Podcast Transcript: Allison Elias


Allison Elias, a social worker and therapeutic crisis intervention trainer, talks about her research on the effects of childhood trauma on transition-age youth.

Time: 4:46 | Size: 4.48 MB

NCFY: Welcome to Voices from the Field, a podcast series from the Family and Youth Services Bureau.  Today, we speak with Allison Elias, a Chicago based social worker and therapeutic crisis intervention trainer with more than twelve years experience working with young trauma victims. We spoke with Elias about the difficulties facing transition aged youth who have experienced family violence, sexual or physical abuse and other forms of trauma. 

ALLISON ELIAS: Staff and parents often get really frustrated when, you know, kids are moving along on track and then all of  sudden start going backwards. However, with this population, kids who have experienced chronic trauma, it's very typical for kids to all of a sudden regress and backtrack. 

The population that we're really kind of focusing on here is the population of kids that have experienced multiple and/or chronic trauma throughout their life. You know, these youth tend to be very present focused. So they can't even always remember the periods of success that they may have had leading up to when they've now started to kind of fall apart around transition. 

Their childhood was pretty marred in some bad experience, negative experiences. And they never really got to have some of those normal kid like experiences. So now the idea of "officially" becoming an adult is really scary to them because it feels like, wow. Now I have to just give up, you know, I'm sort of letting go of any shot I ever had at experiencing a childhood.

A lot of these youth really lack social support. Many of them because of the histories of trauma have lost contact with their families. So a lot of times, their closest relationships are basically paid professionals who they know are no longer going to be there once they age out of the system.

NCFY: Elias summarized her recommendations to youth workers and parents. 

ALLISON ELIAS: The first step that we talk about is sort of the old saying of, you know, just talk about the elephant in the room. Address the fact that it is very stressful and that it's normal for them to see a lot of anxiety. And you really want to validate, validate, validate. You know, just ... pick a lens of looking through what they're good at, looking at their mastery and their strengths. 

And don't try to expect them to do really well with something that they've never even tried before. But kind of take what you know they're good at, what their strengths are and try to build up the skill in that area. Focus on increasing their independent living skills.  Focus on increasing their coping skills.  So that they can deal with all this anxiety and mood shifts and things that are coming up for them now. Talk about what potential fears they have. 

You know, I think some people feel like, well, if we talk about the negative, then it might happen. And so they kind of just try to stick with just being like cheerleaders to these kids. And, you know, the fact is these kids are worried about things like becoming homeless. And they've seen some of their peers not do well. 

So talk about those and be open to that and let them kind of get some of their worries and fears off their chest. Sometimes these kids, their anxiety is going to get the better of them.  Where they're going to decompensate to a point where you're not going to feel comfortable maybe with them moving into their own apartment or having more independence.

And, you know, there's obviously sort of a liability piece that goes along with that for professionals. But that really with these kids sometimes we just kind of have to kind of push them through their anxiety and just say, you know what? We see that you kind of started to fall apart here. But we're going to give you a chance anyway. And let's just see how you can do and let's put you in this apartment. Still give them lots of support and all that. But sometimes I think professionals tend to hold kids back and not give them a shot at independence because of our own anxiety. 

And then the last piece is just kind of helping them build better social support networks. Be a detective for them if you have to be. Try to look up that foster parent that they remembered they stayed with for a year from six to seven, but they felt really close to. 

And we've had some amazing stories where you find these people and the foster parent will say, wow. I've been wondering what happened to this kid. And I've been always looking for this kid. But I could never find them. So sometimes you can really reconnect them to people that will then become a future resource for them as they ... as they transition forward.

NCFY: You can get more information and resources for helping young trauma victims from the National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth online at ncfy.acf.hhs.gov


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