Sunday, September 29, 2013

Lessons Learned in a Restaurant

I had the honor of training at an agency in Willimantic, CT last week, and was able to support two new Risking Connection trainers who have recently joined our community. It’s great fun to watch new people grow in their ability to convey the material and new agencies take on the challenge of transforming their practice.

 I was struck by an experience I had while dining with my husband at Max Amore in Glastonbury on our way home.

My husband ordered a pork chop, and it arrived thin and overdone, not juicy at all. After some debate he decided to tell the waitress that he was not satisfied.

Instead of being defensive, she immediately agreed with him and took it back to replace. Then, while the new one was cooking the manager came over and told my husband that he had been right, the chop was overdone and not the way he wanted to serve things in his restaurant. He offered to heat up my ravioli or give me some new ones so I would be eating hot food with my husband. I said it wasn’t necessary but he did it anyway. He stayed for a pleasant discussion about changes in the restaurant business.

When the new chop arrived it was delicious, thick, tender and succulent. We left that restaurant feeling happy and sure to return.

This experience brought to mind two areas of our teaching, the part about admitting your mistakes and the part about honoring our clients’ voices. The staff could have been defensive, or even questioned our right to speak up. I have had that experience too in other restaurants. And then what would have happened? We would have been angry and left that restaurant determined never to return and also told all our friends.

But instead, by graciously and readily admitting their mistake the restaurant with little expense and effort earned loyal customers, who felt better about their own judgment as well as about the restaurant.

Could we, within our treatment programs, be this gracious and giving with our clients? What would happen if we did?

 Let me know your thoughts by clicking on “comment”.



Monday, September 23, 2013

Risking Connection with Hawaian Values

I am very proud to be associated with the creation of a Risking Connection adaptation utilizing native Hawaiian values. This was created through a grant given to Child and Family Services in Hawaii. The main creator is Joey McKeagne, MSW, who consulted with various Hawaiian Cultural Experts. these experts attended the training and said that it was already compatible, and gave advice about bridging to Hawaiian concepts and ideas. We did the first training on the current iteration this past week, and it was very well received.

One way of integrating Hawaiian values is through proverbs. I will share some of them here:
"Mohala i ka wai ka maka o ka pua."
Unfolded by the water are the faces of the flower…
~’Olelo No’eau

 Explanation: Flowers thrive where there is water, as thriving people are found where living conditions are good….

After break we will discuss this concept in more detail using the trauma framework. We will begin to discover how we are impacted by trauma in our lives. Imagine water to be the life source of all positive influence in our life. What happens when an individual grows up without these positive experiences? When you remove the positive influence in someone’s life they have difficulty thriving, often this comes from traumatic events in their lives.

I kahi ‘e no ke kumu mokihana,  paoa ‘e no one ‘i i ke ‘ala."
Although the mokihana tree is at a distance, its fragrance reaches here…
~’Olelo No’eau (2178)

This Hawaiian proverb speaks to one of our self capacities ….having an inner connection to others.

 “Hahai no ka ua i ka ulua’au.”
The rain always follows the forest…
~’Olelo No’eau

 The thought behind this Hawaiian proverb is: Destroy the forest, the rains will cease to fall, and the land will become a desert.

We must be the forest (people) that produces the rain (positiveness) that grows the flowers (clients) and help them flourish.

But if we do not pay attention to our needs, we could fall barren within ourselves (feel like nothing is left to give) and our work will suffer, thus our clients and communities suffer along with us.

A’ole e ku ka ikaika i keia pakela nui; ke po’ai mai nei ka ‘ohu ma uka, ma kai, ma ‘o a ma’ane’i.
One cannot show his strength against such odds; the rain clouds are circling form the upland, the lowland, and from all sides…
~Ōlelo No‘eau 223

 Said by Maheleana, a warrior of Kuali’I, when he saw his small company surrounded by the enemy.

When faced with a lifetime of adversity, it becomes overwhelming and almost impossible to face our struggles alone. With the help of supportive others and through a therapeutic alliance, we can bridge a safe and nurturing environment for our clients to work through the things that are negatively impacting their lives.

“E lawe i ke a’o a malama, a e ‘oi mau ka na’auao.”
He who takes his teachings and applies them increases his knowledge.
~ Olelo No’eau

This proveb relates to strengthening self capacities or feeling skills. Think about this proverb as we move along through the next section.
What is needed in all of us to apply the knowledge that we are given?
Sometimes it takes more than just receiving the knowledge. Because we must have the capacity within us to apply the knowledge as well.

