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“When our children have been hurt, we hurt with them,” says Leah Gilliam. As director of foster care and adoption in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, she works with many families struggling to create a home for children who have been traumatized. “The parents who care and love these little ones hurt to the bone for them.”
Gilliam directs the Connect for Hope Camp, which trains families in Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI®) to repair the emotional scars of trauma. “Over the past several years, this camp is highly effective in equipping parents and children with tools for their family’s future,” she explains. “This type of intense, transformational work is how we start empowering families to overcome trauma and truly connect to the heart of every child.”
TBRI® was developed in a university setting by the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development during the early 2000s. The Institute specifically invited PCHAS, because of our balance of research-based treatment and compassion, to participate in training. It has recorded PCHAS workshops as models for other agencies.
Gilliam explains that TBRI® is designed for children from “hard places” such as abuse, neglect, and/or trauma. Because of their histories, these children have changes in their bodies, brains, behaviors and belief systems. They may have a fight-or-flight response to something that seems ordinary to most children. They want to trust their new family, but they’ve already learned to trust no one.
Children from hard places often live in day-to-day survival mode, unable to express themselves and unsure of how to connect. So the intervention teaches three core values:
Sarah Mercado, a training specialist for the Karyn Purvis Institute, assists Gilliam each at Camp. She comments, “It is overwhelming to see parents go from a place of anger and hopelessness to getting the first real hug in years from their child. Connect for Hope isn’t just about giving kids a safe place to heal. It’s also about giving parents a safe place to be vulnerable, share their hurts with others in the same fight and begin their own healing.”
For several years PCHAS has focused on Trauma Informed Care, using a curriculum developed by the Department of Mental Health, Children’s Division and the National Institute of Mental Health. This year the agency is building on this foundation. It has begun TBRI® training for all staff across Texas, Missouri and Louisiana. Several of our staff, including Gilliam, are qualified as trainers and conduct workshops for other organizations.
For more information about trauma-informed services,