the child welfare community about trauma-informed care. All the while, SCAN has been integrating trauma-informed practices into its five programs.
Family Support Program Coordinator Angela Borsella, Ph.D., has been weaving the latest research and practices into the curriculum of treatment and education groups for parents and their children. The goal is to have parents develop an understanding of their own childhood trauma and the impact these traumatic experiences have on their parenting behaviors so that they can learn how to nurture, support, and communicate with their children in healthier ways.
“It is a challenging and complex process to implement because we first have to work with the parents to address their own childhood pain and hurt and also help them learn how to nurture themselves before they can adjust their parenting behaviors,” Angela said. “Many of the parents have never talked with anyone about their own trauma histories and these histories often impact their ability to parent effectively.”
The Family Support Program continues to see a large and growing number of caregivers who have their own histories of trauma. These high-risk parents participate in 20-week groups that meet once a week. Angela has been helping facilitators to integrate trauma-informed practices into each class.
“We begin by introducing the caregivers to the concept of trauma by exposing them to case studies about trauma so they can learn about it from an objective standpoint and become comfortable with talking about some very painful situations,” Angela said.
Then, group facilitators will help the caregivers talk about their own histories. Eventually, as caregivers open up, they become a support system for each other as each of them deals with the impact of their own trauma. Finally, the caregivers can learn how to better interpret their own child’s behaviors and the impact that traumatic experiences may have had on them. Ultimately, we are helping parents “tune in” or learn how to read their child’s language more effectively, more emphatically. By doing so, SCAN can stop the cycle of abuse and neglect in families.
“SCAN has always been at the forefront of using trauma-informed practices in working with our clients,” Angela said. “Current research, however, has given us an even richer and more sophisticated understanding of how traumatic experiences negatively affect children, which makes our own agency practices even more effective and also mitigates the chance for additional trauma.”