Treatment helps recognize the effects of childhood trauma

Lee Murnaghan

Supporting Island families -

Suffering abuse and neglect profoundly affects children throughout their lives.  A new therapeutic approach is giving these children hope for the future while helping social workers, youth workers, and foster parents recognize the signs of childhood trauma and better help those in their care. 

The province’s Child Protection Services has implemented a Trauma Informed Approach to Care (TIC) – which focuses less on “what is wrong with this child?” and more on “what has happened to this child?” The approach involves developing relationships with children and working together to help them regulate their emotions.

It is important to recognize the effects of child abuse and neglect on a child’s developing brain, says one of the province’s advocates for Trauma Informed Care.

“All of the children in group homes and foster homes have had some kind of trauma in their lives and this trauma can affect them significantly,” said Lee Murnaghan, who manages the Oak and Maple group homes in Tracadie Cross.

“If a child has learned to expect violence or anger or instability when someone is upset, a minor disagreement or a spilled glass of milk can be a trigger for the child to react with anger.”

Ray McAdam-Young, team lead at Beech Group Home, Charlottetown, said TIC shifts the focus toward exploring why a behavior exists – while still intervening in the interest of protecting the child or others. It lets social workers, youth workers and foster parents use relationships with traumatized children to help children develop positive behaviors.

“The relationships built in the approach promote a safe, caring environment; allowing a child to develop and build on the capacities needed to move forward and grow,” he says.

Murnaghan said Trauma Informed Care extends to staff as well as to children in care. It allows social workers, youth workers, and foster parents to recognize the emotional strain involved in caring for children who have been traumatized by parental abuse and neglect. It’s also important for the caregivers to identify their own triggers and take the measures they need to remain balanced and healthy, he said.

 “You have to be human and recognize that you are affected by what you experience in this work.”

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Department of Social Development and Seniors
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PO Box 2000
Charlottetown, PE C1A 7N8

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