The power of connection

This summer, Encourage Foster Care offered Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) training to all of our foster families. TBRI was developed at Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development at Texas Christian University, which defines TBRI as “an attachment-based, trauma-informed intervention that is designed to meet the complex needs of vulnerable children. While the intervention is based on years of attachment, sensory-processing and neuroscience research, the heartbeat of TBRI is connection.”

Encourage uses the TBRI approach because connecting and belonging is central to the human heart. It is central to how we were created in God’s image. Out of that is a deep desire for connection with those near to us. TBRI is consistent with Scripture’s message of a loving God who offers grace and redemption for both our spiritual condition and our physical and relational brokenness.

TBRI offers practical tools to effectively empower and connect with children from hard places. Its roots are found in Attachment Theory, the idea that infants create special bonds with their caregivers. Children with secure attachments have healthy social functioning and fewer behavioral problems at school, and they often become competent leaders within their peer groups. TBRI teaches caregivers to develop mindfulness strategies about their own attachment styles and how to best connect with children who come into their homes from hard places.

Our foster parents feel empowered by TBRI because it’s helping them strengthen relationships with their foster children. We love to hear how foster parents are growing themselves by developing a more secure attachment. Many of our foster families have their own broken histories, and like all other families, may have struggles with their biological children. TBRI offers hope to families so they can take better care of themselves, and in turn, take great care of the kids in their home.

TBRI principles are also used across our family of ministries. CCHO’s Children’s Residential Center uses TBRI to develop trust with new residents. The residential cottages and many of our foster homes use the empowerment principles to help children build trust through nutrition and hydration. Many of our kids have food issues. Staff and foster parents are finding that offering healthy snack options is a great way to engage and connect. Encompass Christian Counseling utilizes Attachment Theory. Helping parents develop self-awareness of how they attach to others and how they can work on themselves improves their relationship with their children.

Encourage case managers reinforce TBRI principles with foster parents to ensure they are utilizing this method daily with their youth. Going forward, TBRI will be included in our pre-service foster parent training.

Trainings such as this one are just one way that Encourage equips our foster parents to be successful in what God has called them to. For additional information about becoming a foster parent, please contact Heather Huebner, Recruitment and Engagement Specialist at or 330.462.1118.

TBRI in the news

Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) is an evidenced-based model for parenting traumatized youth. This relational approach to caring for kids with high levels of abuse, neglect and trauma is gaining recognition as it is successfully helping kids progress relationally and behaviorally. This emerging method takes into account that children need to feel safe and connected before than can receive correction or instruction.

The method is part of a growing “trauma-informed care” movement that says abused kids need more than one hour a week in a therapist’s office to recover. Their day-to-day caregivers must know how to interact with them in healing ways.

As we make plans to introduce TBRI curriculum to all of our treatment families, here’s one foster family’s experience with this technique.

“It’s all about the child building their trust in you,” Deanna said. “This takes awhile because they’ve never had a parent or anyone in their life who showed any kind of stability.” She explained that abused children often aren’t able to “self-regulate” — the pain and trauma they’ve experienced keeps them in fight-or-flight mode, with the chaos and intensity of their feelings prompting all sorts of dysfunctional behaviors. “You just have to get down to their level and talk to them calmly, to understand what’s really causing the behavior,” she said.

(Read the full article here.)

We encourage our families by equipping them with physical, emotional and logistical supports. Providing our families with practical training such as TBRI is one way we can support them in caring for children with trauma.

Blessings this year

Encourage’s director, Shawn Pedani, LISW-S, reflects on the year . . .

Our team recently had a year-end get-together and reflected on all the highlights and blessings we’ve seen from God this past year within Encourage. I thought I’d hear their excitement of the new growth with more foster families and the ability to place more children as well as new local church partnerships who share in the same passion to help children locally.

However, what I heard was worth noting and sharing with our extended Encourage family. The staff shared that while they were thrilled with the addition of 19 new families (not including the current 12 in process), they were even more thrilled with the growth internally in our department. Our team was ecstatic about expanding to neighboring communities and churches as well as the depth of our staff.

Team members voiced their feelings about growing together with one unified purpose. One team member shared, “I feel like we are bigger but at the same time more singular in our mission.” Another commented that we were making strides to implement Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI), an evidenced-based model for parenting traumatized youth, to all of our treatment families. A staff who joined the team in 2018 felt she was “welcomed into a wonderful community that will support, uplift and challenge you in the workplace.”

I simply love that about our team.

With a busy 2019 in the works as it relates to trainings and licensing families, I’m happy to report the progress of new programs launched in 2018. We are seeing wonderful development and rich connections with our new mentor program: A Friend in Fostering. While not everyone can take in a foster youth, everyone can help or volunteer. We are also beginning to see more and more families considering and taking in youth who are otherwise, a challenge to place. We believe this comes as result of the additional trainings and support we are providing through the First Fridays events and TBRI curriculum. This will be a continued focus in the new year.

Looking forward to all that God will do in 2019,