The Application of CCI in a Cross-Cultural Setting
CCI in a Cross-Cultural Setting
by: Dr. Kirk Austin

Baako cried incessantly at the orphanage, where he was a resident.  When Jake and Sarah stepped off the plane in Zimbabwe, thrilled to adopt this little 3-year-old boy, they were excited, curious and a tad bit anxious.  They arrived home to Canada and after a number of months, were overwhelmed as to how to settle him.  He would cry every time Sarah was out of eyesight and he was so exceptionally clingy that it made it difficult for her to fulfill any of her normal tasks that she was used to with her family of 5. 

The Complex Care and Intervention (CCI) Program has been serving children and communities in British Columbia since 2010. Results from the program have been profound. Children who were once unable to attend schools are now happily enrolled in education. Children who once found relationships difficult are now able to maintain healthy and happy relationships. Further, communities of practice have found that their understanding of trauma-informed-practice has grown as staff have learned the CCI model. Moreover, this knowledge has impacted their work-cultures as they translate this knowledge into the work they do with other children.

What is less known about the Complex Trauma Resources (CTR) team is that we have conducted training for International Relief and Development agencies during this time, also with tremendous success. In the past few years Dr. Chuck Geddes travelled to Uganda and utilized CCI as a framework while working at Noah’s Ark Children’s Home. He has also supported teams with orphanages in Zambia and Thailand. Dr. Kirk Austin has also trained international teams in the effective use of CCI. In 2016, he travelled to Mexico and conducted CCI training for psychologists, educators and personnel of several orphanages on the Baja. He has also trained teams of outreach workers who support street entrenched youth in Alberta, and teams that support inner-city street youth in Brazil.

Sarah was introduced to the CCI team after her adoption referral and the implementation of the interventions followed after regular Functional Developmental Assessments (FDA).  They couldn’t believe what was happening with Bakko. The interventions were specific to attachment and decreasing his stress response.  With consistent application of these, after about 6 months, there was a noticeable difference in Bakko.  He cried less, wasn’t as clingy and overall seemed happier and more engaged in other family relationships, even reaching out to other siblings.  This was a significant change and greatly encouraged the family to continue on with the program.  Sarah told the CCI team that she had no idea how trauma and neglect had greatly impacted on his ‘natural responses’ and once targeted and interventions applied, that real change was noticeable with him.    

In all training with International Relief and Development Agencies, the CCI model translated with ease. As the model is based on elements of human development, the cross-cultural nature of training was not a limitation. Rather, each of the developmental domains were useful in guiding how each could assist in supporting children within a cultural context. For example, where Over-Reactive Stress Response is a central domain for strategic intervention for most children, its application might be different in a cross-cultural context. In B.C. a child may have a “tight tuck in” at bed time. In Brazil, the slow rhythmic rocking in a hammock may provide a similar calming effect. Regarding attachment, soccer, coloring or reading with the child could be used in both cultural contexts to build healthy and safe relationships. As Dr. Geddes had mentioned in a recent conversation, even holding a baby for a brief amount of time after a diaper change could help the orphanage calm a baby for a longer period of time.

It is the hope of the CTR team that the CCI program and its principles will continue to have a positive effect on the lives of children and their communities regardless of their culture or location.

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About the author

Dr. Kirk Austin, Ph.D., RCC, CCI Coach

Dr. Kirk Austin is a Registered Clinical Counsellor and member of our CTR Clinical team. To learn more about him click here.

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