Thank you for understanding developmental trauma disorder when no one else did

One of the challenges of raising a child with developmental trauma disorder is how many professionals do not truly understand the disorder. However, I know one social worker who “gets it”—and had the fortune to work with her.

Natasha was the first professional who understood my family was in crisis. She understood that my son Devon has an irrational need to control people and situations. Due to his early trauma, it is how he copes. She was able to look beyond his superficial charm to identify the underlying issues.

One Saturday, Natasha showed up in her pink pajamas while my son was raging (she also taught me to use the word “rage” instead of tantrum to effectively communicate the severity of my son’s behaviors to mental health professionals). She couldn’t stop his rage anymore than I could. But she sat with me. Sometimes that’s all I needed. Natasha breathed new hope into our family and perked up the wilted and drooping mother inside me.

In honor of Social Worker Month, this is my thank you to the social workers who have touched the lives of families like mine in positive ways. If you’re a parent who hasn’t been fortunate enough to work with a wonderful social worker, I hope you will find a “Natasha” for your family.

Thank you to the social workers like Natasha (above) who make a difference for kiddos with developmental trauma and their families

Dear Social Worker, 

Raising a child with developmental trauma has been difficult, sometimes devastating. I feel like the parade of professionals—teachers, therapists, doctors, social workers, specialists—just don’t “get it”. I’m so lonely. I’m desperate for help but it seems like I’m constantly hitting a wall. I’ve been put down, unheard and misunderstood.

But you were different. You made a real difference in our lives.

Thank you for hearing me.

You really listened as I poured out my sadness, frustration and exhaustion. You didn’t judge. You didn’t offer platitudes. You were trained on complex developmental trauma and understood how complicated these situations can be. For once, I felt understood.

Thank you for believing me. 

You didn’t dismiss my concerns as over-reactive or over-sensitive. You understood that my child is charming with you because it’s his way to gain control and feel safe. I sometimes feel like I am going crazy because he acts so differently with me. You made me feel validated. 

Thank you for partnering with me. 

You collaborated and communicated with me. Together we were able to come up with the best solutions for our family and for my child. You understood that children with developmental trauma often triangulate the adults around them. You believed that by helping me—the whole family—you were helping my child. You were right.

Thank you for showing up. 

You answered my emergency calls and texts. You stayed late when there was a problem. You walked through my front door and told me to take a break—often my first in the day—while you pulled out a board game to play with the kids. 

Thank you for trying to help. 

You were creative and resourceful. Developmental trauma is difficult to treat but you taught me about therapeutic parenting. Not everything worked but some things did. You gave me renewed hope with each new approach you suggested. 

Thank you for not giving up on me. 

You never gave up on me even when I gave up on myself. Parents like myself get PSTD from the stress. So often I wanted to curl up in a ball but then you came knocking at my door with kind words, a big smile and practical help.

I know you are overworked and underpaid. You watch TV at night surrounded by stacks of paperwork. Emergency calls interrupt your weekends and evenings. You eat on the run and drink lukewarm coffee. But, you still remember the name of every child you work with—their siblings and friends’ names too.

You have touched my family and helped us grow and heal. I am deeply grateful and wish all families had an amazing social worker like you on their team.

Sincerely,

Keri

Originally published by The Institute for Attachment and Child Development here.

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