Many youths come into Nexus-Woodbourne Family Healing’s Residential Treatment program with a unique set of needs and unsafe behaviors. Our staff work diligently to provide not only daily living needs such as food, shelter, education, exercise, and recreational activities, but each youth receives (and participates in) daily trauma-informed care and treatment interventions designed to address the underlying issue(s) causing their unsafe behaviors.
In January 2022, Nexus-Woodbourne received a referral for a youth with a very specialized need for trauma-informed care. Erin* arrived at Nexus-Woodbourne and was admitted to our Diagnostic Center, a program specifically designed to care for youth who have been or are at risk of commercial sexual exploitation. Like other youth, Erin had her own set of needs. but unlike her peers, Erin was clinically deaf.
Working Together To Provide Trauma-Informed Care
Knowing they were the only place for Erin to go to get the care that she needed, Educational Director Bryon Fracchia, Clinical Director Dr. Tess Carpenter, and their teams came together to find solutions to help Erin and best communicate with her. They researched translator services, worked with the local school districts, and interviewed Erin’s primary caregiver as well as Erin to complete a full assessment and admit Erin into our Diagnostic program. Staff were educated on what Erin specifically would need, how to interact with her, and make sure she was doing okay in her day-to-day interactions.
“Erin was a very unique student…” said Fracchia. “Erin has significant hearing loss…reviewing her file she required a variety of supports within the school to assist her with socialization and access to the curriculum. To be very transparent, when I first saw the file, I did not know if we could meet this young person’s needs.”
While the team worked on solutions, Finance Director Sammy Ndiyo took a special interest in Erin and her needs as he himself is hard of hearing. “I’m an advocate for it because I am hard of hearing myself,” Ndiyo said, “for me it was like let’s do whatever we can to make sure we get her the proper care…let’s embrace the challenge.” Ndiyo understood firsthand what growing up with troubled hearing was like, and how important it is to have access to the correct resources, help, and caretakers who can advocate for your needs.
Although Erin had a cochlear implant, could read lips, and use sign language, she still needed specialized attention and care to help her through the program successfully. One of these needs was an interpreter during school hours to help with background noise and conversations.
Erin’s Clinical Therapist Caitlyn Ellis has a Bachelor’s in Deaf Studies, knows American Sign Language (ASL), and has worked with deaf clients earlier in her career. Erin and Ellis met weekly for therapy. “It was fun having someone else to sign with,” said Ellis on working with Erin, “She loved when people signed or wanted to learn, she was really comfortable with that.”
Antoine Richardson, Unit Coordinator for the Diagnostic program, interacted with Erin often in her day-to-day life at Nexus-Woodbourne. “It wasn’t a big adjustment like people thought…she was playful and smart. We tried not to treat her differently; I think that’s what she really wanted.”
Learning New Skills
Throughout her time at Nexus-Woodbourne, Erin became more comfortable as she learned new social skills and grew in her education. “She did very well in her classes,” Fracchia said, “She started to show an aptitude for carpentry…She enjoyed making things with her hands, her carpentry teacher was very excited to have her.”
When Erin left Nexus-Woodbourne in July 2022, she had new tools and skills at her disposal, along with a newfound love of carpentry. She transitioned to a new school and remains in contact with the team at Nexus. “I think she walked out of our program with a renewed sense of confidence in self, and with more individual poise. I saw greater confidence in the classroom. She engaged with her peers and found more opportunities to smile.” Fracchia shared.
Nexus-Woodbourne is now equipped to work with youth who may have hearing difficulties, and the team has a renewed sense of collaboration knowing if they work together, they can continue to provide trauma-informed care, in even the toughest of situations, for the youth and families we serve.
“I think she walked out of our program with a renewed sense of confidence in self, and with more individual poise. I saw greater confidence in the classroom. She engaged with her peers and found more opportunities to smile.”
- Educational Director Bryon Fracchia
*Names and other details have been changed to maintain privacy.