GOSHEN — Understanding what a child has gone through before placing them in a foster center, school or a juvenile detention may help avoid traumatizing them even further in their development.
That was the overall message of educators, therapists and professionals in the criminal justice system when they talked with more than 400 people at the fifth annual Elkhart County Summit on Children.
The summit at the Maple City Chapel in Goshen is a way to establish and continue the ongoing communication among professionals who often work with children, said Magistrate Deborah Domine.
Three speakers were invited this year to talk about the trauma children may live through and what can be done to help them grow and cope in a positive way.
Here’s what the speakers shared with attendees:
Kristine Buffington of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network said children who are often struggling with the education or criminal justice systems have often been victims of violence or abuse. Further, a high percentage of the children who go through the juvenile court system suffer some form of trauma, Buffington said.
“Some of the angriest children are those who come from families that have been engaged in domestic violence,” she said.
Buffington said educators and social workers must take the time to learn about a child’s past to better understand their needs.
“Trauma often shapes the survivor’s basic belief. ... And survival behavior doesn’t just go away. We can’t just expect kids to snap out of it,” she said.
Terry Barker, superintendent of the Mishawaka City Schools, shared his experience growing up under the care of several people. At a young age he was sent to a foster care center.
Barker shared what he learned as he grew up and out of the system.
“Teach them that change is inevitable, but that we have to learn to embrace it,” he said. “Teach them that support comes from many, many sources.”
Indiana Supreme Court Justice Steven David commended those in attendance who work with children on a daily basis. David, recipient of the Robert Kinsey Award as the most outstanding juvenile court judge in Indiana, shared his own advice for those who work in law enforcement.
“It’s OK to be angry or frustrated at children sometimes, but never lose sight of what’s important. Show them that we care about them.”