Illinois has rolled out what advocates say could be a groundbreaking program to help children traumatized by violence and neglect, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Experts say such children are likely to become violent themselves if they do not get help. The program is the first of its kind in the U.S. and could be expanded to all at-risk children if the pilot program is successful. “Part of the focus here is that if we can intervene with some of these kids and teach them to value themselves and teach them how to care for themselves and love themselves, then maybe we can break that cycle,” said David Moore of the trauma program at Kids Hope United in Collinsville, Il.
Moore explained that foster children move into different homes repeatedly: “They may be moved at any time of night. They don’t really have time to prepare. Usually all of their personal belongings are placed in a garbage bag or thrown away. You just look at what the message is when the only thing that these kids may own in his entire life is put into a garbage bag. What would that do to you psychologically? Your vision is that ‘I’m garbage.'” Before this program, foster children experiencing trauma were lumped into the same group as those being treated for mental illness. Trauma can change the chemical balance and actual structure of a young brain, says Dr. Bruce Perry, chief of psychiatry at Texas Children’s Hospital. Experts have suggested that whether these changes become permanent depends on whether the child receives help. The older the children are before they get help, the harder it is to help them.