The following is part one of a short series written by Seacoast Family Promise’s on-staff Case Manager, Melissa Cardin. This series comprises Melissa’s reflections after attending the 2010 Family Promise ‘Dare to Dream’ Conference in Florida. Her workshops included trauma among guests, knowing the correct role for staff and volunteers, self-care for staff and time to restore balance, setting boundaries and knowing limits, and the importance of being an advocate for our guests. Melissa and several other representatives from Seacoast Family Promise attended the event and returned to New Hampshire inspired with fresh ideas, and an even stronger passion for the families we serve at Seacoast Family Promise.
“The Mission of Seacoast Family Promise is to empower families experiencing homelessness to achieve lasting self-sufficiency.”
Part One: Surviving Trauma with some help from Seacoast Family Promise.
I wanted to start my description of the Family Promise conference, Dare to Dream, with some startling statistic or an interesting fact. The truth is, I can’t pick just one thing to start with. Maybe it’s that a startling 92% of homeless mothers are survivors of some kind of trauma. Maybe it’s that nationally, 3,450 families were served by IHN’s and Family Promise networks all over the country. Or perhaps, it’s just the reminder of what the broader Family Promise program is – a place to take care of people, love them, guide them, and steer them back into the communities the families so long to return to.
I guess the best place to start is at the beginning. The conference began on Friday morning with sessions for program staff. The first session I attended was on Trauma Informed Service with Families in Crisis. This is where I learned the statistic about the homeless mothers and traumatic events. Often times, this is where homelessness begins for these families, and [the trauma] just compounds as the families move into our program. So, why should Family Promise staff care about these traumatic events? For one, these survivors can present a unique set of challenges to case management. These people can appear “non-compliant” with the program, or may appear to have ADHD. They can also appear to completely dissociate from everyone – “spacing out” or having “inappropriate emotions” such as smiling while discussing rape.
There are two different types of trauma that people can experience – Acute (such as a natural disaster or a car accident), and Complex (exposure to multiple traumatic events such as abuse). People suffering from Acute Trauma will likely move on with minimal amounts of assistance, where as people suffering from Complex Trauma are completely unaware that there is a different reality from the one they’ve known. Think for a second about how you feel after having a car accident: your heart starts racing, your palms are sweaty, and you don’t really know what to think or feel. People suffering from Traumatic Stress feel like this all the time. There are a lot of signs that people in our programs have been through some sort of trauma, and as the case manager, I now believe that it is my role to advocate for these people when I begin seeing these signs and symptoms before allowing their situation to get any worse.
In part two of this series Melissa takes a look at the role we can take on to help families in crisis…
*If you or someone you know is need of the services offered by Seacoast Family Promise, we can be contacted at 603-658-8447. For more information on SFP including ways to volunteer or donate, please visit our website at: www.SFPNH.org