Fostering Creative Problem Solvers
On Friday, Aug 15, 2014, a truthfully good social design experience took place at the IDSA International Conference in Austin - when designers actively collaborated with exceptional foster care practitioners from Helping Hand Home for Children. Their assignment was to co-develop a series of life-changing prototypes designed to empower foster children to develop the essential mental tools and strategies to become confident and creative problem solvers.
Helping Hand Home for Children
It all began with Mary Austin. In 1893, a newborn baby was found in a shoe box, abandoned at railway station in Austin. Several women who were part of local welfare societies made it their mission to care for and raise the child they named Mary Austin. More than a hundred years later, the mission of Helping Hand Home for Children expanded to include not only providing severely abused and neglected children with food and shelter but also to provide them with the nurture and love that they were denied during the most formative years of their lives.
Helping Hand Home for Children is a residential treatment center that serves up to 41 children at a time, all from various cultural and ethnic backgrounds. Although unique and distinct in their own ways, they all have similar histories. Their lives were once filled with severe physical, sexual and emotional abuse and neglect and because of this they are unable to function successfully in a homelike environment, many suffering from symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Most of the children we serve live in a chronic state of fear, hyper-vigilant and ready to take quick action to protect themselves, often exhibiting extremely aggressive and violent behaviors as a method of survival. Early childhood trauma has many effects on the human brain. Research has shown that experiencing trauma at an early age will cause the brain to reorganize itself around survival, enabling the “fight or flight” response more rapidly and indiscriminately. It is our mission at Helping Hand Home for Children to allow them to live normal childhoods, free from fear and anxiety, recognizing that their behaviors are a symptom of a deeper emotional need.
Services at our facility range from basic direct care to therapy sessions with licensed professionals, all skilled in the art of trauma informed care. Volunteers from the community donate time and money to make sure that not only the children’s basic needs are met but that they are given every opportunity to establish healthy connections with trustworthy adults, an essential aspect of their treatment. Once they truly feel safe and connected to their caregivers, permanent emotional healing can begin.