Sunday, February 12, 2012

Risking Connection for Foster Parents Curriculum Available

Exciting news! The Traumatic Stress Institute announces the completion of the Risking Connection© Training Curriculum for Foster Parents. This curriculum would also be appropriate for teaching biological or kinship parents. The development of this curriculum is consistent with Sidran and the Traumatic Stress Institute’s philosophy of adapting the Risking Connection© ideas for various populations. The Foster Care curriculum joins Risking Connection® in Faith Communities: A Training Curriculum for Faith Leaders Supporting Trauma and adaptations for primary care physicians and for domestic violence treaters in expanding the scope of the Risking Connection© philosophy.

The release of Risking Connection© for Foster Parents comes at a particularly opportune time. In Connecticut as well as across the nation states are relying less on residential treatment to treat their most stressed children and youth. Instead, they hope to develop foster families for these youth. The key to the children being able to heal is to limit disruptions, to offer the foster families enough support that they can keep the child. One important element in that support is training. Understanding trauma, how it affects children, and how they can heal helps the family define the behavior differently. They see that it is not about them, but instead an understandable adaptation to the child’s circumstances. For example, Chelise always had trouble at bed time. She would not turn out her light, kept getting up and often had her music on long after her foster mother Barbara told her to turn it off. Barbara defined this defiance: I am the adult, Chelise should respect me and do as I say. The foster placement disrupted. But when Chelise was placed with Lynn, Lynn immediately understood that Chelise was scared at night. Lynn provided a night light, encouraged her to listen to soft music and stayed by her door until she fell asleep. This was the beginning of a long relationship.

The curriculum also contains specific suggestions about how to respond to behavior that hurts others; and tools for assessing foster parent beliefs and practices.

If foster families are to care for children who have experienced trauma both they and their support team need to pay attention to the vicarious traumatization(VT) they will inevitably experience. Foster care has unique features that contribute to VT. The child is in the family home and the family has no place to escape. Biological children and extended family may be affected by the child’s behavior and may not understand the parents’ actions. The parent is often handling crisis’ alone and without much back up. Therefore it is crucial that the family and their helpers learn about what VT is, how to recognize it, strategies for managing it, and ways to achieve vicarious transformation. The Risking Connection curriculum covers these topics and gives the foster parents tools and techniques to manage this part of their jobs. One foster mother in a Risking Connection class said: “I have been a foster mother for sixteen years and this is first time anyone has asked me how the job affects me!”

Risking Connections for Foster Parents contains six two and a half hour modules. These modules can be taught once a week for six weeks or combined in other ways, such as on two Saturdays. The modules cover these topics:

1. The Trauma Framework and Introduction to Vicarious Traumatization
2. Symptoms are Adaptations
3. Healing Through Relationships
4. Managing a Crisis
5. Responding When the Child Hurts Others
6. Taking Care of Ourselves While Doing This Difficult Work

The modules contain many exercises and small group discussions. Every effort has been made to use the word “child” instead of “client”, to use examples from home situations and in other ways make the material accessible to parents.

Our plan is to train specific Foster Care Trainers. If a current Associate Trainer wants to become a Foster Care Trainer they will be expected to attend a short training that introduces them to the new materials. Foster Care Trainers will be required to have taken the RC Basic course (original or foster care version) and to become trained as a trainer. We hope to have some foster parents join us as trainers, so we can establish training teams of a clinician and a foster parent.

Please join us in celebrating this exciting new expansion to our mission to change the treatment of children who have experienced trauma.

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