WiC? & Trauma

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WiC? & Trauma

Post by Eddie Gallagher on Fri Jun 17, 2016 3:56 pm

Hi Eddie
Hope all is well with you.
I have tried to get on to the WIC forum a number of times but seem to be locked out.
Not sure what is going on there.
I have been running at least 2 groups a term now, sometimes 3 a term for about 7 years and have seen many positive changes with the families I work with.
I have recently had a query from a Guidance counsellor regarding the suitability of WIC for families where there has been trauma:

'I have a family who have a child with behaviours of absconding among other things. The child has suffered trauma, and is currently not engaging in supports.
The mother and father are becoming distressed and are unsure as to how to deal with their child.
My question to you would be. Do you think the Who’s in Charge program is suitable and or effective for parents with children who are reacting to trauma?'

I have sometimes had reports back from foster carers, who have been referred into the program by Dept of Child Safety, that the use of consequences is not suitable for some children who have experienced family trauma. Naturally every case is different and in these circumstances I would err on the side of caution, however, I believe there should be some form of consequence, not necessarily severe, if the child is to learn.
What are your thoughts on the matter of trauma affected children and WIC??
Thank you
Kind regards
Karen

Karen Tomlinson
Family Support Coordinator
Mackay Youth Support Services Inc
CASA office, Cnr Gregory & Alfred Sts
Mackay 4740
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Re: WiC? & Trauma

Post by Eddie Gallagher on Fri Jun 17, 2016 3:57 pm

The WiC? group and child who’ve experienced trauma
I’ve been working with traumatised children for over 40 years. I also work with adult victims of crime and abuse. I’ve been a resi worker and a foster parent.
Trauma has become a bit of a buzz word, and like most buzz words is used in vague and inconsistent ways. There are problems when looking at children’s exposure to DV in terms of trauma and the relationship between trauma and CPV is complex and frequently exaggerated.
Since almost half of the children who engage in CPV have had past exposure to DV many have had past traumas. However, I’ve seen no evidence that the trauma in itself is causally related to CPV, though it can certainly complicate things. Children who are abused are very seldom violent towards the abusive parent, but are towards victimised parents and towards carers. Violence towards foster parents and kinship carers is common and has hardly been researched and is seldom discussed.
The focus on trauma in exposure to DV misses the importance of a number of equally important factors: conflict between parents, undermining and verbal abuse of their mother, insecure attachment towards fathers, loyalty conflicts, role modelling and children’s personalities. Children within families can respond in vastly different ways to the same experiences, depending on personality, age and role in family. It is not uncommon to find in the same family one child who is violent (externalising problems), one who is anxious and withdrawn (internalising problems) and a third who is responsible and well-adjusted (either resilient or parentified). All may have had exposure to similar trauma so trauma in itself doesn’t explain or predict much. Ironically, the child who is at the greatest long-term risk from exposure to DV may be the one who is least traumatised. Children who identify with the abuser, who blame the victim, and who accept violence as normal are at great risk of both CPV and, as adults, repeating the intergenerational cycle. The child who shows signs of trauma is somewhat less likely to have these problems (though depression and anxiety are more likely).
It is interesting that in adults there is an acknowledgement (by some people at least) of post-traumatic growth. Estimates are that about third of people experiencing a significant trauma reach a stage where they feel they have grown through the experience. It seems like heresy to suggest that some children become better people (more mature, kind and responsible) because of exposure to trauma but there is no doubt that this can happen. The trauma focus tends to often sound hopeless and deterministic (though it need not be so).
Generally the emphasis on trauma places too much importance on specific events and not enough on long-term and subtle processes. Neglect generally produces worse outcomes than abuse and the impact of abuse is often largely because of the feelings of rejection that accompany it.
I dislike the use of the term PTSD for children in troubled families as in most cases as the trauma is not ‘Post’ and the effects of DV often last throughout childhood. Verbal abuse of mother is often a much bigger factor in CPV than is witnessing physical abuse of their mother, though the latter is far more likely to be traumatic. Having been a victim of abuse by the father complicates things but doesn’t necessarily make CPV any more likely (I’m surprised more of the children in my sample who have experienced DV have not been themselves abused as research suggests they often go together).
In Australia it is not uncommon for professionals to take the approach that traumatised children need affectionate containment but not consequences. In America some people go to the opposite extreme and recommend consequences that I consider harsh or abusive.
A pattern that I see often is that women who have escaped DV say they tried to ‘make it up’ to their children by being indulgent or very lenient. Later they often regret this and realise that it made behaviour problems far worse.
Children who are emotionally vulnerable and insecure need clearer boundaries and more consistent consequences. Of course, they don’t need harsh consequences. They need firmness not strictness. Carers may need to set their priorities differently, choosing to ignore some behaviours that they might take seriously in a non-traumatised child. The philosophy of the WiC? group has always been that parents, or carers, need to tailor interventions to the particular child in their particular family. The exercise where they list the child’s behaviour into the categories of “Intolerable” vs “Ignorable” is very relevant to setting priorities and clarifying boundaries.
We’ve had lots of parents of children who have experienced trauma through the group. The group is certainly relevant. I probably get more of these referred to me for counselling as people send me their most difficult cases of CPV. Some children with traumatic backgrounds take ages to respond but others sometimes respond quickly.
We’ve had a small number of foster parents and a few more kinship carers (especially grandparent carers) through WiC? Groups. Their situations are slightly different to natural parents, but this isn’t usually a problem (everyone’s situation is different).
Similar to the mothers who are survivors of DV, long-term foster carers and kinship carers are sometimes too indulgent and lenient and this can make children feel insecure. When it leads to escalating bad behaviour or the child becoming beyond control it can quickly lead to placement breakdowns. I hear from some carers that professionals being wishy-washy about consequence and limits can undermine carers and hence speed placement breakdowns. Residential services frequently have few consequences they can enforce and this places children at great risk.

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Re: WiC? & Trauma

Post by Eddie Gallagher on Fri Jun 17, 2016 3:58 pm

While Karen is not yet on the Forum, I'll pass them on to her, or you can e-mail her.
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