FIJ Quarterly - Summer 2022 Edition

continue to use the language ‘system of care’. As we begin the journey to a more effective system of care, Monica’s story should be explored through the lens of neuroscience because its impact on individualized services and how, when pursued within a hyperlocal and flexible system structure, can meet the needs of families. Let’s remember how the brain works in the first place. Neuroscience has been a trendy topic in child welfare for the past decade because of its direct connection to understanding the stress response and trauma. You might be rolling your eyes at the impending weighty jargon, but it’s quite relevant when the complicated concept can be most simply understood and applied. Dr. Bruce Perry of the Neurosequential Network explains, that our sensitive brains require our response to stress go in a sequential order. “Selecting interventions in a neurosequential manner involves following the developmental sequence of “regulate, relate, reason,” while understanding that “maltreated children are not immediately ready for verbally mediated insight therapies.” 5 If you attempt to intervene with a child or family in crisis with your solutions, their brain can’t receive those ideas because they must first experience safety. If someone feels safe, only then can they consider a trusting relationship to create an alliance to address unmet needs. If the desire is to move towards reason or solutions, you must support the incremental journey from surviving to thriving, and the brain research clearly reflects those interventions must be done in sequential order starting with the primitive brain, otherwise they simply don’t work. Are we taking the time to go in order? Perry also has explained: “We are designed for a different world than we have created for ourselves. Humankind has spent 99 percent of its history living in small, intergenerational groups. A child’s day brought many opportunities to interact with the variety of caregivers available to protect, nurture, enrich, and educate. But, the relational landscape is changing. Today, with our smaller families, we have less connection with extended families and fewer opportunities to

interact with neighbors. Children spend a great deal of time watching television. While we in the western world are materially wealthy, we are relationally impoverished. Far too many children grow up without the number and quality of relational opportunities needed to organize fully the neural networks to mediate important socio-emotional characteristics such as empathy.” 6 Social connection is a basic need in the hardwiring of our brains, and what more convenient place can this happen than at your home and in your neighborhood? You could go elsewhere, and many have to make those choices, but then barriers start, and the roadblocks present themselves around transportation, eligibility and program expenses, or whatever opportunity is meaningful to your family. A single mother may be stretched thin with work and rely on the quality of the opportunities that she can access. If you’re of means or fortunate, you can afford to seek those connections outside of your neighborhood, a privilege not available for all. The neighborhoods many of us work in today are not meeting the fundamental needs of the brain. We must create a bigger patchwork quilt of relational opportunities. Collective Impact Structure in Child Welfare After 130 years of providing residential and treatment foster care programming in Western Maryland, San Mar Children’s Home was nationally accredited and recognized as a leader in high-quality, gender-specific residential services for teenage girls who had experienced significant trauma. But no matter ______________ 5 Gaskill RL, Perry BD. A Neurosequential Therapeutics Approach to Guided Play: Play therapy, and activities for children who won’t talk. In: Malchiodi CA, Crenshaw DA, editors. What to do when children clam up in psychotherapy: Interventions to facilitate communication. New York: The Guildford Press; 2017, 60. 6 Perry, B.D. Maltreatment and the developing child: How early childhood experience shapes child and culture. The Inaugural Margaret McCain lecture (abstracted); McCain Lecture series, The Centre for Children and Families in the Justice System, London, ON, 2005, 4. https://www.

96 | FIJ Quarterly | Summer 2022

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