602-884-1801 | Arizona Association for Foster and Adoptive Parents info@azafap.org

Changes, Some Small, Some Huge

Part of what you do as a parent to a child with a history of chronic trauma is celebrate small changes. Sometimes you must journal behavioral observations to even recognize those changes. It is very confusing when the progress you saw yesterday is not evident today.

I heard myself say to my granddaughter yesterday: If I thought being tricky, being sneaky was going to help you be a successful grown up, I would encourage you. But I know how many people I’ve had to fire because they were being tricky and dishonest. I learned recently about how the brain lays on new white matter between the ages of 2 and 8. This is the stuff that helps ideas race through your brain quickly, even ideas that are lies or manipulative. Knowing this helps me understand this tricky behavior. Things race from idea to implementation even before she can consider the future consequences of her behavior. And this is a kid with no history of trauma. It helps me realize why I must remind her of consequences so often before she can use this information autonomously. It helps me stay regulated when I want to scream in frustration.

We are caught between a rock and a hard place: we are taught to love unconditionally but to be actively involved in our kids’ character and behavior development. The trick is to be seen as someone with their best interest at heart, someone who can be trusted. This is why taking it very slowly with traumatized kids is so critical. Until we are trusted, our guidance will not be heard. We have to have a game plan because they have no idea what they want, much less what they need. Their trauma has denied them access to this kind of thinking.

I worked in the behavioral health field in a variety of roles for my entire career. I loved my work with families whether biological, foster or adoptive. I also know the limitations of my influence. One or two hours a week cannot effect the change these children so desperately need so they can realize their so far unknown potential. This requires great communication, trust and teamwork between parent and therapist.

You are anticipating a huge change in how you access behavioral health services for the children in your homes. The RBHA system of service delivery was never able to respond quickly enough or with an appropriate skill set to meet your needs or those of the children in your care. With the upcoming shift to DCS/CMDP/CHS coordinated medical and behavioral health care there may be an opportunity to see improvements. Even this change requires a level of trust, hope and communication between the players. As frustrated as you are now, it may be a real challenge to find the energy to give this new system a chance to do a better job. Just like you track the small improvements in life with the children in your homes, you will need to keep an open mind to see the improvements this change hopes to deliver. I caution you to keep your expectations realistic and to remind yourself that you have more power in the future of the child in your home than any therapist or civil servant can ever offer.



  1. Check out the AZAFAP Event Calendar at https://azafap.gnosishosting.net/Events/Calendar.
  2. Friday night Happy Hour continues (check your email for the link)
  3. Attendance at the Tax Seminars was excellent! Nancy Williams will host a 6-part training series focusing on Special Education Issues this spring. Starting in March, I will offer a weekly series to focus on the Neurosequential Model of Caregiving by Dr. Perry. These are offered to satisfy your licensure requirements, curiosity, or life-long learning goals. Reach out to info@azafap.org if interested in membership or any training event.
  4. Certificates of attendance are issued for the training hours. Watch your email for the registration opportunity.
  5. This shut down continues for those of us who understand what is at stake. Others seem to struggle to grasp that. Still others, like the teens in your home, have begun to climb the walls. You are in my thoughts. Reach out if you need an ear: cathyt@azafap.org.
  6. I encourage you to check out what Dr. Bruce Perry has to offer. Find his thoughts at https://www.pcaaz.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/B21-Insightful-Caregiving-Intimacy.pdf and at https://www.neurosequential.com/covid-19-resources

Thanks for listening. Take care of yourself so you can take care of others.