A Systemic-Relational Approach to Working with Families Involved with the Foster Care System


Many parents whose children are placed in foster care have histories of complex interpersonal and systemic trauma. The placement of their children in foster care is experienced as another trauma, leading most parents to respond with anger, rage and defensiveness.  For service providers tasked with protecting children, the anger shown by biological parent is often misinterpreted, perceived to be additional proof the parent is unable to keep the child safe and secure. In this workshop, a therapeutic approach will be presented that takes into account how systemic oppression and complex trauma contribute to lengthy foster care placements. Holding a framework that integrates contextual and neurobiological factors allows service providers to work respectfully and collaboratively with parents in addressing safety concerns and meeting the emotional needs of their children. Using case vignettes and videos, participants will learn how to sequence parent, child and family sessions to work towards a range of necessary therapeutic goals, including:

  1. listening to the parent’s experience of feeling marginalized by the foster care system and taking steps, both with-in and outside the therapy room to keep parents elevated as parents
  2.  tending to the parent and child’s trauma history and the emotional dysregulation and reactivity  resulting from it exploring parenting beliefs that may contribute to excessive corporal punishment or neglect
  3. helping parents attune to their children’s emotional needs and repair relational ruptures

Therapeutic activities that promote parent-child attunement and nervous system relaxation will be integrated throughout the training.

Catherine Lewis, LCSW, MS is a Co-Director of the Ackerman Foster Care and Adoption Project. Ms. Lewis has extensive experience working with families who have experienced trauma and has served in leadership positions at several New York City social service agencies. She has presented nationally and internationally on the best practices of working with families. Ms. Lewis maintains a small private practice in New York City and Westport, Connecticut, working with families, couples, and children. In Connecticut, Ms. Lewis serves as the Co-Director of the Fairfield Chapter of A Home Within, a national network of volunteer mental health professionals who provide therapy for children in foster care.

Date: Friday, December 11, 2015
Time: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Tuition: $135
Contact Hours (CEU’s) for NYS: 5
CE Credits for NASW: 5

The Ackerman Institute for the Family SW CPE is recognized by the New York State Education Department’s State Board for Social Work as an approved provider of continuing education for licensed social workers #0052.

This program has been approved for Continuing Education Credit Hours by the National Association of Social Workers, CT and meets the continuing education criteria for CT Social Work Licensure renewal.

Under the New Jersey Administrative Code Title 13, Chapter 44G, subchapter 13:44G-6.4, New Jersey accepts New York State approved courses for CEU’s.

Damaly Ferreira
212 879-4900, ext 111