I'll start with a CPR training story (I know I said I had a few, but I have a lot of other things to write about, so I'm sticking to one). Although, now that I'm about to write it, I'm realizing it might not be as entertaining as I thought it was yesterday. But things could get a little serious after this, so I'll try to make it good.
We went to our CPR training the other night, which lasted a little less than 3 hours.
It was the shortest CPR training I've ever been to.
And the strangest.
Our instructor was really nice, but I'm not sure she was what you would call thorough. And she taught things a bit differently than I've learned them in the past.
For instance, every time I've been through CPR/first aid training before I was told you have to ask permission before you help an adult in crisis. On the other hand, when you run into an injured child (and there is no legal guardian present) you have to assume implied consent and help said child immediately.
This is not what I was taught Wednesday.
Apparently, if an 8-year-old has glass in her foot and she does not want your assistance, you cannot help her. What you can do, however, is try to talk her into letting you help. You have to be calm and reassuring, saying something to the effect of:
"My name is such and such, and I want to help you. Don't worry, I've done this millions of times, and I'm really good at it. I just want to make sure you're around for as long as possible... You know, make sure you stay with us for a while."
Maybe I was a weird 8-year-old, but I'm pretty sure I would not have found that reassuring. In fact, it might have caused me to freak out a bit more than the glass alone would have.
And that is essentially a direct quote.
It took a lot for me not to laugh at the scenarios the instructor came up with.
So there you go. If you ever want to convince a child to allow you to help in an emergency, just tell him he will die without you.
Pretty much the rest of the time I've been here, I've been sitting through hours upon hours of training sessions. Which has been tough, since I have a frightfully short attention span in such situations. It's just not how I learn things, I'm afraid.
Today was an 8 hour behavioral intervention session, which we were (thankfully) able to break up with a few quick videos. I think some of them were made in the '80s, but I actually really enjoyed them. It was essentially a crash course in child development and psychology. Which was both fascinating and an incredible amount to take in.
The videos focused on the development of abused or neglected children and talked about how such trauma can cause huge delays in a person's emotional, mental, and even physical development.
(This is where I have a lot I want to share, but have no idea where to begin. Bear with me.)
A lot of kids in the foster care/adoption system today have experienced several types of abuse and neglect. And many dealt with it long before they were even born. A lot of their moms were physically abused, addicted to drugs, prostituted themselves for money, or all three- even throughout their pregnancies! This affected women's hormone and stress levels, as well as the nutrition and oxygen able to reach the baby. This (obviously) had huge impacts on the unborn children.
And not in a positive way.
Did you know that the brain grows faster in the first three years of life than at any other time? And that after those three years, it is significantly more challenging to change the patterns it has already put into place?
Not only that, but as your brain develops in those beginning years, it loses the synapses that don't receive stimuli. They shut down forever.
Example: If you don't speak to a child in the first years of its life, it will essentially lose all ability to acquire language skills.
In the same way, kids who are neglected during that time can lose all ability to empathize with others. They deal with attachment issues- even as infants- and struggle with any type of socialization.
Kids that witness or experience abuse will develop a mental template that labels that as "normal," and will be prone to aggressive and violent behavior.
And these are struggles that will follow them for the rest of their lives. The stress and chaos these kids experience in the womb and in the years after birth will impact them permanently.
These are the types of kids I'll be working with.
Which is a rather daunting thought.
But, in spite of that, I am so excited- and grateful- to do this job.
We also talked today about having an outlet. Having some thing or some way to release all of the heaviness we see in these kids' lives, because they have been through some truly horrific and completely heart-breaking things. Words cannot describe the things some of them have experienced. And most of them aren't even in kindergarten yet! Our instructor talked about not being able to watch the news, because if she did it would just be too much sadness.
Some of these kids are so impacted and affected by their pasts that it seems unlikely they'll ever be capable of changing their futures. They've become so used to chaos and trauma that it's normal, and that could mean they'll always function in ways that don't make sense to people who don't know their stories.
But that's why we're here.
To provide them with a new pattern of normalcy. To re-train their brains, so to speak.
A psychologist in one of the videos today talked about a somewhat cruel experiment a group of scientists performed a long time ago. They put rats in ice water and timed how long they would swim before they gave up and drowned.
It wasn't long.
Later they put new rats in the water, let them swim for a few minutes, and then took them out. They let them rest and put them in the water a second time the next day, at which point the rats swam for hours. They were able to work harder to survive because they had "the internal expectation that there would be a different outcome."
They had hope.
This summer, I have the opportunity to show these kids that there can be a different outcome.
So even if they end up back with their families, back in the midst of abuse and neglect and sadness (as many of them unfortunately will), they know there is the possibility of something better.
They will have hope.