From Summer Camp to a Global Collaborative: Helping Traumatized Kids Heal

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A nonverbal five-year-old began talking in paragraphs after only 10 days. A violent teenage girl who had been under guard changed her behavior for the better in only a week.

And it all started with birds and bunnies.

At age six, Karyn Purvis was the kind of kid who always seemed to find something to care for. While her reach at that age was understandably limited to orphaned animals, such early dedication only served to strengthen her desire to help those in need. At age 14, Purvis said, she knew she was "a steward of the children of the world."

By age 20, she was fostering at-risk kids who had experienced trauma in their lives. Then, after she finished her doctorate degree at the TCU Institute of Child Development, she created The Hope Connection summer camp with her mentor, Dr. David Cross.

From there, her understanding and compassion only deepened.

The Hope Connection is no ordinary summer camp. While caring for at-risk, adopted children, Purvis, also a CPI Certified Instructor, and Cross are able to conduct extensive behaviorial and neurological research. In the process, they help children and teenagers heal through Purvis's system, Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI).

TBRI is specifically designed for adopted children with a trauma background. Its foundation of "neuropsychological theory and research" is couched in humanitarian principles. Purvis holds training seminars across the country, expanding her reach beyond the camp.

Purvis uses "multiple ways to help the youth," says Bill Menchaca, a psychologist for Tarrant County Juvenile Service. "We are most definitely seeing improvement with decreasing physical restraints and becoming a trauma informed direct care staff."

Purvis's current initiative is the Travis County Collaborative, working with everyone and everything in the foster care system, from families to legislation, who comes into contact with vulnerable foster kids. With the capacity to expand internationally, Purvis hopes to change the entire system.

“From the government to the person in the field—when we have that continuum active, we have a change for real global influence,” Purvis said.

Find out more about this remarkable woman changing the world one child at a time, and learn how you can help build a trauma-informed culture of care.
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