On September 21, The Children’s Center on Family Violence (CCFV) hosted its second symposium – Opportunities for Enhanced Practice: Supporting Resiliency in Children Exposed to Family Violence. Approximately 100 people attended the day-long event featuring national and local experts addressing the impact of family violence on children and best practices for responding to promote resiliency.
Carol O’Connor, LCSW, of the Child Health & Development Institute of Connecticut presented about the intersection of community violence, family violence and trauma. Ms. O’Connor pointed to the importance of providing safe spaces for children and families to talk about trauma, noting that trauma doesn’t go away because we don’t talk about it. Building routines, talking with children and families about the trauma, helping children to learn about upsetting events, and creating safe, predictable environments are all factors that will promote resiliency in children exposed to family violence.
Z. Ruby White Starr of Casa de Esperanza and the National Latin@ Network for Healthy Families and Communities discussed cultural responsiveness when addressing children exposed to family violence. Ms. Starr noted that it is critical that professionals responding to domestic violence explore the dynamics of difference, understanding their own identity and how that impacts relationships with others. Doing so will improve the quality of service, including outcomes, and eliminate long standing disparities in services for people of diverse racial, ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
Dr. Margaret Briggs-Gowan of UCONN Health addressed how persistent fear and anxiety can affect young children’s learning, behavior and health. Children in a safe, secure environments are able to explore and master skills, while children in an adverse or harsh environment are constantly having to anticipate, prevent or protect themselves against potential or actual danger. Dr. Briggs-Gowan highlighted several different studies she has done with children of different ages to understand how their brains work through traumatic situations.
Finally, Cat Davis, MA, RDT, of the ALIVE Program discussed the importance of helping children learn how to express their emotions as a way to cope with trauma. ALIVE, which stands for Animating Learning by Integrating and Validating Experiences, is a program that provides trauma-informed, prevention-based support to students grades K-12. The presentation focused on ALIVE’s Miss Kendra program, which allows students to express their worries and receive acknowledgement and support. Classroom discussions focus on the meaning of child safety and proper care for oneself and one’s family. ALIVE interventions have be found to reduce office referrals and aggressive incidents, calmed classrooms, and increased teachers’ time teaching rather than managing.
Presentations from the day can be found in CCFV’s online resource library. Be sure to check back soon for new learning opportunities offered through CCFV!