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Integrating Early Childhood Mental Health and Trauma-Informed Care for Homeless Families With Young Children

Marian E. Williams

Abstract


Rogers, Bobich, and Heppell’s (2016) case study illustrating the successful application of an "Incredible Years" intervention with a 4-year-old girl and her family in the context of a homeless shelter provides an opportunity to consider the intersecting perspectives of infant and early childhood mental health and trauma-informed care.  Cathy’s exposure to intimate partner violence, her mother’s chronic depression, and her homelessness occurred during the critical developmental stages of prenatal development and the first four years of life, impacting her developing understanding of relationships and her emotion regulation.  A trauma-informed perspective provides an understanding of the links between Cathy’s history of trauma and her presenting symptoms of tantrums, aggression, and "moodiness," leading to recommended parenting strategies that support co-regulation and eventually self-regulation of emotions.  Although the Incredible Years intervention was successful in reducing Cathy’s symptoms, the addition of trauma-focused interventions may have the added benefit of helping Cathy to directly play and talk about her experience, together with her mother, so that both can understand and integrate their traumatic experiences and her mother can restore her role as a "protective shield" for her family.  Finally, the opening provided by implementation of a successful parenting intervention could lead to a broader consultation aimed at creating a trauma-informed organization within the transitional living shelter.


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