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Communication may be key to improving foster care environment, over 200 turn out for special training in Rome

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Improving Floyd County’s foster care environment begins with making sure all agencies are communicating well — with traumatized children in foster care as well as agencies that provide care for those children.

The fact that over 200 people arrived at a special training program with just that in mind — after only possibly 50 were expected — was indicative people need help with the continuing foster care crisis, said Restoration Rome Directors Jeff and Mary Margaret Mauer.

Daren Jones and Molly Davidson from the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University led the sessions this past Thursday and Friday which detailed the Trust-Based Relational Intervention program developed at TCU.

Fundamentally, the program teaches foster parents and caregivers of foster children to communicate effectively with those children as well as each other.

TBRI is an intervention that is designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children, many of whom have literally been traumatized in the process of being taken out of the birth homes, or in maneuvering through the foster care network.

People from the Division of Family and Children Services, local law enforcement personnel, representatives from the Boys & Girls Club, the YMCA and many other agencies showed up for the training at the Restoration Rome seminar.

The lesson focused on ways all of these groups could get on the same page to provide comprehensive care.

The ultimate message during the training was to make sure they understood how to perform “trauma-informed care,” Jones said. He explained that one of the unique challenges for caregivers is to take a look back through their own history.

“They may have had some adverse experiences in their own childhood that may impact their thinking and interactions,” Jones said. “What we teach in TBRI is that you get a change of behavior through relationships. It is the relationship that wires the brain and the body — and shapes behaviors of our kids and parents.”

Another issue is different participants across the foster care system don’t always have the same goals.

“You have to have strategies for every situation because everything keeps changing despite good intentions. If we’re not all speaking the same language ultimately we still leave our kids feeling unsafe and confused about predictable environments,” Davidson said.

TBRI was developed by Karyn Purvis and David Cross who were in an undergraduate psychology course together at TCU. They combined to bridge the gap between theory and science in dealing with at-risk children.

Davidson said Cross was brilliant at putting language to what he sees.

“What comes intuitively to some doesn’t come intuitively to others, so there is a way we can now give people the language on how exactly to (cope with specific situations),” Davidson said.

Restoration Rome Director Jeff Mauer said he and his wife have seen the training work on a first-hand basis.

It was very clear after a two-day event he and his wife attended about five years ago, long before Restoration Rome became a reality, that the program could be a life-changer for the foster care problem in Floyd County.

“Whether it’s foster parents, whether it’s DFCS workers giving them the tools to deal with behaviors, the trauma in these kids that frustrate and create turnover, this is the answer to that,” Jeff Mauer said. “This is one of the biggest things that Restoration Rome will ever do.”

Mary Margaret Mauer said she has seen it work and has put it to work in the after-school program.

“The last thing we try to do is go into a community and tell them how they need to fix their problems,” Davidson said. “TBRI is flexible enough to meet every specific need of a community, but only the community knows what their most pressing need is.”