As advocates, we know one of the most important factors in helping children overcome the trauma of experiencing violence at home is to strengthen family bonds between non-offending parents, children, and siblings. At Safehouse Progressive Alliance for Nonviolence (SPAN) we’ve created a new program for families that helps them do so while at the same time accessing developmentally appropriate education on the psycho-social-emotional impacts of trauma, and effective response strategies for promoting strength and healing. SPAN has broadened survivors’ mental health support by considering the ways a person’s growth is impacted by domestic violence, oppression, and trauma in the community.
WHAT IS SPAN? WHO DO WE SERVE?
SPAN is a non-profit, community-based organization providing emergency shelter, advocacy services, counseling for adults, children, and youth, as well as ongoing support to individuals and families who have been impacted by domestic violence. SPAN has been serving victims of violence for over thirty years. To date, SPAN has sheltered more than 11,170 adults, youth, and children, responded to 230,777 crisis calls, counseled 34,783 individuals on an outreach basis, and performed more than 8,650 educational presentations on interpersonal and institutional violence for groups throughout Boulder and Broomfield Counties.
WHAT IS SPAN’S NEW APPROACH TO SERVING FAMILIES?
Each Spring and Fall, a group made up of about 15 families comes together to participate in this bilingual (Spanish-English) program. Parents, children, and youth begin the night together in a large group, sharing a meal and connecting as a community. They then divide into four separate age groups so all family members have a chance to access an age-appropriate trauma-informed curriculum. The groups are interactive and client-driven, giving families a chance to gain information and practice skills pertinent to their unique strengths and questions. Topics covered include emotional literacy, resourcing, the brain and nervous system regulation, trauma, human development, and attunement. Of course this learning looks very different for parents than it does for 6-year olds, 11-year olds, or teens, which is why the groups break off for personalized attention from SPAN counselors. At the end of each night, everyone from the different groups reconvenes in a large group to share some of their experiences. This is a critical piece in integrating learning for individuals and families, and increasing the likelihood that new skills will take root and make an impact. During these closing sessions, the children beam with pride as they shared their learning, and parents witnessed and recognized their own growth.
WHAT ARE SPAN’S GUIDING PRINCIPLES TO WORKING WITH FAMILIES?
- Strengths Based. SPAN avoids labeling and instead assumes power in children, youth and families to draw on their unique strengths in making decisions about their lives.
- Client Directed. SPAN advocates are supportive of families in developing autonomy, agency, and choice. Individuals have a right to access age-appropriate information and resources on factors impacting their lives.
- Trauma Informed. SPAN recognizes and responds to the effects of all types of trauma, which includes experiences of oppression.
- Social Location. SPAN acknowledges that oppression targeting families based on their social location – the identities they hold – can exacerbate experiences of trauma.
- Development. Cross-culturally, there are milestones of human development, which are impacted by violence and oppression.
WHAT DO PARENTS HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THE NEW FAMILY GROUP?
“I am very grateful for the support. Being around other parents and listening to what they had to say about raising their children had the most impact on me. I still want to meet regularly!”
“My kids loved participating in the games and making new friends.”
“I’m taking with me the compassion, the fellowship, and the tools we were given to help us regulate.”
WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT TO LEARN AT THE 2018 CAIA WORKSHOP: SOCIAL JUSTICE ADVOCACY WITH CHILDREN, YOUTH, AND FAMILES?
Join Sophie Keeley, Spanish Bilingual Adult Counselor and Erin Shannon, Child & Youth Counselor to hear more about how SPAN works to create inclusive learning environments for families. We’ll share details about the trauma-informed curriculum used during this program, and give you an opportunity to start designing activities and programs to meet the unique needs of the families you’re working with.