National News

Youth Villages helps treats childhood trauma

Posted May 15, 2018 7:34 p.m. EDT

— When Kameron Christie feels angry or frustrated she reaches for her Djembe or African drum.

"I learned how to control my anger and not let it get the best of me," said Christie, 17.

As a child, she endured deep physical and emotional trauma.

"I was sexually abused by my father and mother," she said.

Removed from the home and put in foster care, Kameron and her two sisters were soon adopted by Carolyn Christie.

"The first year was absolute hell," Christie sad.

Still, they worked hard to blend the family – meeting regularly with psychiatrists and therapists. But as Kameron grew, so did her problems.

"When she hit middle school that's when she really started with the fighting, and she was having a lot of suicidal feelings," said Christie. "She was the one who knew she needed help, and she wanted to go someplace where she could get it.

Youth Villages responded with an approach called trauma informed care which focuses on the events that causes a child's trauma, before trying to fix behavioral problems.

"Trauma affects every part of the brain," said Chris Raines, neuro psychiatric services manager for Youth Villages.

"So them 'acting out' is because of the emotional trauma that they've endured. They're not doing it just to do it. They're doing it because well, that's the only way they've ever been conditioned," he said.

This involves various methods - including therapeutic art programs - to something called neuro feedback - which re-trains parts of the brain impacted by trauma -- through video games.

"The brain maps tell us what areas of the brain are under-firing or over-firing. And we can actually train the brain to go to be more operant so they're firing correct," said Raines.

Youth Villages serves children across 15 states, including here in Douglasville which helped close to 450 youth and families last year.

Another critical element to trauma informed care is relationships. We get a lot of kids here, when they show up, they don't trust any of us here because we're adults and adults haven't been good to them.

Youth Villages has helped the Christies' learn to cope together.

"They know that they're loved and that they're in a family that's going to support them," Christie said.