The picture we see here is of a young child learning to pound poi. Knowledge is passed from older generations. Verbal instructions and hands on practice together built skills and capacity within the learner to gain the experience needed to do it on their own. With practice and time this child will become skilled at this task and manage it on his own. Similar is this to how we must strengthen our self capacity and feeling skills.

“He po’i na kai uli, kai ko’o, ‘a’ohe hina puko’a.”
Though the sea be deep and rough, the coral rock remains standing..
~’Olelo No’eau 905

It is when we are in the middle of a crisis that we must have keen awareness, a calm demeanor, and stand strong against the “rough seas” of the crisis at hand.

“I hele i kauhale, pa’a pu’olo i ka lima.”
In going to the house of others, carry a package in the hand.
~ Olelo No’eau 1157
Meaning: Take a gift with you….
Our work impacts us. We see so many overwhelming and often times traumatizing events in the work we do. At the same time each of us has unique gifts we offer others. When we get up each morning we take with us our gifts and sometimes they may get buried under the stress or burdens we carry. If we hold too much stress or burdens we can forget our gifts at home!

When we are overwhelmed and experiencing VT it is necessary to take pause and account for our gifts and remind ourselves that we do what we do because we are there to make a difference. Often it is these thoughts that bring us back the next day after a difficult days work. We remind ourselves that we are needed.

So remember your gifts and don’t forget them at home. It is when we realize we are going through the motions of life without sharing our special gifts that we need to be talking about it, so we can resolve the conflicts we may be encountering.

"Ho’okolo aku i ka nui manu."
Go inquire of the other birds.
‘Ōlelo No‘eau (1086)

Story of “Elepaio and the man in the mountain:

One day a man went up to a mountain spring for water. On the way down he paued to rest, then fell asleep. An ‘elepaio (type of bird) lighted and, seeing the man’s gourd bottle, pecked a hole in the gourd. The sound of pecking woke the man, who saw the water running out. In anger he threw a stone at the ‘elepaio and injured its leg. It flew away and met an ‘io (another type of bird).

            “O! ‘Io, I was stoned by a man,” ‘Elepaio cried.  

            “What did you do?” asked “Io.

            “Pecked the man’s bottle.”

            “Then the fault is yours,” answered ‘Io.

‘Elepaio flew on and met Pueo (owl). The same words were exchanged between them. So it was with the “I’iwi (another type of bird), ‘O’o (yet another bird), and all the others. “elepaio’s disgust grew greater with ‘Amakihi (and yes…another type of bird) who laughed at him in mockery.

Receiving no sympathy, ‘Elepaio sat and thought and finally admitted to himself that he, indeed, was to blame.”

Lesson of story: Although in our work we are not always to blame for the outcomes of situations, we do have responsibility to accept our feelings and actions as impact on the work we do. When we return from break we will begin to discuss how our reactions can become problematic and what we can do about it.

Another morale of this story is: to consult with others when you cannot understand the situation.



“‘Umia ka hanu! Ho’oahi ka umauma ke kipo’ohiwi i ke kip’ohiwi.”
Hold the breath! Walk abreast, should to shoulder.
~’Olelo No’eau 2876
Be of one accord, as in exerting every effort to lift a heavy weight to the shoulder and to keep together in carrying it along.     
As an organization we are always striving to live by the words of this proverb. How can we “Be of one accord” so that none of us feel as if we carry the load by ourselves. We must think about how we can do this better as an organization.

I think that this effort is effort is very important for Hawaii. It can also serve as a model and an inspiration for other areas that work with native populations with rich heritages..


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Upcoming Events

I am leaving tomorrow for Hawaii. I will be working there with Child and Family Service. It is an exciting visit because we have created the first draft of an adaptation of Risking Connection using native Hawaiian values. CFS received a grant to consult local Hawaiian cultural experts and map the training to traditional methods and values. I have also transposed these adaptations to the curriculum for foster parents. So while I am there I will be co-teaching an RC Basic, teaching some CFS trainers to become foster parent trainers, teaching group home staff about the Restorative Approach, and doing a Recertification of CFS trainers. I am also looking forward to connecting with old friend Howard Garval and new friend Leslie Slavin.

The following week I will be back in Connecticut teaching an RC Basic with some co-trainers from the ACCESS agency in Willimantic.

