Equipping Foster Parents With Tools Of The Trade
A goal on The Village Network’s 2016-2018 Strategic plan was to create a Trauma-Informed Foster Parent Certification Training Program. The Uhrichsville and Mansfield locations were the first to pilot the program, and right away, foster parents began to have a different perspective about the foster children in their homes. Staff noticed that not only did the foster parents seem to have more confidence in their parenting skills, but they developed more patience and compassion for the children in their homes.
Back around 2006/2007, The Village Network was an early adopter of what is known as trauma-informed care. At the time, no one really understood what it was. The model moved the treatment of youth away from punishment-and-reward to one that was developmentally appropriate for each child, according to Chief Clinical Officer Dave Paxton.
There existed a need to reduce the number of physical restraints not only of the youth in the care of The Village Network, but also around Ohio. The Village Network joined officials from the state and the organization now known as the Ohio Children’s Alliance to explore the trauma-informed care approach and to reduce the need of high rsik interventions. The Village Network soon began training under Dr. Bruce Perry in a new framework known as the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT). NMT is a developmentally sensitive, neurobiology-informed approach to clinical problem solving, not a specific therapeutic technique or intervention.
“The foster youth are making progress in all areas of their lives, and the foster parents feel empowered as true change agents” – Brittany Nidy
As The Village Network began implementing trauma-informed care among staff, it started raising awareness about this model with parents. “Paxton visited the Uhrichsville office and spent an entire day training foster parents about NMT,” Clinical Supervisor Brittany Nidy said. The parents then began reading “The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog” by Dr. Bruce Perry and Maia Szalavitz. It is from this book the concept of trauma-informed care was introduced.
The leadership at The Village Network is working to create a trauma-informed care culture, and with these trainings that culture is being introduced to foster parents, Paxton said. “(Trauma-informed care) is becoming mainstream. When we started it, people didn’t really understand it.”
While the sessions are going well, trying to train parents about NMT can be challenging for a couple of reasons, Paxton said. “You don’t do this in two or three hours. It takes about a year. It’s also challenging for parents to think of foster children in a different way. But, once the foster parents see and begin to understand and see the results, it becomes easier.”
As for looking at the children in a different way, the parents learn to treat them in a developmentally appropriate way. While a youth might be 16 years old, it might be necessary to engage them as a 10-year-old if trauma delayed their developmental growth.
Nidy is glad the trainings are going so well. “I think it is vital that the foster parents understand trauma and the impact it has on a child,” she said. “Foster parents are with these children 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and the more we can train them to understand the impact trauma has on the developing brain, the more they can learn beneficial and not-so-beneficial ways to respond to kids.”
The foster parents have enjoyed the trainings and are excited to better understand the NMT metrics, Nidy added.
While there can be challenges, Nidy has noticed the parents have been doing a good job implementing the recommendations in their homes. This is, in part, beause they have learned the importance the past plays in the child’s behaviors, she added.
“I think the biggest benefit is that the foster parents understand developmental trauma on such a deeper level,” Nidy said. “The foster youth are making progress in all areas of their lives, and the foster parents feel empowered as true change agents.”
Since implementing the NMT model, the outcomes have been tremendous, Paxton said. The trainings have been offered in Columbus, too. As they are rolled out, the program continues to get refined and improved.