Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Serving Children in the Community

For years there has been a national trend towards moving children out of residential centers, and building up community treatment options so children can live in families. In Connecticut we have been moving in this direction for a long time. Recently our new Commissioner has accelerated the progress. She is determined to change residential completely, and eliminate most of it. To this end, my agency Klingberg Family Centers is in the process of closing our residential treatment center and developing new community options. If you would like to know more about our process, you can find it at:

I wonder if it is possible for all children to live in families, especially those with long trauma histories. Many of our children have been in 16 foster homes or more. They don’t trust families. They have learned to guard their hearts. Professional care gives them the chance to get close to people at their own speed, without the pressure of someone expecting to be their parent.

I remember the six year old that we told that an adoptive family had been found for him. He4 asked if DCF would still visit. Thinking this was the answer he was looking for, we said no. He asked: “then who will I tell when they start beating me?”

I think of the behaviors we can barely manage with 4-5 trained staff, including severe aggression.

I think of the slow but clear progress the kids make over time.

Will this be able to happen in foster care? Will the family be able to hold the child long enough for trust to develop?

If we can really give the families enough resources so that they can keep the children, then that will certainly be the best gift we could ever give these kids. That would involve trauma training for the families, intensive support, clinical treatment, appropriate schools, and recreational opportunities at their level.

This is happening all over the country- how is it working in your state? Click on “comment” below and let’s all learn from each other.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2012.

As I look back over 2011 I remember many wonderful experiences. I was so surprised and honored to be chosen CT NASW Social Worker of the year. I was also delighted to participate in a round table discussion at the UConn School of Social Work that was later featured in the UConn Alumni magazine. That caused even people I swim with to congratulate me! I presented at some wonderful conferences. The Vermont foster care annual conference comes to mind- amazing to find my name on a program with Bruce Perry, and great to hear his presentation. I also remember the ATTATCh conference, the Health Care for the Homeless training, and my wonderful visit to CALO (during which I had no voice). Participation in the Carter Center Mental Health Symposium was a great honor and extremely valuable. I also taught some wonderful Risking Connection basic trainings and Train the Trainer events,

Largely due to the efforts of my colleague Steve Brown, 2011 was the year we entered electronic teaching and started offering webinars to our geographically distant trainers. We are beginning master the technology and hope to expand the offerings this year. And speaking of our Associate Trainers, we had some excellent Consult Groups this year. Notable among them were Kathy MacAfee on presentation techniques, a seminar on the role of grief in our work, and our Day of Learning and Sharing. In that event Kay Saakvitne presented about the trauma survivor as parent. I always learn a lot from Kay. I am particularly proud of the Associate Traianer consultations. Through them we increase the knowledge and sophistication of the treatment offered to trauma survivors, as well as strengthen the community of providers doing thIs difficult work. Every event includes some focus on vicarious traumatization.

Our colleague and friend Laurie Pearlman has recently been developing the concept of vicarious transformation, and I was lucky to be able to hear her speak about this at the ATTACh conference. This refers to the positive ways our work changes us, and to what elements of our work maximize positive change. Expect to hear more about this in 2012.

One sustaining element of our work is our participation in a Transformation Summit which is our collaboration with the personnel of Sanctuary and CARE. We help each other with all the challenges of promoting system change.

A very exciting development in 2011 was that my colleague Steve Brown's research paper on Risking Connection was published in a peer reviewed journal. Congratulations to Steve, that involved a lot of hard work.

There were also difficult parts of 2011. At Klingberg and around the country non-profit agencies are feeling the pain of state budget crisises. When money is tight, training and supervision are often areas that get cut. Yet these times of treating increasingly challenging clients with less resources are the very times when it is most important to think about our work and to use our resources most artfully. Treatment efficacy is strongest when the treater is operating from a theory.

What will 2012 bring to the Traumatic Stress Institute? We are almost finished with an adaptation of Risking Connection for teaching foster and biological parents. This curriculum is timely as states are moving away from congregate care and utilizing version of foster care for troubled youth. Training in trauma can preserve placements as the foster parents learn to unerstand the behavior and not take it personally. We are also developing trauma informed in home services to support families in keeping kids.

We are working on oour version of Risking Connection for professionals in the Developmental Disabilities field. We would welcome the participation of any one with expertise in that area.

I hope to meet many of you either when you bring me to your agency for training or when you talk to me at conferences.

Perhaps this is the time to announce that I have written a book about the Restorative Approach, or all I know about working with kids in congregate care. It is in the editing stage now, and should come put this spring.

Let's hope that 2012 brings us further down our path of transforming treatment settings towards trauma informed care. Let's hope we have the good health and strong spirits to continue to change the world.

I welcome your thoughts on what you achieved during 2011 and your hopes for 2012. Just click on comment below.