"I think that trauma affects a large percentage of the population and people are becoming more and more aware of that," said Mark Benoit, St. Clair's Chair of the School of Academic Studies, during the conference. "Children are at a different developmental stage, and so the trauma has a long-term impact and it shows up in health issues later on in life. So that affects our society in a big way."
The Childhood Trauma Conference was offered by the Child and Youth Worker Accelerated Program at St. Clair's Thames Campus. Joy Kemble, Coordinator of the CYW program and one of the conference's organizers, said they were hoping at least 100 people would attend the first event of its kind hosted by St. Clair. She was pleased that about 160 students and community members packed the Capitol Theatre in Chatham for the event.
Caelan Kuban of the National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children was the presenter.
"We wanted to offer students a way to learn about trauma-informed care," said Kemble. She said she found Kuban through researching childhood trauma online and has attended training at the National Institute – located in Michigan – for the past two summers.
"I've brought back what I've learned and used it in some of my classes, but this conference is good to encourage students to go on to this institute and get their certification as a trauma specialist," said Kemble.
Those students who attended Thursday's conference will receive as a credit towards trauma certification offered at the National Institute for Trauma and Loss in Children.
"Joy and Mark and I were talking earlier about how trauma can be so overwhelming, and not only to the child involved, but for us," Kuban said to the crowd during her presentation. "The idea is that we are giving them new experiences with us and we are going to teach them how to use their bodies as resources so that they can better manage. So we're not solving and we're not analyzing. We're finding out what's happened, how that's impacting them, how they perceive what happened and how we can best help them."
Many organizations partnered to present the Childhood Trauma Conference, including the Thames Student Incorporated, the St. Clair College Alumni Association Rain & Shine Behavioural Counselling Ltd. and the Chatham-Kent Children Services.
Students were very excited to have the privilege to attend the conference and both Kemble and Benoit hope to make it an annual event.
"The dream for me is all the people here are all going to go out and it's going to be a ripple effect – they're going to go out there and make a difference for children they work with and will really have a meaningful impact on them," said Kemble.
"These students who attended this conference now have more tools to work with those clients affected by trauma that they'll be working with in the future," said Benoit.