For the final week of Child Abuse Prevention Month, our stress-busting strategy is Supportive Relationships. Supportive relationships make a significant impact on our social, emotional and physical well-being. Renowned psychiatrist and trauma expert, Dr. Bruce Perry writes, “The more healthy relationships a child has, the more likely he will be to recover from trauma and thrive. Relationships are the agents of change and the most powerful therapy is human love.” We will be highlighting the importance of supportive relationships in a child’s life by taking a look at the services provided by Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley (FBSMV).
Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley
Mission: It’s our mission to partner with all members of the community to achieve resilience against substance use, reductions in violence and promote a healthy and safe environment for our youth and families
FBSMV was founded in 2003 when individuals and organizations were concerned with the negative impacts of drugs and alcohol on youth in the Santa Maria Valley community. Through the years FBSMV has evolved through increased funding and partnerships to provide direct services to youth and families, with an emphasis on those in the foster care system. FBSMV’s mission is focused on developing supportive relationships with children and youth, which is at the core of their success in helping kids combat adversities and cultivate resilience.
Edwin Weaver joined Fighting Back SMV as the Executive Director in 2014, having had previous Child Welfare experience in Santa Maria, LA and Virginia. When Edwin joined the organization, there was a larger emphasis on truancy prevention work within the local school district, but Edwin was interested in how to enhance services and focus on improving graduation rates for foster youth. Through Edwin’s search for finding successful models in other schools and agencies, he was introduced to the Community Resilience Model and the ACEs research. Since then they have adopted this model and trauma-informed understanding across the entire agency with all staff members trained, and by the end of the summer staff will all be trained to teach this model to large groups.
Foundations for Success Program
FBSMV staff work closely with the Santa Maria Valley school districts and Child Welfare Services to ensure foster youth in Northern Santa Barbara are graduating from high school on time. Staff work directly with foster children through the educational process, meeting with them regularly, along with their temporary caregivers and teachers, and overall being a positive adult in their lives. The trained staff help develop plans with short, medium, and long term goals, including completing their credit requirements, grades of “C” or above, and taking part in extracurricular activities. Fighting Back SMV also helps with the cost of these extracurriculars since foster families don’t get reimbursed for that type of support. Just last week Edwin helped purchase materials and transportation costs for a young girl to take part in a fashion competition. With this new funding from the Buffering Service Grant, FBSMV is able to provide $30,000 in scholarships for sports. Sports provide an arena for many positive experiences and relationship building, allowing space for children to connect with caring adults, interact with peers, exercise and spend time outside.
In addition to supportive relationships with FBSMV staff, kids are encouraged to develop their own relationships with others. Children in the foster care system are constantly moving around, with a revolving door of people coming in and out of their lives, so they tend to be jaded to making new connections. Yet we know these relationships are crucial in producing more positive outcomes later in life. FBSMV staff understand and value this, by building rapport and being persistent, they are able to be a consistent source of support and care for children that would have otherwise fallen through the cracks of the system. A supportive relationship is one that values empathy, compassion, and grit; values that FBSMV staff practice everyday in the field. By being empathic of a child’s situation and their previous history, they are able to view reactive behaviors and negative situations with a trauma informed lens.
Stories of Success
A story of putting these trauma informed practices into action is an instance when Edwin was called into a school conference to discuss a child whose behavior was going to lead to expulsion. While everyone in the room was looking out for the best interest of the child, no one thought to ask resiliency-informed questions, until Edwin spoke up. He asked questions like where does he do best at, when is he succeeding. His mother then spoke up saying he was great at soccer. Yet when asked if the child still participated, his mother said “no” due to his trouble in school. Even though this sport had a positive impact on the child, no one thought that his continued participation would improve his behavior and grades in school. Edwin then questioned the child about different soccer rules and regulations, which the child then meticulously explained. Take a look at the paraphrased exchange below to see how Edwin was able to make metaphors between soccer and this child’s success in school.
“So what happens when you don’t follow the rules in soccer” - Edwin
“Oh you get carded” - the child
“What happens if you cuss out the referee when you don’t like his call” - Edwin
“Oh you definitely can’t do that you’ll get benched and won’t be able to play” - child
“So you’re able to follow the rules in soccer and understand the consequences because you know that’s how you play the game successfully, correct? Do you think this can be applied to school, where following the rules and playing well with others will ensure your educational success as well?” - Edwin
This conversation led to the development of a restorative plan for this child instead of expulsion. The plan focused on accountability and building on the strengths of the child, including apologizing to his classmates, joining the school’s soccer team, and taking part in community service. Edwin was able to successfully advocate for this child and help build on his strengths instead of dealing in the negative behaviors. We look forward to hearing more success stories like this one from Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley as they develop their programs and services.
Tenets of a Supportive Relationship:
- Unconditional love
- Consistent support
To learn more about Fighting Back Santa Maria Valley and the programs they provide, click here to access their website.
Click here if you would like to donate to FBSMV and help support kids and youth in the Santa Maria community.
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