Foster Parents Help Kids in Foster Care Overcome Impact of Trauma

Posted August 8, 2018, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

A young girl finds success on the baseball field with her friend.

Expe­ri­enc­ing trau­ma can dis­rupt many aspects of a child’s devel­op­ment. Being exposed to trau­mat­ic expe­ri­ences acti­vate the part of the brain respon­si­ble for sur­vival, which can lead to behav­iors focused on pro­tec­tion. With the brain focused on deal­ing with those dif­fi­cult expe­ri­ences, the devel­op­ment of age-appro­pri­ate skills — such as reg­u­lat­ing emo­tion or solv­ing prob­lems — can take a back seat.

With­out these skills, chil­dren may strug­gle nav­i­gat­ing the steps need­ed to devel­op their iden­ti­ty and con­nect with oppor­tu­ni­ty, accord­ing to social work­er Kris­tine Kin­niburgh. We want to help kids expand how they view them­selves beyond the trau­ma they’ve experienced.”

Kin­niburgh and clin­i­cal psy­chol­o­gist Mar­garet Blaustein are co-authors of ARC Reflec­tions, a nine-ses­sion train­ing cur­ricu­lum for fos­ter par­ents and kin care­givers. A col­lab­o­ra­tion between the Casey Foun­da­tion and the Jus­tice Resource Insti­tute, ARC Reflec­tions pro­vides knowl­edge about the effects of trau­ma and tech­niques to sup­port heal­ing and healthy development.

Dur­ing ARC Reflec­tions train­ing, fos­ter par­ents learn how to:

Deci­sion mak­ing, includ­ing the abil­i­ty to rec­og­nize cause and effect and eval­u­ate choic­es, is a crit­i­cal com­pe­ten­cy pro­mot­ed by ARC Reflec­tions. Part of our goal is to help kids be curi­ous, solve prob­lems and feel a sense of empow­er­ment,” says Blaustein. Devel­op­ment of deci­sion-mak­ing and oth­er skills is intense­ly pre­dic­tive of how kids will fare, not just in a giv­en year, but over longer peri­ods of time — 20 or 30 years — because strength builds upon strength.”

Every­day activ­i­ties, includ­ing fam­i­ly, soli­tary and peer-to-peer play, pro­vide oppor­tu­ni­ties for chil­dren to feel suc­cess­ful and pow­er­ful. A vital but often over­looked part of healthy devel­op­ment, play pro­vides oppor­tu­ni­ties for social­iz­ing and skill build­ing. The sim­ple act of toss­ing a ball back and forth with a child, accom­pa­nied by care­giv­er recog­ni­tion and praise, can con­tribute to increas­ing a child’s sense of competence.

All ARC Reflec­tions mate­ri­als are avail­able online, free of charge. These mate­ri­als, which incor­po­rate every­thing a child wel­fare agency would need to con­duct the train­ing with care­givers, include an imple­men­ta­tion guide, Pow­er­Point pre­sen­ta­tions, facil­i­ta­tor guides and more.

Down­load ARC Reflec­tions train­ing materials

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