Building Protective Behavior in Children

By Ginger Kadlec — get free updates of new posts here.

Helping Vulnerable Chlidren Stay Safe by Katie WrenchEarlier this year, I was surprised — and deeply honored — to receive an email from Jessica Kinglsey Publishers in the UK inviting me to write a foreword for a soon-to-be launched book about keeping vulnerable children safe.

After reading the manuscript, “Helping Vulnerable Children and Adolescents to Stay Safe: Creative Ideas and Activities for Building Protective Behaviours” by author Katie Wrench, I eagerly accepted the invitation!

An art psychotherapist and therapeutic social worker, Katie was inspired to write this informative guide for professionals, parents and front-line care givers to help them engage kids in creative activities that reinforce their own safety and personal boundaries. This terrific book outlines numerous hands-on activities that can readily be used by anyone who works with children or young people without the need for dedicating years of training as a therapist.

Katie writes, “The uniqueness of this book is the opportunity to access a range of activities all in one place, simply categorised (sic), to enable you to easily identify those that will be suitable for working individually (or with adaptations in groups) with a range of children and young people.”

I read this book not through the eyes of a therapist, but as a child forensic interviewer who has seen hundreds of child abuse investigations and was pleased to note many of the activities Katie outlines parallel the protocol and methodologies used in child forensic interviewing.

Katie presents methods to combat child maltreatment by helping the child build a sense of self, level of confidence and general understanding of personal boundaries and rights…

Children who are victims of maltreatment often have their self-esteem, confidence and feelings of safety stripped from them… or never had an opportunity to even experience those things. From my foreword, “Katie presents methods to combat child maltreatment by helping the child build a sense of self, level of confidence and general understanding of personal boundaries and rights…all outcomes professionals involved in safeguarding vulnerable children hope to see.”

Hats off to Katie for writing this wonderful guide! To purchase a copy, visit Amazon.

Excerpt from my Foreword

‘My favorite color is red,’ the small five-year-old confidently stated, his deep chestnut eyes smiling.

Whew. This sweet child was opening up to me as we chatted face-to-face in overstuffed blue chairs. One brother and two sisters before him had started to feel comfortable and safe in the same chair into which this tiny boy was now settling. They shared their favorite games, classes in school, music and more… but each stopped in their tracks when I transitioned the conversation to inquire, “Are you worried about your mum (sic)?”

Earlier that day, the four children had witnessed their mother’s rape and attempted strangulation at the hands of her boyfriend.

Countless child forensic interviews have left me scratching my head, wondering how someone could ever put a child through such atrocities. There are a few interviews, though, that haunt me to this day. This was one of them.

Earlier that day, the four children had witnessed their mother’s rape and attempted strangulation at the hands of her boyfriend. The police responded, took statements, arrested the boyfriend and brought the mother and children to the community’s child advocacy center so the traumatised (sic) kids could participate in forensic interviews to better determine what they had witnessed.

I asked the tiny boy about his mother – his lips tightened as his large eyes overflowed. Handing him a tissue, I knew we were done. He would disclose nothing to me that night…or ever. Sometime that afternoon, mom decided she didn’t want to press charges against her boyfriend. She had also convinced each of her children they would be taken from her and placed in separate foster homes if they disclosed anything about the incident earlier that day… and who knows? Or, perhaps about other violent incidents they had either witnessed or experienced themselves.

This case haunts me as I will never know if those children are safe.

That very next day, the mother packed their belongings and followed her abusive boyfriend out-of-state with her vulnerable children in tow. This case haunts me as I will never know if those children are safe. I can only hope their mother eventually found the strength and courage to escape an abusive situation in which far too many families find themselves trapped. Tragically, it’s the children who ultimately pay the price.

Child forensic interviews and investigations into allegations of child abuse are only the beginning for victims. The real work of healing a child and his/her family comes as they participate in therapy and mend both surface wounds, as well as ones that are deeply rooted, and they develop the skills they need to ask for help when they need it and to keep safe in the future.

The global epidemic of child maltreatment assumes many forms. Children around the world are abused in both vicious and subtle manners ranging from sexual or physical abuse, to neglect, to psychological abuse; sadly, polyvictimisation (sic) is common among maltreated children. In the world of child abuse investigations and child forensic interviewing, there is a well-known fact:

Disclosure is a process, not a one-time event.

As is the case with abuse itself, disclosure can also take on many forms. It is common for children to ‘test the waters’ and share partial disclosures to assess how a person with whom the child is placing his/her trust will respond. Will the disclosure be met with doubt or hostility…or will it be received with immediate acceptance and reassurance? The manner in which a disclosure is received can literally make or break a child’s decision to ever talk about the abuse again. The latter can lead to tragic consequences including further victimisation (sic) of the child, and possibly of others, as well as future mental or physical health problems such as self-injurious behavior, anxiety, depression, obesity and even suicide.

…disclosure doesn’t always present itself in the form of words or language one can readily comprehend. Herein lies the challenge for workers supporting vulnerable children and young people.

Disclosure can also assume the form of sudden outbursts or can be seen in a child’s behavior and activity or even lack thereof – disclosure doesn’t always present itself in the form of words or language one can readily comprehend. Herein lies the challenge for workers supporting vulnerable children and young people. The journeys of disclosure and healing for child abuse survivors are different for everyone; however, they do share some common traits.

In this book, “Helping Vulnerable Children and Adolescents to Stay Safe,” Katie Wrench affirms the journeys of disclosure, healing and keeping safe are just that – journeys. Survivors don’t complete their voyage in a single step, but rather travel a daunting, arduous path often filled with hazards and danger. That path, though, can be smoothed with respect, encouragement and a learned ability to self-protect… (Look inside Katie’s book to read more.)


About Katie

Katie WrenchKatie Wrench is a qualified therapeutic social worker, art psychotherapist and foster carer. She works with children and young people who are fostered or adopted and provides specialist consultation and training to front-line social care practitioners and foster carers around life story work. Katie is co-author of “Life Story Work with Children Who are Fostered or Adopted”, also published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers. She is based in Leeds, UK.

About Ginger

Chance and GK 2013-04-26Raising awareness of the world-wide epidemic of child abuse has become Ginger’s life mission. An impassioned child advocate, trainer, speaker and trained child forensic interviewer, Ginger regularly blogs about child protection issues. Along with her husband John and pets Lexi and Chase, Ginger enjoys traveling, skiing, hiking, brisk mornings, colorful sunsets and just hangin’ at home with “the Pack”.

 

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