Children under the care of the Child Protection and Family Services Agency (CPFSA) are now benefiting from improved psychotherapy intervention, through a recently introduced programme.
Under the Trauma Informed Care Project, in which more than 40 of the agency’s staff members were trained to deliver the services developed by the United States-based Trauma Stress Institute (TSI), children with trauma-related issues are now treated for both the identified symptoms as well as the issues that influenced them.
Project Manager at the CPFSA, Patrick Essu, says the programme is more engaging, as it is a method that makes the person who is being treated feel more inclusive.
He adds that many of their clients have “adverse child experiences” and that the agency has to adopt a system that can detect the issues, and treat them effectively to prevent the children from continuous hurt, where they are affected at school and beyond.
“From this model, we will get better results from behaviour modification. This one will complement what we already have in place. This approach is one to definitely make them resilient to traumatisation, and we have embraced it. We are now in the process of doing our own training in the homes, to be completed by July,” Essu shared
Some of the trainees have also been equipped to be trainers, through the ‘Train-The-Trainer’ component of the programme called, ‘Risking Connection’, and will be deployed shortly to pass on the skills to personnel at the various children’s homes across the island.
The agency’s staff members across the island will be using the techniques that were recommended by the Caribbean Child Development Centre (CCDC) as part of a United States Agency for International Development (USAID)-funded Transitional Living Programme, through its mental health component, to move forward and to overcome earlier obstacles.
The CPFSA social workers, investigators, intake officers and other professionals maintain active schedules in serving children and families as part of efforts to restore them, and provide empowerment to achieve their full potential.
Judene Webb Brown, who is a Children’s Officer with the agency, informs that the principles of the training are being applied to “bring healing to the children’s whole self, and not just part, looking at factors and ways for restoration”.
She adds that under the new model of providing psychotherapy services, children are involved in deeper conversations, because oftentimes when traumatised youngsters behave inappropriately, they are the ones who normally get blamed for their actions.
“We want to reduce the trauma, and how the children relate to their experiences. We let them know that it is not their fault, and that they are still worthy. We call it the ‘rich relationship’ where we have open communication,” the Children’s Officer says.
She notes that the training has widened their method of care, to focus on building children, while delving into situations that gave them behavioural challenges, with great emphasis being placed on treating the past experiences.
“Instead of only looking at the current problem, we look at what caused the child to be acting this way,” Webb Brown says.
She points out that a lot of times when children run away, that was not what they wanted to do; it had to do with them not seeing other options or it was the only way that they learnt to “deal with a particular trauma that they experienced”.
The Children’s Officer says she is excited “to be a part of this drive and this mechanism that will bring effective change to our children”.
She notes that when children come into State care, they always have issues to be remedied, and “having this training to deal with children who suffer trauma, the agency will be better able to heal children, and not just partially but totally”.
The CPFSA is an agency under the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information and was formed out of the merger of the Child Development Agency, and the Office of the Children’s Registry.
The Children and Family Support Unit, which provides services across parishes and partners with the Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA) and the Ministry of Justice’s Victim Support Unit, focuses on helping to keep children out of State care, through counselling and other interventions with families and victims.