At Andrus, our approach is based squarely on our understanding of trauma as a central organizing life experience of our children. We operationalize that approach through our implementation of Sanctuary. The central question that is our starting point in working with our children is moving away from the question “what’s wrong with this child” and instead organizing our approach based on the question “what happened to this child?”
The medical doctor’s creed is “first, do no harm.” In trauma informed care, our creed must be “first, don’t re-traumatize.” It is therefore worth noting that restraints are the most traumatizing intervention we do. For children with a trauma history, restraints are the most re-traumatizing thing we do.
It’s worth remembering too that every form of trauma involves being controlled by someone else – generally a caretaker and generally someone bigger and stronger than the child. Our children are therefore extremely sensitive to anything that can be perceived as being controlled. If we want to provide the antidote to trauma, we should be very careful to avoid anything that can be perceived as controlling. The antidote to control is collaboration. The field says “the more you do with a child, the less you have to do to a child.” Whenever possible, give the child multiple choices. Give the children real control. It is for this reason that we had the children create the cottage accountability plans for unsafe behavior. Give children control and ownership wherever possible, and the need for restraints decreases. And remember – no staff ever won a power struggle.