SJRC utilizes Trust Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) as the primary program model for our programs. TBRI was developed by Dr. Karyn Purvis and Dr. David Cross at the Child Development Institute at Texas Christian University. It is an evidence-based model with over a decade of research behind it. TBRI is a holistic intervention that meets the needs of the whole child. It is an approach to caregiving that is developmentally respectful, responsive to trauma, and attachment-based. TBRI purports three principles are the foundation for working with kids from hard places – Connecting, Empowering, and Correcting.
The Connecting Principal asserts that the caregiver must first be mindful about themselves and what they bring to the interactions with their child. Any unresolved issues or triggers the caregiver might have could get in the way of them connecting with their child. Engagement strategies like nurturing touch, voice quality, and warm eyes allow the caregiver to connect with their child and build trust in an easy and casual way. The Connecting Principle also teaches the caregiver how to share power with the child, so that the child feels that they have a voice in the relationship. This could be in the form of finding ways to say “yes” to their child, giving their child a choice or a compromise, or teaching the child life value terms that help them practice social skills.
The Empowering Principle focuses on meeting the child’s basic needs for food and hydration, as well as meeting their sensory needs, to help the child regulate and to create an ideal environment for connecting and learning. The Empowering Principle also asserts that daily routines, rituals, and preparation for transitions are important to a child’s overall ability to regulate, as well as to build trust and connection with their caregiver.
The Correcting Principle is designed so that the caregiver can raise and lower the bar for their child from day to day, or even hour to hour, depending on where the child is at. It gives the caregiver tools to address inappropriate behaviors and get their child back on track and back in control. The Connecting Principle teaches what they call the IDEAL response for caregivers to address undesirable behaviors – Immediate, Direct, Efficient, Action-Based, Leveled at the Behavior (not at the child). It is meant to teach to the child, rather than be punitive. At the end of it all, the goal is to remain connected to the child, even after experiencing some of their worst behaviors.
TBRI has equipped our staff and foster families to meet the child where they actually are with regards to their educational needs, and not where they assume they should be based on age and grade. Our staff and foster families are taught through the “Connecting Principles” that through connecting with the child and building a trusting relationship, they can more adequately understand the child’s needs and work with them to be successful. They learn to recognize any sensory needs the child may have, any triggers that could set the child off, and learn how to raise and lower the bar with their child from day to day. Staff and foster families are then able to accurately communicate all of this information to the child’s teachers so that they can work with the child at school to best maximize their potential. TBRI also teaches our staff and foster families through the “Empowering Principles” how to meet the child’s nutrition and hydration needs by providing healthy meals and frequent snacks. The children are set up for success in school by being provided a nutritious breakfast, healthy lunch, and snacks to take to school to help them stay focused throughout the day.
All of our staff and foster families utilize TBRI consistently in order to build healthy connections with our children. Because our youth have such complex histories of trauma, we believe that even the smallest improvement in a therapeutic connection with a healthy adult is still improvement. Every child is unique, and TBRI focuses on meeting each child where they are. Each child has various needs and desires for connectivity, and TBRI allows us to interact with them in a way that fosters individualized growth.
TBRI teaches our staff and foster families that no matter what a child’s permanency plan is, each child needs to establish positive, healthy relationships with their caregivers. Our staff and foster families work hard to build trusting, nurturing relationships with the children in their homes. Not only are their basic needs met, TBRI goes a step further and teaches our staff and foster families that these children need so much more – they need to have access to healthy foods and snacks 24/7, they need to have a voice and know that choices and compromises are a way that we give voice, they need to know that there are safe adults who will meet their needs, they need to feel connected to their caregiver and feel that they are safe with them. Even if a child ultimately goes back to their biological family, they are going back having learned so many skills they didn’t previously have. And if they end up staying with a foster family and being adopted, the family is able to continue building on what they’ve already established with the child. It’s a win-win for the child either way.
SJRC has been utilizing TBRI since 2014 and currently has seven TBRI Practitioners on staff. All of our staff and our foster parents go through TBRI training, and receive coaching on a regular basis on how TBRI can help them better work with and connect with their kids. TBRI is not by itself the only model we use when interacting with our kids, though. All SJRC staff and foster parents are also trained in Satori Alternatives to Aggression (SAMA). SJRC currently has 3 SAMA trainers on staff. SAMA is meant to be used in conjunction with TBRI, specifically for when a child is severely dysregulated and needs help regulating themselves. 75% of SAMA teaches de-escalation techniques, and the remaining 25% teaches containments and other defensive maneuvers should a child act out aggressively. The goal of TBRI is to connect with a child and build trust so that incidents of verbal and physical aggression naturally decrease over time. SAMA is essentially a “back-up” for when the child has moments of verbal and physical aggression that cannot be addressed with TBRI techniques alone. Combined, these two curriculums help set our staff and foster parents up for success when working with children who come from a background of extreme trauma.
SJRC will utilize TBRI and SAMA as the backbone of our therapeutic model when training our treatment family foster care parents. In addition to this, several other trainings will be required, such as CPR/First Aid, Communicable Diseases, Normalcy, Cultural Competency, Reporting Suspected Abuse, Medical Consent, Psychotropic Medication, ACEs, Compassion Fatigue, and SIDS/SBS/Child Brain Development. These trainings support and reinforce TBRI in particular. They all relate to trauma, and specifically understanding not only how trauma affects the brain, but how you can then use that information to better relate to your child and get them back on track developmentally. They address the medical side of trauma, how medication is utilized, how you can identify how trauma manifests itself in children, and what you can do to address your own trauma and better take care of yourself.
“Imagine a world where every child’s need is met by a loving adult.”
– Dr. Karyn Purvis