A Working Paper written by the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child focused on the idea of developing and strengthening the foundations of resilience through supportive relationships and skill-building.
In the Adolescent Initiative Program at Tabor, we focus on creating youth that can live independent lives after aging out of the foster care system at 21. Whatever adversity they’ve faced throughout their lives (poverty, neglect, mental illness, trauma, etc.), we try to find ways to create a foundation of support, life skills and resources for each of our youth. In the Mentoring Program, we aim to create a committed relationship between mentor and mentee that will help support the youth after they have aged out of care and help to empower them as they become independent members of society.
In this paper, they discuss the different ways we define resilience in terms of a “positive, adaptive response in the face of significant adversity.” Based on several longitudinal studies about child development under conditions of adversity, this paper discusses the following points (cited from the aforementioned paper):
- Resilience results from a dynamic interaction between internal predispositions and external experiences.
- Children who do well when faced with adversity show “intrinsic resistance” as well as strong relationships with important adults in their families or communities
- Resilience is seen in how the brain, the immune system and genes respond to experiences during development.
- If you have taken the Mentor Training at Tabor, you know that this is something we discuss in depth. Brain development, neuroplasticity, genetics and the (new and fascinating!) discussion of mirror neurons all interplay to create a web of resiliency in youth. You can read more in depth on these factors in the above-linked article.
- Resilience requires relationships, not rugged Individualism.
- This is a very important point. Many associate resilience with grit or self-reliance. Recent studies now show us that the reliable presence of “at least one supportive relationship and multiple opportunities for developing effective coping skills” can help youth better develop resiliency.
- How individuals respond to stressful experiences varies dramatically, but extreme adversity nearly always generates the serious problems that require treatment.
- This is another important point: Because many of our youth have been through very traumatic experiences, therapeutic interventions (tailored to individual needs) are often a part of the road to Independent Living.
These are just a few of the many great discussion points in this article that help us to shape the way we support youth as they age out of foster care, and, moreover, youth on the road to independent living and becoming functional members of society. I encourage you to take the time to read this paper, as it was informative and offered some points to think and reflect on as we continue to look for ways to connect with and inspire youth.