FamilyForward Sharing New Way of Thinking about Child Development

“Many of the children and families we help are among our society’s most vulnerable and need assistance now more than ever,” says Rachel Neukirch, Chief Program Officer for FamilyForward. That’s why – during this public health crisis – the agency is finding safe ways to continue to be a trusted support to children already experiencing trauma. A central service, the Development Trauma Center, has been supported by a $100,000 Think Big for Kids grant from YouthBridge.
“Children with significant trauma don’t expect better from people. We’re working to change that, while better understanding the other personality characteristics inherent in children born into abuse and chaos,” says Neukirch.

The Developmental Trauma Center, which refers to the services provided more so than a physical location, she says, is realizing improvements in relational health, or the interpersonal interactions children have with families, caregivers, teachers and others. “We’re achieving great day-to-day results with the interventions and tools we’re providing.”

Neukirch explains that the agency’s overarching philosophy is derived from the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT), developed by Dr. Bruce Perry and based on the clinical correlation between a child’s early history and their current functioning. “Much of the behaviors we’re seeing in our clients are a function of where they’ve come from…a coping mechanism. If you understand that, you’re better able to address their difficulties.”

Just as abuse and neglect negatively impact the developing brain, therapy can alter the brain, creating opportunities for healing, recovery and the development of healthier functioning. FamilyForward’s clinical team is trained in a wide variety of evidence-based practices, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and child-centered play therapy, in order to match the appropriate therapeutic interventions with each child’s needs. Clinicians also partner with parents to understand their children and help improve the quality of family life, realizing high results in stabilizing the family unit, says Neukirch.

FamilyForward is collaborating with Dr. Perry and the Neurosequential Network on research projects and sharing their success utilizing NMT with the community and nationwide, she says, adding that the YouthBridge grant has helped to elevate its capabilities. “We’ve been able to significantly expand service delivery – averaging about 350 families each year – spread awareness of NMT, provide advanced levels of training to our staff and add services, such as occupational and physical therapy.”

If you would like to donate or have any questions about this organization, please contact Allison McDonald.