Breaking the cycle of trauma

Breaking the cycle of trauma - Covenant Health Foster Care Clinic

A juggler might drop a few balls now and again. No big deal.

But when troubled foster children get tossed from one family to another, it’s a very big deal. They are severely traumatized, explains Pediatrician Dr. Tami Masterson, founder of the Covenant Health Foster Care Clinic. Tami believes that this “lack of stability is the single biggest issue in foster child health today. Without intervention, many of these kids will drift in the system for 10, 15, 20 years.”

Tami speaks with Britany and her boyfriend Jesse, while her baby quietly nurses. Appointments are not rushed at the Covenant Health Foster Care Clinic, which often means long days for clinic staff.

New mom Britany, now 21, was one of these children. She entered foster care at 12, after authorities discovered her father had been sexually abusing her.

Britany admits she was not easy on her foster parents over the years.

“Back then, I was a pretty awful person,” Britany explains. “I was lying about my age. I was beating people up. I was stealing. I was addicted to drugs. I was sleeping with people who were way older than me.”

Then Britany had her first baby at 17.

Because she wasn't able to provide a safe environment, her baby was taken from her and placed in foster care. At first, Britany was devastated. “Losing my (first) daughter was the most painful thing I’ve been through,” she explains. But she quickly developed a friendship with her baby’s new foster mom and things got better.

And then a rare thing happened. This foster mom made room for Britany in her home, with a very strict condition: no drugs. And suddenly, Britany had some stability in her life.

Around this time, both Britany and her first baby became patients of Tami's. Her team at the Grey Nuns Foster Care Clinic includes Unit Manager Bonnie Ford, case workers, nurses, social workers, administrative staff and Jean MacDonald, a volunteer.

Back then “I was an angry kid, having temper tantrums and breaking stuff,” explains Britany. “But Dr. Masterson took time to get to know me. She saw that I was a hurt little girl. She had faith in me and fought for me.”

And that has made all the difference.

“When I first met Britany, I really didn’t understand trauma,” explains Tami. “But I saw that Britany was hurt and had tons of potential. She needed someone to fight for her and believe in her.”

“And then I figured out trauma,” she adds. “Our patients make perfect sense because of what happened to them. Britany’s story is her story because of her trauma. What is special about Britany is that she owns it. She has stopped being victimized by it.”

“Trauma is a very breakable cycle,” Tami asserts. “It’s people like Britany who break the cycle. It's people like us who tell them they can.”

These days, Britany has her own place with her boyfriend and a new baby girl who lives with them. Life is much more stable. She is sober and working hard to provide her baby with a healthy environment. When Britany asked Tami to be her new child’s pediatrician, she was honoured. “I’m so happy you came back,” Tami says.

“I have two children now, so I have to be the best person I can be,” Britany says. “I’m proud of who I am. Everyone experiences negativity. It’s not what happens to you, it is what you do with it afterwards that determines who you are.”

"You inspire me,” replies Dr. Masterson with a hug. “I think you are awesome. I really do love you.”

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