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Building a Safe Place - Part 3. Brian Lowery MPA, LSW Lowery Training Associates Cleveland, Ohio E-mail: Web: 2. What is Safety?. Pronunciation: /’saf-te/ Function : Noun

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building a safe place part 3

Building a Safe Place - Part 3

Brian Lowery MPA, LSW

Lowery Training Associates

Cleveland, Ohio




Lowery Training Associates

what is safety
What is Safety?
  • Pronunciation: /’saf-te/
  • Function: Noun
  • From the middle English saufte, from the Anglo-French salvete, saufte, from salf
  • Definition: the condition of being safe from undergoing or causing injury, hurt or loss

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safety trauma
Safety & Trauma
  • Physical Safety is not the same as psychological safety.
  • Your child’s definition of safety will not be the same as yours.
  • to help your child feel safe, you will need to look at the world through his/her “trauma lens”. Continued


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safety trauma continued
Safety & Trauma (continued)
  • Children who have been through trauma may:
  • Have difficulty trusting adults to protect them.
  • Have valid fears about their safety or the safety of loved ones
  • Have problems controlling their reactions to perceived threats
  • Be hyper aware of potential threats


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promoting safety
Promoting Safety
  • Help children get familiar with the setting and the neighborhood.
  • Give them control over some aspects of their lives.
  • Set limits.
  • Let them know what will happen next.
  • See and appreciate them for who they are.
  • Help them to maintain a sense of connection with the past.


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give a safety message
Give a Safety Message
  • Partner with the local social worker or caseworker.
  • Get down to the child’s eye level.
  • Promise to keep the child physically safe.
  • Follow the child’s lead.
  • Let the child know that you are ready to hear what he or she needs.



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give a safety message continued
Give a Safety Message (continued)
  • Take concerns seriously:
  • Empathizes.
  • Acknowledge that the child’s feelings make sense in light of past experiences.
  • Be reassuring and realistic about what you can do.
  • Be honest about what you do and do not know.
  • Help your child/client express his or her concerns to other members of the child welfare team.


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explain rules
Explain Rules
  • When explaining household/group home rules:
  • Consider the child’s history.
  • Don’t overwhelm the child.
  • Emphasize protection.
  • Be flexible when you can.


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be an emotional container
Be an “Emotional Container”
  • Be willing—and prepared—to tolerate strong emotional reactions.
  • Remember the suitcase!
  • Respond calmly but firmly.
  • Help your child identify & label the feelings behind the outburst.
  • Reassure your child that it is okay to feel any and all emotions.

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manage emotional hot spots
Manage Emotional “Hot Spots”
  • Food and mealtime.
  • Sleep & bedtime.
  • Physical boundaries, privacy, personal grooming & medical care.

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food meals group activity
Be aware of the child’s history.

Accommodate food preferences, if possible.

Set consistent mealtimes.

Involve child in making and planning meals.

Keep mealtimes calm and supportive.

Food & Meals (Group Activity)

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sleep and bedtime group activity
Help your child to “own” the bedroom.

Respect & protect your child’s privacy.

Acknowledge & respect fears

Set consistent sleep & wake times with predictable, calming routines

Seek help if needed.

Sleep and Bedtime (Group Activity)

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physical boundaries
Physical Boundaries
  • Children who have been neglected & abused may:
  • Never have learned that their bodies should be cared for and protected
  • Feel disconnected and at odds with their bodies
  • See their bodies as “vessels of the negative memories and experiences that they carry, a constant reminder not only of what has happened to them, but of how little they are worth”

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physical boundaries continued
Physical Boundaries (continued)
  • Respect your child’s physical boundaries
  • Make the bathroom a safe zone
  • When helping younger children bathe, ask permission about touching and be clear about what you are doing and why

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trauma reminders
Trauma Reminders
  • People, situations, places, things or feelings that remind children of traumatic events:
  • May evoke intense and disturbing feelings tied to the original trauma
  • Can lead to behaviors that seem out of place, but which may have been appropriate at the time of the original traumatic event

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trauma reminders impact
Trauma Reminders’ Impact
  • Frequent reactions to trauma reminders can:
  • Keep a child in a state of emotional upset.
  • Be seen by others as overreacting to ordinary events.
  • Result in avoidance behaviors.
  • Isolate the child from peers and family.
  • Make the child ashamed or afraid of going “crazy”.

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identifying trauma reminders
Identifying Trauma Reminders
  • When your child or adolescent has a reaction, make note of:
  • When?
  • Where?
  • What?
  • When possible, reduce exposure
  • Share your observations with your child’s therapist or caseworker

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coping with trauma reminders what staff foster p arents can do
Coping with Trauma Reminders: What Staff & Foster Parents Can Do
  • Ensure safety
  • Reorient
  • Reassure
  • Define what’s happened
  • Respect and normalize the child’s experiences
  • Differentiate past from present

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coping with trauma reminders what not to do
Coping with Trauma Reminders: What NOT to Do
  • Assume the child is being rebellious
  • Tell the child that he or she is being dramatic or overreacting
  • Force the child to fact reminder
  • Express anger or impatience

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coping with trauma reminders what children can do sos
Coping with Trauma Reminders: What Children Can Do-- SOS
  • Stop
  • Stop and take several long, deep breathes
  • Orient
  • Look around and take in immediate surroundings.
  • Make note of physical reactions (breathing, heartbeat etc.)
  • Seek help
  • Use a “stress buster” to help calm down
  • If needed, call a trusted friend or reliable adult

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sos identifying stress busters
SOS – Identifying Stress Busters
  • Activities (running, playing a particular song)
  • Things (a toy, stuffed animal, picture, a favorite blanket or particular food)
  • Places (a spot in the yard or park, a room)
  • People
  • A specific thought, phrase or prayer

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wrap up
  • Great job….everybody!!!
  • Thanks for all of your hard work!


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