What is Empowered to Connect (ETC)?
We refer to Empowered to Connect concepts often in our blog posts! For those of you to whom this is unfamiliar territory, here’s a bit of background. The Connected Child (2007) was written by Dr. Karyn Purvis, Dr. David Cross, and Wendy Sunshine in an attempt to help adoptive and foster parents become more aware of the unique needs of their children and to equip them to be more effective and attuned caregivers. I first read The Connected Child (read an excerpt here) while we were in the application/home study/waiting process in our adoption journey. I remember thinking it was great, but mentally ‘shelved’ it when we were matched with babies, assuming that we wouldn’t need it because babies can’t be impacted by being adopted, right?! A couple of years into parenting, we started to face some significant challenges and I picked up the book again. I quickly realized that we were going to have to look at our children’s behaviours differently, and start to use very different strategies in response to their behaviours. In 2011, Brian and I travelled to Dallas, Texas, to be trained as Empowered to Connect Parent Trainers. Empowered to Connect was developed in cooperation with Dr. Karyn Purvis as a way to teach the basic principles in the book to parents in a small group setting. Also referred to as “trust-based parenting”, it is based on a model called Trust-Based Relational Intervention, which was developed by Dr. Purvis and her colleagues at Texas Christian University. In a nutshell, the philosophy of Empowered to Connect (ETC) is that behavioural correction (what many of us are used to thinking of as discipline) happens best on a strong foundation of relational connection, but because of the hard places adopted and foster children come from, relational connection can be extremely difficult to achieve and maintain.
The philosophy of Empowered to Connect (ETC) is that behavioural correction (what many of us are used to thinking of as discipline) happens best on a strong foundation of relational connection, but because of the hard places adopted and foster children come from, relational connection can be extremely difficult to achieve and maintain.
‘Children from hard places’ is a term coined by Dr. Purvis to describe children who have endured any number of adverse circumstances, including [but not limited to] adoption and foster care [see more in video below]. These children need a style of parenting that is compassionate and focused on relationship as the end goal, but this can feel nearly impossible to achieve when their behaviours are so challenging. ETC has helped us see past the behaviours to focus on relationship, and it has given us the tools to deal with behaviour in a way that does not further weaken our connection with our children.
Basic principles of ETC:
- Empowering principle – we must meet the physical needs of our children, including nutrition, hydration, sleep, sensory, neurochemical…
- Connecting principle – we must meet the relational needs of our children, including the deep need all of us have to feel precious and loved and able to trust that our voices will be heard and our needs will be met…
- Correcting principle – we must seek to correct our children in the context of connection while making sure physical needs are being met…
Hopefully this gives you a bit of a sense of what ETC is all about! Here are a few links if you’d like to know more:
Watch as Dr. Karyn Purvis explains the risk factors for children from hard places:
Learn more about Empowered to Connect parent training.