Kids Alive’s model of care continues to expand to reflect more of God’s whole (perfect) love which “casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). Trauma in a child’s life instills fear and harms physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, and relational development. A model of care built for bringing whole love to the whole child must reach into these areas of child development.
Children do not exist in parts but rather as whole people. Trauma disrupts and distorts this integrity. Fear disintegrates a child, and kids figure out how to survive. Attitudes and behaviors relied on for survival often clash with those we wish to instill for a child’s well-being. When a trustworthy team of caregivers notice a child and begin to show whole love, fear reacts and resists. Previously, the traumatized child’s determination to stay isolated and hide might have been the only way to avoid the abusive consequences of being noticed. Trauma twists and perverts the design of what it means to be human.
At the crossroads of the Kingdom of God in this fallen world, we find traumatized children. Jesus ventures off the world’s hurried pathways to find these kids and play with them. He rescues, redeems, and restores them—a process that Scripture describes as justice. Kids Alive International considers itself a steward of Jesus’s justice for those hidden from plain sight in places off the path. To seek first His kingdom includes following Him into such places. There we find stories for how we ourselves enter His Kingdom, believing in both the King and His Father by receiving “one such child” (Mark 9:37).
At its heart, healing from trauma in the ministry of Kids Alive begins with the caregivers who connect with traumatized children. Ideally, parents serve as these caregivers. Tragically, the child’s trauma often includes the absence of one or both parents. In so many situations, at least one of the parents have suffered some type of trauma too. The same is true for many of the caregivers working in our programs. Their own traumatic experiences place a trap in the path of delivering trauma-informed care.
Caregivers can only lead children as far as they themselves have advanced. In other words, if caregivers carry unresolved trauma, this will ensnare the relationships with the children in their care. Therefore, at the heart of Kids Alive’s healing from trauma initiative stands the caregiver, looking for the wholeness that the child under her care also needs. This is our King’s way. Rather than use people to reach the vulnerable, He heals the broken who can then share from their own wholeness. Kids Alive has committed to building the capacity of our caregivers by promoting their own well-being through our member care and trauma-informed care training.
A commitment at the crossroads marks the beginning of a long and difficult path to restoration. In Kids Alive Latin America, one form of strategic training focuses on Trust-Based Relational Intervention®. TBRI® places emphasis on the connection of a traumatized child to a trustworthy caregiver. This trust-based relationship empowers children contrary to the ways that trauma disempowers them. With the support of Kids Alive programs, they learn how they are loved, to know their identity, to self-regulate, and to make healthy choices. When survival behaviors persist, caregivers employ strategies for helping the children correct these through the principles of connection and empowerment. As a TBRI® trainer once put it to me, she has never seen such a powerful application of the gospel.
KA-Latin America also employs another trauma-informed training program that closely parallels TBRI®. Our alliance with both organizations behind these programs continues to strengthen regionally, with new and amazing opportunities opening up to spread the training, implementation, and influence of this good news.
Within our country programs, we have begun to build therapeutic teams that consist of social workers and psychologists in our ministry sites. This team represents a significant investment corresponding to the commitment to bring God’s whole love to the depths of trauma the children in our care have suffered. Therapeutic teams, alongside of the caregivers, embody an expansion of KAI’s model of care to minister healing from trauma to the whole child—emotionally, mentally, relationally, physically, and spiritually.
“At the Crossroads of the Kingdom,” we encounter our King and His kids. We rejoice with His Kingdom already-come, and we groan and cry out for His Kingdom not-yet-come. Truly, this off-the-path discovery means resurrection hope on the way to resurrection.
Together at the crossroads,
Mark, Kristin, Caleb, Jacob, and Rachel Coté
Regional Director, Latin America
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