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Training addresses childhood trauma within Kent County foster care system

Posted at 11:01 PM, Feb 28, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-28 23:01:04-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Foster care agencies in Kent County are working together to better serve children who are coming from traumatic situations.

On Friday, five days of training wrapped up with New York's Santuary Institute. The training surrounds a model known as the 'sanctuary model,' which is a clinical approach to addressing trauma. Agencies involved included: West Michigan Partnership for Children, Michigan Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children, Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, Catholic Charities, among others.

The model is designed to be implemented over the course of 3 years, using tools that look at the underlying cause of behavior rather than 'bandaging' it.

"My hope is that at the three year mark, we really see the way our children and families experience a system improved," said Kristyn Peck, CEO of WMPC. "It allows us to go from a place of judgment of what's wrong with you to curiosity of what happened to you and really work on healing and building resilience, so really addressing the underlying issue."

Maxine Reddy with the Sanctuary Institute led the training with two other colleagues. Reddy says the model they're teaching focuses on new organizational structures and focusing on internal operations before helping clients.

"We're trying to shift culture," said Reddy, "Culture isn't developed overnight."

The training is paid for by a grant, awarded to WMPC. It allowed leaders from all over Kent County's child welfare system to attend this week's training.

"We really want to interrupt that generational cycle of trauma and in order to do that we need to change the focus a little bit," said Judge Deborah McNabb, Presiding Judge of the Family Division of the 17th Circuit Court. "I think it's just a mindset that we are as a community trying to change."

The hope is that the new strategy will translate into fewer removals from homes and better placements for children.