Healing Childhood Trauma Partnership Project – A Pilot Project Funded In-Part by Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island

Courtenay BC – Over the next three years, Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island will invest $715,000 into helping Northern Vancouver Island children heal from trauma and neglect. Modeled with guidance from one of North America’s leading experts in trauma and the developing child, Dr. Bruce Perry, The Healing Childhood Trauma Partnership Project is an early intervention program for children, zero to six years of age, with complex emotional and developmental challenges. First of its kind in British Columbia, the project is based on a neurobiological approach called NMT (Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics) that uses a tool called a ‘brain map’ to treat childhood trauma, neglect, and other forms of maltreatment.*

“We are excited to support cutting edge work in the area of child mental health and understand how profoundly important it is for children to get help early to mitigate longer term mental health problems and behavioural issues associated with unresolved trauma,” explains Diane Lloyd, Interim CEO of Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island.

The project is co-led by Dr. Carol Coxon, Child Psychiatrist and Jan Ference, Infant-Parent Mental Health Fellow and NMT certified clinician, who will coordinate project collaborators, including Island Health, the Ministry of Child and Family Development (MCFD), the Comox Valley Child Development Association, Comox Valley Public Health Unit, and local school districts. Unique from any other trauma therapy offered at this time in BC, the project aims to change how children are seen and treated. “We now know that in order for kids to heal, we must go deeper than the surface level, deeper than what many would describe as the child’s behaviour. We need to look at how a person’s history and experiences has impacted their brain, which drives their day to day functioning. NMT is a model or framework for understanding these complex children; this is done partially by completing a brain map. The brain map helps us understand where children are in terms of their own personal neural development – we know that brain development is meant to follow a set pattern or sequence and that trauma and neglect has a significant impact on this sequential development. – by collecting a thorough developmental history, and understanding their current functioning, we can see what areas need to be addressed and help them reach the next stage of development,” explains Ference. “Traditional therapeutic models expect children to be able to regulate and use pathways to the brain’s cortex – but with kids who have experienced trauma or neglect, these complex pathways may be undeveloped or inefficient, and the child can’t access the reflective part of the brain. For example, they are unable to understand consequences or be reflective about their actions.” Positive interactions with caregivers and educators combined with activities that are patterned, rhythmic and repetitive, such as dance, music, and massage create a sense of safety and allow the reactive parts of the brain to regulate. “This model is different because it looks at how we can heal the brain with a neurologically, developmentally sensitive approach, as opposed to putting band aids on over and over. This model gives us hope that we can make lasting changes for the children and their families.”

Another important aspect of the program is that caregivers themselves will receive support in the form of education, mentorship, and trauma informed intervention plans for home, as well as assistance to address complex needs that sometimes contribute to family stress such housing, employment, or addictions issues. “For children in care early intervention will mean reduced likelihood of foster home breakdown, individualized care based on their specific needs, and quicker placement in a permanent situation. For children not in care it will mean parents who understand and are better able to meet their needs,” says Curtis Cameron, MCFD.

“It is so exciting to see a grassroots swell of service providers come together and work so hard to ensure this important project is realized for their community,” said Elaine Halsall, Island Health’s Manager, Child Youth and Family Mental Health. “Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island recognized the value of this project and it is so wonderful to have its support. This project provides the reassuring presence of a visible, caring community, which will wrap children and families in understanding and hope. Based on a developmentally sensitive, neurobiology informed approach to clinical problem solving, children’s strengths will be maximized and their vulnerabilities supported.”

The Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island is committed to making a significant impact on child and youth mental health. Although best known for its impact in Victoria via projects such as Jeneece Place, Children’s Health Foundation serves all of Vancouver Island and is committed to funding programs and services outside the greater Victoria area. This gift to the Healing Childhood Trauma Partnership Project will be the single largest gift made up island in the foundation’s 90 year history. While Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island is providing the bulk of the funds, Island Health and the Ministry of Child and Family Development will provide additional financial support for the duration of the pilot.

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Media Contacts:

Coralie McLean, Communications Manager, Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island

250-519-6943 or Coralie.McLean@viha.ca.

About Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island:

Children’s Health Foundation of Vancouver Island is the leading non-governmental funder of children’s health programs on Vancouver Island. The foundation funds local programs and services that have tremendous, positive impact for children, youth and their families. In particular we support programs and services that work with children and youth with disabilities and health challenges to help them reach their potential. In 2015/2016 the foundation invested more than $2.2 million in children’s health.

*To learn more about Dr. Perry’s work please visit: www.childtrauma.org.