Pathways to Permanence 2: Parenting Children Who Have Experienced Trauma and Loss ©

What is it?

This program is designed for Ontario-based adoptive, kinship, and customary care families who are parenting children who have experienced trauma and loss. The program empowers parents and caregivers to apply tools and techniques to effectively parent their children and help them heal.

How long is the program?

The eight-session Pathways to Permanence 2 program is offered to parents and other caregivers over an eight-week period of time. Sessions take place once per week.

What is the cost?

The program is entirely free to join.

How do I sign up?

Click “register today” on the list of courses below to register for an upcoming session!

Upcoming Sessions

Sessions Overview

Session 1, “Parenting Children With Extra Needs” begins the adoption and permanence knowledge and skill building content, focusing on the impact of societal views on the adoption/permanency experience for children and families. The similarities and differences of parenting through adoption/permanence versus non-adoption/permanence are explored, as well as a child’s understanding of adoption/permanence. Openness in adoption is discussed, particularly as it relates to children knowing their story. The extra challenges involved in becoming an adoptive/permanent family are explored with an emphasis on identifying strengths in families that can prepare them for the journey ahead.

Session 2, “Lifelong Issues in Permanence” continues the adoption/permanence knowledge and skill building through an exploration of kinship connections for both children and parents/caregivers. The Seven Core Issues in Adoption and permanence is introduced, and provides a theoretical framework for the class series. The core issues of Loss, Rejection, Shame & Guilt, Grief, Identity, Intimacy and Mastery are discussed as they relate to all members of the adoption/permanence constellation. Recognizing the core issues is an intervention that can assist constellation members and professionals to better understand each other and the adoption/permanence experience.

Session 3, “Childhood Development” presents the stages of child development, as a foundation for understanding what happens when a child’s development is impacted by trauma and loss. Emphasis is given to how children may become “stuck” at an earlier stage of development, based on traumatic life events, and the importance of parents/caregivers parenting to the stage of development rather than chronological age of the child. The difference between a traditional parenting approach and a developmental re-parenting approach is introduced, with focus given to why traditional parenting methods are often ineffective with children who have experienced trauma and loss. Techniques for identifying and meeting the needs underlying children’s negative behaviors are explored.

Session 4, “Creating Positive Attachments, Part 1” introduces the theory of attachment, another foundational concept for this class series. The important role of attachment in the formation of healthy relationships is discussed, and the critical role of the Arousal-Relaxation Cycle in the attachment relationship between child and caregiver. A healthy cycle, in which the child’s needs are consistently met, is described, as well as what happens to children when attachment is impaired by trauma and/or multiple changes in caregivers. The two tasks of the parent/caregiver are defined, which are decreasing distress and increasing pleasure for children. Emphasis is placed on the importance of doing this over and over again as part of the attachment building process, with techniques provided for parents/caregivers to use in assisting their children in forming healthier connections.

Session 5, “Creating Positive Attachments, Part 2”, introduces the science of attachment, and how attachment impacts a child’s developing brain. The neurological benefits of a secure attachment pattern for infants/children is discussed, including the negative impact of chronic neglect/abuse on a child’s regulatory system and attachment pattern. Participants will also learn how their own early life experiences have a lasting impact on their relationships, with emphasis given to the importance of parents being able to regulate themselves before responding to their children’s behaviors. The impact of a parent/caregiver’s attachment style on the child’s resulting attachment style is explored, including the importance of parents/caregivers being attuned to their children’s needs in order for a more secure attachment to develop. Attachment-building behaviors that parents/caregivers can do every day with their children are presented.

Session 6, “Parenting the Child of Abuse and Neglect” gives an overview of abuse, neglect and trauma to provide a context for better understanding children’s histories, behaviors and needs. The therapeutic parenting skills of reflective listening and talking to children about their difficult histories are explored, with examples provided of what children understand about their story at different developmental stages, as well as language to use when sharing particularly sensitive information with children. The lingering feelings that children continue to experience as a result of neglect/abuse, even when they are currently in a safe home environment, is discussed, with further opportunity provided to apply the concepts of developmental re-parenting, attachment-based parenting and therapeutic parenting to children’s challenging behaviors.

Session 7, “Parenting the Child with Drug & Alcohol Exposure” begins with an overview of the high incidence of parental drug and alcohol use in child abuse and neglect cases, including children who are exposed in utero to drugs/alcohol. The impact of prenatal exposure on an unborn child’s central nervous system and brain development is presented, with interventions for care of prenatally exposed infants. The long term impact of in utero exposure is explored, and the concept of sensory processing is introduced to help participants better understand some behaviors of older children who have been prenatally exposed. The importance of using developmental re-parenting, attachment-based parenting and therapeutic parenting techniques with children who have been prenatally exposed is reinforced, with additional guidelines for helping children who were prenatally exposed.

Session 8, “Building a Community-based Family Support Program” provides Pathways to Permanence 2 participants with the tools that they need to begin to build an ongoing parent support network in their community. The participants will be guided and supported by their Pathways trainer and the ACO’s PACT Parent Leader, an experienced adoptive parent who has built a thriving parent support group and youth network in her community. Information and contact information about existing supports and networks in their communities will be provided to participants. The leaders will work with the participants to develop a plan so that the knowledge and the relationships built during the Pathways to Permanence 2 training can continue to grow, and a bridge to an ongoing family support program is created.

More About Pathways

Pathways Flyer

Pathways Booklet

Pathways Video

Since 2015, we have offered Pathways 90 times in 42 different Ontario communities to over 1260 parents and helped create and support over 50 adoptive parent support groups in Ontario.

Highlights from 2019-2020:

  • 18 Pathways offerings were completed in 15 Ontario communities
  • 280 parents/caregivers participated in the Pathways training program offerings
  • 94% of the participants rated the training as Very Good or Excellent*
  • 95% will Definitely Recommend it to other families.*

*please note the percentages are of participants who completed the evaluation

Over a three-year period ACO worked with the University of Toronto on an evaluation program for Pathways. The evaluation program demonstrated strong results in the following key areas: positive changes in parent resilience, family functioning, and nurturing and attachment.

The evaluation study and its results were published in the Adoption Quarterly journal on May 14, 2021. The journal article concluded:

“Given the pivotal role that resource parents have in promoting children’s well-being, it is critical that resource families have access to supportive services and that parent training programs that aim to assist them are empirically evaluated.”

Please see the ACO’s press release below and the link to the Adoption Quarterly article below, as well as the original University of Toronto Fact Sheet.

We are grateful to Dr. Fallon and her colleagues Joanne Filippelli, Susanne Truelsen and Jessica Carradine for their work on this initiative and to the long-time supporters of the ACO who provided the funding to make this evaluation program possible.


[View the Journal Article]

Download the May 25th, 2021 Press Release

Download the Pathways 2 Fact Sheet

What do previous participants have to say about these sessions?

“Pathways’ curriculum was excellent – more parents, early on in their parenting journey, need to benefit from it.”

“This training had a great impact in my life. It taught me the parenting through adoption is different. Also it helped me parent with more empathy and understanding, calm and positive attitude.”

“Positively – it has given us hope. Things before this course were very dismal.” 

“Pathways has been a godsend for our family. We were experiencing particular challenges at home and having the support of the training and peers was tremendous and taught me how important it is for me to have access to support. I have a much better sense of adoption related challenges now.”