From the outside she looks like a sweet and somewhat shy 11-year-old girl, for the sake of privacy we’ve changed her name to “Cinthia.” Her story is an all too familiar one for many of the rescued children who find refuge at one of our six partner orphanage homes across Nicaragua.
When her caregivers first met Cinthia they saw a child who needed a shower, clean clothes and a pair of shoes. They knew it would be tough to get her acclimated to school because she tells them she’s never been before. As they do with each child in their care, they welcomed her with open arms and prayed for the Lord’s blessing over Cinthia’s adjustment into her new home.
However, soon the child’s night terrors begin wreaking havoc on her and the 10 other girls she shares a room with. Her caregiver spends hours each night trying to comfort her back to sleep. During the day, she is anxious, she has no desire to care for personal hygiene, she is not behaving in school and she refuses to do her work. Then the most concerning behavior sets in, she begins acting out in sexually inappropriate ways.
It is hard to imagine caring for one child exhibiting such behaviors, but imagine caring for 10-15 children, 24-7, and Cinthia’s behaviors are not limited to only herself. All too often, caregivers struggle to adequately care for traumatized children and are left feeling helpless, exhausted and defeated.
As part of a three year partnership with LAMb International to develop Caregiver skills, 60 caregivers, psychologists, social workers, and educators were recently certified in Trauma Informed Care. Check out LAMb’s blog posts about the Managua and Puerto Cabezas trainings that took place this Spring.
The Skills of Trauma Informed Care:
- Understand trauma’s impact
- Maximize felt safety
- Help child to manage emotions
- Help child to manage behavior
- Support Relationships
- Help child to understand their life story
- Personal self-care (caregiver)
Caregivers learned when working with a traumatized child, it is critical to remember that all behavior has meaning. During one of the exercises, caregivers identified the behaviors of traumatized children and then mapped out the known traumas the children had experienced. Looking back at “Cinthia,” these were some of her behaviors:
- Night terrors
- Learning problems
- Acting out in sexually inappropriate ways
- low self-esteem
When mapping out her known traumas, this is what her caregivers were able to identify:
|age 0-1||ages 2 – 5||ages 6 – 7||ages 8 – 10||age 11|
Once identifying the traumas this child has endured and understanding the impact each trauma has on the life of a child, caregivers can develop a personalized plan for each traumatized child. This plan will help the child feel safe, feel permanency from their surroundings and stability from those caring for them, and foster a sense of well-being.
These are some of the strategies identified to help Cinthia reach these goals:
- psychological help (comprehensive plan and follow up care)
- Nutritional plan
- Medical assessment
- Develop skills to cope with anxiety
- Attention to her personal needs
- Spiritual development
This exercise opened the eyes of our partner home caregivers, social workers, psychologists and directors and it introduced practical strategies and tools to help them understand and navigate the emotional and behavioral needs of traumatized children.
“This is the best training we have had in years. We have started teaching the rest of our staff and we are reproducing the trauma training so we can all be on the same page. This way we can improve in how to better care for our kids.” – Ewner (Director, Arms of Love Orphanage Home)