After that I am departing for a complex trip. First I will travel to Milwaukee, Wisconsin where I will do a Recertification of trainers from the Lad Lake treatment center. I look forward to also spending time with our good friend and advocate Elizabeth Hudson.

From Milwaukee I will fly to Bismark, North Dakota. I have the privilege there of presenting a day long professional training on using trauma theory to help foster families on Friday, October 4th . The next day, Saturday, I am delivering a keynote and two work shops to the North Dakota Foster Family Association annual conference.

The week after that (we are in mid-October now) we are delighted to host some visitors from Australia who are coming to learn about our work. My meeting with them will be at the airport, other colleagues led by Steve Brown will take over from there. Meanwhile I will be returning to Mississippi, where I will be training/consulting with two agencies, Southern Christian Youth Services and Mississippi Children's Home.

That, thankfully will be the end of the marathon. I will still have upcoming before the holidays a conference on trauma informed foster care in Providence, RI, a trip with Steve Brown to the Yukon Territory in Canada the first week in November, a presentation at a conference entitled "Relational Healing-A Pathway to Trauma Recovery" in Philadelphia on November 15th, and an NACBH conference in Florida about trauma informed care in early Dec.

And perhaps most importantly I look forward to our Ana Grace Project Symposium on December 2nd at the University of Hartford. This conference features Dr. Bruce Perry and is about creating connected communities and increasing hope. It honors Ana Grace Marquez Greene, the daughter of our beloved Klingberg employee Nelba Marquez Greene and her husband Jimmy Greene, who was killed in the Sandy Hook shooting. It promises to be a truly moving and inspiring event.

I hope you can attend one or more of these events. Please say hello if you do!

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Responding to Behavior that Hurts Others

When I first created the Restorative Approach I was steeped in the world of rewards and punishments. My agency at that time used an elaborate system of points, levels, rewards and consequences… as many agencies still do. I heard then, and still hear now, that we can’t just let these kids “get away with” these behaviors. How will they ever learn if they do not experience some kind of punishment when they hurt another person or destroy property?

 It was in this climate that I created the concept of learning tasks. I have proposed that we respond to behavior that hurts other by requiring two kinds of tasks, making amends and learning tasks. Making amends are ways for the child to fix what he broke, repair relationships that have been damaged by his actions. Learning tasks are things that would help the child learn skills that will make it more possible for him to respond differently in the future.

 I have worked with many examples of this approach as I consult with many agencies that have implemented it. We have considered how to avoid the tasks becoming punishments by another name, and how to react when the child refuses to do the task. We have created lists and suggestions for tasks.

 I still believe that the making amends task is very important. Our children have no idea how to fix problems in a relationship. In their experience, doing something wrong has resulted in being “disrupted” and never seeing those people again. They have observed relationship difficulties that lead to violence. They have not experienced relationship problems that have been healed. By assigning them ways to make amends, we teach them a specific process, we decrease shame and build self worth, and we deepen connection. The making amends process also helps the other person who has been hurt. The key is to make the task something that fits the child’s developmental and skill level, involves some effort, and is a token of repair.

 I am more skeptical now about my ideas about learning tasks. I still strongly believe we have to teach the children skills. We cannot just tell them to stop doing something without teaching them how to do something different. They are trying to solve a problem with their behavior, and will not be able to do otherwise until they know some other, more positive way to solve that problem. I still think it is worthwhile to consider these questions when deciding how to react to a behavior:

  1. How do you understand this behavior? What was the child feeling?
  2. What do we want this child to do when he is feeling this way?
  3. Based on your understanding of the child, what learning task could help the child learn or practice the skills he would need in order to react differently?
My questions now are: if we truly believe that the child is doing the best that he can, how can we punish him, even if the punishment is a task? Some of the changes that the child needs to make will take a long time- are we moving in the right direction with the task we are picking? Could it be that making amends is enough? Maybe we can incorporate into the making amends the treatment themes, rather than have a separate learning task? For example, if trusting adults is a treatment theme, the task for making amends could involve doing something with an adult to create a positive experience.

 I am wondering now if the questions above are more to guide us as treaters rather than to create learning tasks. They help us remain focused on the adaptive nature of the child’s behavior. They help us consider what treatment experiences we must provide in order for the child to grow and have less need to hurt others.

What do you think? Have learning tasks been helpful in the treatment you provide? Please share your ideas by clicking on “comment” below.