The Child Reintegration Centre regularly holds workshops on healthy parent-child attachment for parents of CRC-enrolled children. Attachment, or normal bonding between parent and child, is the primary mental pillar of a child's development and is essential for a family's health and stability.
Families in Sierra Leone may struggle because of extreme poverty, parental illiteracy, and household instability caused by parents leaving to pursue work. Many of the children enrolled in a CRC program have experienced trauma in their young lives, which may cause them to struggle with behavioral problems. The CRC's attachment workshop helps parents understand the critical importance of bonding, and effective strategies for dealing with behavior challenges without damaging the bond between caregiver and child.
The attachment workshop covers six modules:
- Emmanuel Lamin, CRC Case Manager
Saturday, January 12, five Mercy staff attended the "Helping Babies Breathe" training held in the Great Hall at the CRC. The training, arranged by Carol Nelson of Rural Health Initiative was led by neonatologist Dr. Sulaiman Sannoh. Dr. Sannoh, a native of Bo, is currently working in New Jersey.
Helping Babies Breathe teaches the initial steps of neonatal resuscitation to be accomplished within the first few moments after birth. The practice saves lives and gives a much better start to many babies who struggle to breathe at birth. The HBB curriculum was designed to specifically meet the needs of resource limited environments. HBB neonatal resuscitation techniques that have been shown to reduce neonatal mortality by up to 47% and fresh stillbirths by 24%.
Mercy's lead midwife, Hawa Koroma, found the training highly effective. "We were taught how to help babies breathe in case you deliver a baby that has a heartbeat, but is not breathing. We were able to practice using a NeoNatalie newborn simulator, which was very much like a real newborn. Mercy was able to keep three of these simulators as well as a wide variety of face masks and supplies we did not have in the maternity unit. Most of us had learned these techniques, but this was good practice, and we love having the new equipment."
The staff of the Child Rescue Centre has provided training on human sexuality in a Christian context to students in its programs for years using a curriculum called Honoring God With Your Body (HGWYB). The CRC counselors, Emmanuel Lamin and Rosa Saffa, organized a two day workshop for the CRC staff to brush up and refine their teaching skills on this important curriculum. The workshop was led by Milli Jantz, a missionary and expert in reproductive health. Milli facilitated discussions on selected topics that included the male and female reproductive systems, HIV/STDs, and the value of family spacing for child wellbeing, reproductive health and health practices to prevent disease transmission and early unplanned pregnancies.
The CRC staff were also able to participate in a question and answer session designed to help them teach the curriculum to students as effectively as possible. “It was a great workshop, especially learning about the specific topics. I learned about the female reproductive system, particularly when pregnancy occurs. I also learned it is important to encourage people to visit counselors or health professionals for any sign or symptom,” reflected Johanese Baun. “It was especially good to be able to ask questions and get answers. It was good for the staff, and it will be good for the students,” said Mabel Mustapha.
The Child Rescue Centre provides more than health and education support to children; they help families too. CRC staff offer workshops for parents of children in its programs as well. Recently, this has included the addition of a six module training package and workshops on attachment theory, designed to help foster parents and those recently reunified with their own CRC children learn how to understand attachment in order to build and nurture healthy attachments with their children.
The six attachment theory training modules were created by the University of Maine Honors College students and faculty, working together with a wide range of professional associates in collaboration with Patty Morell. Extensive research, fact finding, and exchange of study data was drawn upon to create this workshop product. CRC staff contributed by making culturally appropriate revisions and suggestions to graphics, imagery, verbiage, and activities contained in the training.
According to CRC Case Manager Deborah Kanneh, the first two training sessions using modules one and two have been very well-received. “It has helped parents to create a healthy relationship and a strong bond with their children. The most useful lesson they learned during the first workshop was the use of the three T’s,” Deborah said. “This means they should talk with their children everyday telling them how much they love them, to touch their children by holding their hands, and also make time for them.”
Parents attending the workshops share that they’ve learned how important it is for children to be attached to their parents so that they can be more secure and comfortable around their caregivers and know that their needs will be met. “A child who has gone through trauma in his or her life needs more encouragement from me,” said one mother.
“I’ve learned that children will like to repeat positive behaviors if you speak compliments to them,” shared another.
“A child that has experienced trauma can be aggressive towards their fellow children,” shared another participant. “We have to understand the source of trauma in our children before we react.”
Participants have requested that a component of the attachment training be included in every monthly meeting they attend at the CRC, and that the CRC hold sessions that include the children as well. They’ve also requested materials they can share with other parents in the community. As one participant said, “love and attention are really important in families.”