Anyone who has adopted knows both the joys and challenges of bringing an infant or child into the family. But what if that child also has deep-rooted issues as a result of experiencing trauma earlier in life?
Very few support systems exist for such families in Ukraine, but Raya Shelashka is helping to change that. In 2015 she co-founded and now directs the Institute of Child Developmental Trauma, a national non-profit organization which focuses on children with a history of trauma and empowers them and their families to build meaningful relationships and trust. The Institute uses Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI)—a practical and evidence-based intervention—to bring healing to traumatized children in Ukraine by equipping and supporting them, their caregivers and professionals.
One way the Institute is doing this is through summer therapeutic camps. The camps strengthen adoptive and foster families by providing tools that help make their homes environments of safety, love, acceptance and guidance. The children learn how to communicate and express their needs and emotions in a healthy way while their parents are equipped with techniques to help their children feel nurtured and supported. “We want to see these children thriving, knowing that they are precious and loved, not haunted by their traumatic past,” Raya stated.
Raya is uniquely equipped to help traumatized children. Several years ago she and her husband welcomed a dozen children into their family who had spent most of their lives on the streets. Being a foster and adoptive parent led Raya to wonder about ways to help children with a history of trauma heal and recover from it. In 2018 she received a Master of Science in Developmental Trauma from Texas Christian University to help her realize her dream.
Last fall Raya described the need in Ukraine as overwhelming, with few champions or resources. But by November 2020, she and her team hope to have trained 30 key change agents in four regions of Ukraine who can empower potential and existing foster and adoptive families dealing with traumatized children. They are also looking to expand their practical resources into Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and Russia.
Please pray for the Institute of Child Developmental Trauma team as they train change agents to have a positive impact on children who have been victims of childhood trauma and their families. Pray as they plan therapeutic camps for this summer—that many children and their families will be healed and able to move forward.