Nonprofit spreads awareness during National Child Abuse Prevention Month
April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month and Caritas Family Solutions is working to raise awareness about how to recognize that a child’s behavior might be a symptom of past abuse, neglect or other traumatic experience.
Caritas currently serves more than 7,000 people including 2,300 youth in foster care. Krista Teckenbrock, Caritas director of trauma-informed practices, said the agency has begun implementing Trauma-Informed Care (TIC) practices across the agency, by building staff understanding of the prevalence of trauma in the community and how unaddressed trauma can impact current behavior. TIC encourages staff to view both children and parents through a lens of compassion and empathy in order to provide the best care and healing atmosphere.
“Over the last several years, neuroscience has given us a clearer picture of how early traumatic experiences including abuse and neglect affect brain development,” said Teckenbrock. “This has led to a paradigm shift in the way we both view and respond to behavior. Trauma-Informed care asks us to reframe our thinking and instead of saying “what’s wrong with you” we want to think – “what has happened to you in your past and how can I help.”
Teckenbrock said past trauma can often be seen in the form of maladaptive behaviors or negative coping mechanisms that a child may use in stressful situations. These types of behaviors can include becoming verbally or physically aggressive, withdrawing from others, or appearing zoned out, and may be triggered by particular objects or environments that bring up bad memories for the child. Teckenbrock also added that adults and children exhibit trauma responses when they experience fear or anxiety – even if that same situation may not seem scary to someone else.
“We teach our staff, parents, and caregivers to “catch it low,” meaning we need to look at the behavior, catch it before it escalates, and work to turn the behavior around with the lowest level of response,” said Teckenbrock. “We believe that understanding trauma not only benefits the children that we work with, but it also leads to less stress and anxiety for the caregiver or parent engaging with that child. Every behavior expresses a need. If we become curious about those needs instead of personalizing bad behavior, we can provide better care and achieve sustained change.”
Founded in 1947, Caritas Family Solutions is a nonprofit social service agency whose mission is to strengthen the social and emotional well-being of individuals and families in order to create healthy relationships, loving homes, and strong communities. Services include adoption, pregnancy care for women who are homeless, foster care, intact family care, counseling, residential treatment for children healing from abuse and/or neglect, independent living for adults with developmental disabilities (CILA), and assisted living and employment assistance for low-income seniors. Caritas serves more than 7,000 individuals annually across Southern Illinois from offices located in Belleville, Carterville, Mount Vernon, Olney, Glen Carbon, Alton, and Effingham as well as satellite locations in Highland and Sparta. For additional information, visit www.caritasfamilysolutions.org.