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.


Kathleen Benckendorf said...


I recently attended a Risking Connections training at Maryhurst. Great stuff and in line with other approaches like Heather Forbes/Beyond Consequences. I'm an adoptive parent and we've been parenting from this sort of trauma framework for a while now, but I also question doing away with residential treatment. There are times when adoptive families have gone so far down the path of no helpful support that the parents and other family members also need time to heal from the vicarious trauma of living with traumatized individuals.

Certainly it would be better to provide this support earlier, before more damage is done - but I sure don't see that happening yet.

I'm going to pass on the link to this post to other adoptive parents and ask them to share their thoughts with you as well. I may be back again myself. ;-)

Thanks for sharing.

carrie said...

RTC's have staff on duty 24/7. Parents need to sleep sometime. Not all kids can cope with the closeness & expectations of family life.

Integrity Singer said...

Our state is moving toward the same trend but keeping a few state facilities open, although getting a child into a facility has become increasingly more difficult. In our family's store, the answer to our daughter's ultimate success in the home environment was multiple placements over two years in addition to community wrap services, intensive family intervention, skill building, community resources, and much more. Without all of these solutions in place, we would have been faced with the inevitable truth that we could not parent our daughter and would have had to surrender her. Eliminating RTCs entirely is a grievous mistake that belies the truth: those that make the decisions have never truly understood the needs and challenges of traumatized children and the adults that attempt to love and raise them through their trauma. RTCs will always be necessary in some capacity until the whole of humanity learns to live in a utopian society. In other words, forever.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely not! RTC's are needed...period. Some children just cannot be managed as the trauma they endured is so deep and was so prolonged. Not that any of this is their fault.

We parents are not trained in police work, Physc. work, probation work, etc. We do the best we can as loving and caring parents of troubled kids that sometimes just cannot love us back or ever show caring to anyone.

Support is nice (something we don't see very often), but it is not enough to help the truely aggressive, future sociopathic child, around.

It was the RTC that began my wards healing. It had to start there. Then, I rested and became more educated. We tried things in the safety of RTC to see if they helped. Those that helped, were brought home with her. Those that didn't, well? At least we found out while BOTH of us were safe.

Please do not even consider removing this safety. it protects all; children and parents alike.

waldenbunch said...

I believe there are indeed some children who cannot live in families. I know the families that have tried everything over years and years. Kids that won't or are not capable of attaching need a place to learn how to function safely in society. We would not have survived without the facility one of our children wen to.

Patricia Wilcox, LCSW said...

Thank you all for your thoughtful comments. I hope we can keep some balance of services in our community so that children can have what they really need... but that is difficult.