Therapeutic Items to Enhance Trauma-Informed Care for Children and Youth

The Cause

The mission of our organization is “As a Catholic social services agency, we are guided by faith to care for and bring hope to people in need with humility, compassion and respect.” The care we provide offers a safe place for women leaving abusive relationships, homeless youth to rebuild their lives, and enables people with disabilities to live life to its fullest. We offer support for the settlement of immigrants and refugees as well as provide counselling that strengthens individuals and families, helps recovering addicts and supports women facing crisis pregnancies. Our ministries are available to people of all faiths and cultures living in central Alberta.

The project for which we are requesting funding involves children and youth who cannot live at home or with family and thus live in group care at our residences. At Catholic Social Services, we see many children and youth who have been deeply affected by trauma in their lives, including domestic violence, homelessness, and sexual exploitation.

We would like to improve our capacity for providing trauma-informed care by obtaining specific therapeutic toys and tools for the children and youth to use at the group homes. The items we purchase to enhance our trauma-informed care will be selected based on the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics developed by the Child Trauma Academy. The essential idea is to provide therapy that looks and feels like play. Treatment works best when it adheres to "The 5 Rs":

1. Respectful: Consistent with the child’s developmental age.
2. Rewarding: Fun! Kids won’t do it if it isn’t fun.
3. Relational: Takes place within the context of a relationship, because that is how we learn best.
4. Repetitive: The brain needs to experience new things over and over in order to fully grasp them. That’s how learning works.
5. Rhythmic: Activities that follow a strong, simple rhythm are most soothing to the human brain.

The different objects would fall under several broad categories, including books, creativity tools, fidget toys, and objects that appeal to different senses. They will be used therapeutically to overcome trauma, encourage mental exercise, and relieve stress.

Who Will it Benefit?

The initial project will benefit approximately 100 children and youth who live in our care at 14 group residences. There may be many different reasons why they cannot live at home or with family.

The children and youth in care will have experienced significant trauma in their lives, which affects their mental health and ability to manage their social relationships, school, development, and learning life skills. They may also have disabilities such as Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. In addition to traumatic events such as abuse, sexual exploitation, and addictions, the high-risk youth in some of our ministries are also homeless. Youth who are or have been homeless have very few personal items of their own and so they would benefit from having the therapeutic items available to use at the residences.

The children and youth will be impacted by having objects available that will provide them with different methods to work through trauma that they may not feel equipped to verbalize, as well as regulate behaviour that results from attempts to cope with trauma (e.g., fidgeting).

Depending on the results of the project, we are interested in expanding it to make items available to children and youth who participate in our ministries but who do not live in our care.