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June 15, 2022

‍How Our Camps Leverage TBRI to Disrupt Cycles of Abuse

“When you connect to the heart of a child, everything is possible.” 

– Karyn Purvis, TBRI Founder

Trust-Based Relational Intervention, or TBRI®, was first put into practice at a summer day camp for foster and adopted children—the result of years of child developmental research directed by Karyn Purvis. 

The camp would later be named Camp Hope by parents who were astonished by the “unprecedented behavioral and attachment gains in our 10 young campers,” Purvis reported. 

Today, TBRI is the modality of choice at Royal Family KIDS Camps, operated by For The Children chapters all across the country. And just like Purvis intended, we aim to make our camp experience not just memorable, but transformative as well. 

TBRI forms the crux of our methodology as we work to heal children in foster care who have experienced neglect and/or abuse. After enduring so much trauma—most often at the hands of a parent or other close relative—these children desperately need to learn to trust again.

A life-giving camp experience is the ideal place to re-introduce children to healthy interactions with adults and other children. TBRI teaches them that they can feel safe again, one activity, one snack, one hug at a time. They become more empowered to form secure attachments, counteracting the effects of their trauma.

They need to know that safe spaces are possible. The key is to create a fun, predictable environment where traumatized children can begin to heal. At our summer camps, children learn through experience that their physical and emotional needs are going to be met now and in the future. Predictability, unconditional support, and good old fashioned fun create this transformative environment of trust.

We know this process works because we have seen countless children change before our eyes over the last 30 years. And it’s a beautiful thing to watch.

TBRI is a practical and proven method, with clear tools for addressing and healing the trauma that so many children in foster care experience. Our camp volunteers and directors go through a full curriculum to become trained in TBRI. 

Here are some strategies that they deploy in the healing process:

Daily transitions and creation of a continuous life story:

We provide our children with advance notice before transitioning between daily activities. Our children don’t like surprises because they have been hurt by surprises in the past.

Through the use of journaling and verbal sharing, our children are able to create their own story and imagine a future where they can be what they want to be. Storytelling is a powerful tool for healing and the creation of continuity. Throughout time, humanity has experienced healing by telling stories, and our camps continue that tradition. 

Playful engagement and movement:

Playful engagement builds trust between caregivers and children. When children are recovering from abuse and neglect, their minds, hearts, and bodies need to be engaged. Five days of immersion at our camps is the ideal way to break down their defensive walls and demonstrate that life is so much bigger than their past experiences. 

Our camps are packed full of dynamic activities like zip-lining, archery, swimming, and arts and crafts that present exciting opportunities for kids in foster care to build healthy connections with adults, other children, and a loving God while expanding their horizons. These activities allow them to build fresh cognitive, social and emotional connections while they make memories to carry forward for the rest of their lives. 

Nutrition and time to rest:

It seems so simple, but a balanced diet and regular bedtime routines are good for the mind, body and heart. Our summer camps provide frequent, healthy complete meals and rest times on a regular schedule so that our children can really relax and heal. 

At the end of five magical days, our goal is to create a lifetime of memories—and enough self-esteem, resiliency, and hope to disrupt the cycle of abuse that so many children in foster care will face. 

To help us continue bringing this exceptional, life-affirming experience to as many children as possible, please consider becoming a monthly donor.

To learn more about our Royal Family KIDS Camps, click here.

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