The Adolescent Brain

The Adolescent Brain

Good morning everyone!  This article is offered through the Annie E Casey Foundation, which is a national foundation that promotes child welfare and social justice for children.  Click on the link above (the words in blue, The Adolescent Brain) to read it.  It’s a little bit of a heavy read, so take your time with it, but the underlying theme is important.  Neuroplasticity is a concept that is gaining a lot of popularity lately.  The term refers to the idea that the brain can adapt to a number of traumas or life events by altering connections within itself.  You might hear about a person with a traumatic brain injury who was able to regain use of his or her limbs even though the part of the brain that helps those limbs function was damaged.  This is neuroplasticity (or brain plasticity).  This is an important concept with our kids in care.  Even though they may not have had physical injury to their brains, recent research shows that psychological stress and trauma also has physical effects on kids’ brains.  Kids’ brains are still growing and developing, so it is a particularly good time to help their brains create new connections to repair the wounds from their past.  This article gives specific recommendations, as well as specific ways that you can implement these recommendations in your home with your kids.  Which ones sound the best to you?  I’d love to hear if you’ve tried any of these in your homes and if you’ve found any of them effective!  Remember, if you want credit for the trainings you do on this blog, you need to leave me a little comment, so I know that you’ve done it!

Behavioral Challenges in Foster Care

http://www.dshs.wa.gov/ca/fosterparents/videobehavechallenges.asp

I LOVE this video. Not so much because it’s the best quality, or super exciting to watch but because of what this guy is saying. Many of you know that I’m in graduate school right now, studying to be a mental health counselor. What this video is teaching is exactly what I’m learning in my classes, which makes sense to me. You, as foster parents, are the best counselors that kids in your homes can have. Their therapists (if they even have them) only see them for an hour a week, at most. But you guys have a much more long lasting and profound effect on these kiddos.

The video is not embedded in this post, so you’ll have to click on the link to view it. Please do. It’s totally worth it.

A couple points I think are super important that are touched on: The four basic psychological needs that he talks about are based off of a theory of psychotherapy called Reality Therapy, so know that what he’s teaching is supported by years of research. He talks about taking the kids’ behavior personally. We often learn or think the opposite in this field. “You can’t take what this kid says personally, he doesn’t mean it.” Well, what are we teaching our kids if we think that they don’t mean what they say?? Kids need to know that they’re important and we take them seriously and they have an effect on our lives! Can you imagine what it would feel like if everyone in your life said, “I can’t take what you say personally. You don’t mean it.” How frustrating!!

He covers a LOT more in this video. I LOVE IT! Which of his topics made you think, or do you think you’ll apply in your home?

Connected to Facebook!

It’s hump day Wednesday, all of you fantastic foster parents!  This blog should now be associated with our WhimSpire Facebook page, so if you don’t want to sign in to the blog, you should be able to see the posts on Facebook.  If you don’t “like” us already on Facebook, head on over and find us and like us!  Spread the word about foster care to your Facebook friends and acquaintances!  Also, please start commenting and getting training credits.  We would love to see this program become a success!

Toxic Stress and the Child

This is about a half hour video about how children experience stress and what affect it can have on them. I think this particular topic is important to think about, as each and every child in care has experienced the stress of being removed from their biological family. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that, once they’re removed from the abusive environment, they should feel the relief of less stress. That their behavior should reflect this reduced stress. Instead, what often happens, is that they’ve learned methods to cope with stress that may have worked in the abusive environment, but appear to be wrong in the foster home. Changing these behaviors takes a very long time and some intentional work. Also, I think it’s important to realize that what might not feel stressful to us as adults, may feel very stressful to children. They haven’t had the years of experience to give them perspective on stressful events, so they have no way to put those events into context. They cannot say “Well, that was a little hard, but it wasn’t as bad as this other thing that happened.” How do you all see your kids experience stress?

Lemn Sissay: A Child of the State

Welcome everyone! This video is roughly 20 minutes long, and is by a man who was a ward of the state in England. He talks about the importance of letting foster children own their past and their experiences. In my mind, this idea is so important. It can be so powerful when kids feel like they can talk about what happened to them, and can say “this is part of me, but this isn’t all of me.” Often kids get the message that, once the abuse is over, they don’t need to talk about it because it might bring up bad feelings. I disagree with that thought. Sometimes, by telling and retelling a story, a kid (or adult for that matter) can begin to see that event in new ways, which will help them understand it better. Maybe they’ll see that what happened wasn’t their fault. Maybe they’ll begin to feel the emotions of that event less intensely. What do you think about what Mr. Sissay said?

Welcome Foster Parents!

Happy Thursday everyone!  Thanks for bearing with me as we test-run this new training format!  I would like this blog to be an interactive resource for each of you, in finding new ideas and new techniques for dealing with your kiddos.  I will be posting at least three hours worth of training material each month for each of you to have access to.  If you are a primary foster parent and participate in all of this training, this will get you to your required training hours for relicensure.

In order to get these hours, though, I expect you to do more than just watch the videos, or listen to the podcasts, or read the materials.  At the end of each post, there is a section for comments.  To get credit for participating in the training, I want you to post at least one comment about what you thought or what you learned or how you’ll implement these ideas into your foster care.  When I see that you’ve posted a comment, I’ll bring a training invoice to our next home visit for you to sign, and we’re good to go!

As we progress, I welcome feedback and ideas for how we can make this a better resource for all of you, as well as topics you would like to learn more about.  I’m also hoping that eventually, I can incorporate an online forum, so all of you wonderful foster parents can talk with each other online and get support and ideas from each other.

Happy Training!!