[Note: The first Foster In Texas (FIT) Trauma-Informed Care Conference was held in Harlingen on August 21st, and attended by more than 50 foster parents and potential foster parents.] What would be the appropriate way to begin a conference on Trauma-Informed Care in a town like Harlingen, Texas? With Pan Dulce of course! As crumbs from the brightly colored pastries were polished off, our families proceeded to the conference rooms at Texas State Technical College―one room designated for English-speaking families and one for Spanish-speaking families―and prepared to settle in to soak up the important information treatment director, Frank Vega, and regional director, Jose Alamillo, were about to present.
LSS area directors Maria Livingston and Frank Lopez welcomed the families, as their foster children were ushered into daycare provided by LSS. Regional director, Victoria Porter met several foster parents who greeted her with, “Oh, I’ve been waiting to meet you! What a pleasure!” It felt more like a long-awaited family reunion than a conference!
Why did we feel it was important to present this specialized trauma training directly to our families, and offer it to foster parents from other child placing agencies as well? Many children in foster care have lived through extremely traumatic experiences. Trauma’s isolating impact makes relationships more difficult. And removing the weight of trauma from a child’s soul isn’t easy. Parents dealing with a child’s trauma without proper tools and understanding can experience “compassion fatigue”– feeling burned out and unable to handle one more child’s sadness.
We feel very strongly about getting the word out to families across Texas that, equipped with the right tools, they can be the biggest and most positive agent of change in the lives of these precious children. A wide range of health, behavioral, and social problems will be lessened for generations to come.
At the end of the day, tears were shed, hugs were exchanged, and little hands got high-fives. The responses and thank-yous from the parents made it clear how important specialized training really is – and how it is a key factor that differentiates LSS from other child placing agencies.
Here’s just a sampling of what the parents had to say:
My husband and I want to take this opportunity to thank you for making our training this past Saturday a wonderful experience … you and your staff made it very friendly, inviting, and so relaxing which was very conducive to learning. Our speaker was excellent and presented the information in a format that we could all relate too.
I can honestly agree with the other participants that this should be a training that all foster parents, should be exposed too in order to give us a better understanding of what to expect and how to approach unforeseen situations. Once again, Thank you and thank your staff for us!!! ―Fidela Hinojosa
To Maria Luisa Livingston and LSSS staff: Rogelio and I would like to thank you for inviting us to the Trauma Conference in Harlingen. Frank Vega was a wonderful speaker. He opened our eyes … and taught us many things that will help us when we foster/adopt or adopt. The conference was very informative and insightful. We got to hear a lot of different points of view not only from Mr. Vega, but from the other foster parents in attendance. Being that we are new to Lutheran Social Services of the South, and have never fostered or adopted, we were oblivious to many of the situations that can present themselves. For example, to us, saying “I love you” or hugging is a normal part of our lives, but to a child who has gone through a traumatic experience, it may trigger an unwanted emotion or state of mind. We are truly thankful to have been part of this experience as it has helped us further understand what it means to be a foster parent or adoptive parent.
We’d also like to add that the conference was very organized and we got to see first-hand that LSS supports their foster parents by giving this type of conference and providing child care during the conference. We look forward to continuing our journey with LSSS and are pleased to know that we will always have your support along our foster/adopt journey. We look forward to attending more conferences in the future. ―Rogelio and Melissa Lozano
We were very impressed with the wonderful training you provided us. All you could hear was “Wow!” The presenters were awesome, the information was out of this world. We foster parents get lots of support from our Harlingen office, and the director Maria Luisa and her staff have gone above and beyond in supporting the foster parents here. I have never been with an an agency that has so much support and love for the children in care. Lutheran Social Services in Harlingen always goes the extra mile to support us. We foster parents work hard for the children in care and we would like more training like this to help our children in care. We’re looking forward to more conferences here in Harlingen. We foster parents appreciate the hard work of Maria Luisa and her staff. ―Dario & Betty Garza
I wanted to inform you that I was really pleased with the course we took and the person who shared the course with us was a really nice person. He knew how to explain things well, which made us feel pleased. I also had fun during the breaks which were given to us so we could hang with the other foster parents. This lead to a good day of training and I feel good being a part of Lutheran Social services … Mrs. Livingston has taught us a lot. Thanks, God Bless. ―Maria Josefina Macias