Working to Stop Childhood Trauma One Step, One Child at a Time

Childhood trauma can stem from many sources within our homes and in the community, and children can experience it in many forms, including physical or sexual abuse; neglect within the family; or scary events in the community such as school shootings, natural disasters or violence. When a child’s developing brain is under constant stress, the stress response systems and sensory systems may deregulate, launching the body into constant survival mode, forever changing a child’s natural response to danger.

Research has demonstrated a link between childhood trauma and high-risk behaviors such as smoking, drug and alcohol abuse and illegal activities. Child­hood trauma has even been shown to be strongly linked to higher incidents of cancer and heart disease and, of course, mental health issues.

Research has demonstrated a link between childhood trauma and high-risk behaviors such as smoking, drug and alcohol abuse and illegal activities.

Compass Mark is advocating for children who have experienced trauma in their young lives. By intervening as quickly as possible in partnership with a child’s family and community, Compass Mark can address critical needs and help improve their overall resilience. Two initiatives, the Family Services Advocate program and the Lebanon County Hurri­cane Assistance program, focus on bring­ing hope to children in difficult situations.

Family Services Advocate Program

The Family Services Advocate Program works to identify, support and advo­cate for the unique needs and rights of children with incarcerated parents. The program helps families and caregiv­ers connect to existing community support and maintain healthy par­ent-child relationships. It addresses not only their basic needs, but their fractured relationship with their parents, as well as the trauma caused by parental incarceration.

In 2017, Millersville Uni­versity published a report that evaluated the out­come of the first two years of the Family Services Ad­vocate program. The report found that the children in the program showed sig­nificant improvement. In addition, families reported positive personal experiences from the impact of the program.

In one case, a new mother was able to have crucial, regular bonding time with her newborn son through special visits in prison. An advocate was able to arrange for the baby to be temporarily cared for by a family involved with Bethany Chris­tian Services’ Safe Families for Children program. This allowed the mother and child to receive the care and support they needed, and kept the baby out of the foster care system. Both mother and child were reunited, and continue to build a healthy relationship.

Lebanon County Hurricane Assistance Program

When Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, the after effects were felt in Lebanon County. Families affected by the hurri­cane relocated to Lebanon, flooding the community and schools with children reeling from environmental trauma. During a community gathering, with the school district, local government and community services brainstorming for solutions, Compass Mark’s Bevan Allen of­fered a solution. Compass Mark will place a referral specialist at the Lebanon Middle School, to help evacuees locate resources in their new community and make sure students receive much-needed support upon arrival.

Prevention Specialist Josh Mountz is hopeful about the program. “I am expecting great things,” he says. “The school and community could not be more accommodating. We are glad that we can help these families get a hand up.”

The program will help with the food, clothing and housing new-to-the-area families need to get established. Children can get help connecting with school assistance so they can succeed. Students from HACC Lebanon will be on hand to translate for the Spanish-speaking parents, helping the evacuees settle in to their new lives.