Why OrphanWise?


Research indicates that trauma in childhood causes the brain to change and development to be altered. Children who have experienced trauma have different brain chemistry from their peers, often living in a heightened state of fear that impedes sound decision-making. By its very nature, abuse happens in the shadows.  As such, the problem is more pervasive than you might think:

In 2017, child protection service agencies reported a staggering 674,000 cases of child abuse, ranging from neglect, to psychological maltreatment to physical and sexual abuse. In 9 out of 10 of these cases, the child’s own parent was directly involved. [ACF/HHS]

In 95% of childhood sexual abuse cases, the perpetrator is someone the child knows; in 80% of cases, a parent perpetrates the abuse. [RAINN]

At any given moment, there are more than 400,000 children in the U.S. foster care system alone, many of whom come from hard places.  And, every year, more than 60,000 children in both domestic and international systems were adopted by new forever families in the United States. [Adoption Council]

At OrphanWise, we celebrate adoption.  Unfortunately, even after being removed from toxic home situations, countless children still live in the wake of trauma. It is not an overstatement to say that every single individual who works with or adopts children will, at some point, encounter a child who has experienced trauma.  As an interventional tactic, Trust Based Relational Intervention® empowers caregivers to break the cycle of abuse through connection, empowerment and correction.  

The Science Behind Our Approach

For 14 years, researchers at the Karyn Purvis Institute of Child Development have conducted studies demonstrating the efficacy of TBRI®, and have discovered:

Children of parents who have undergone training have demonstrated significantly improved global functioning based on the Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale for Children (BPRS-C), and a significant decrease in psychiatric symptom levels based on the Child’s Global Assessment Scale (CGAS).

Parents who have undergone training report significantly less stress as reported on the Parental Stress Scale.

TBRI® effects a decrease in behavioral problems and trauma symptoms among at-risk adopted children following trauma-informed parent training intervention.

After the first year of implementation in a charter school at a residential facility for at-risk youth, school data showed a 33% decrease in referrals for physical aggression or fighting with peers over a one-year period. After a two-year period of implementation, school data showed a 68% decrease in office referrals for physical aggression. Overall there were 902 of these types of referrals combined in 2010-2011, and only 59 in 2012-2013, resulting in a 93.5% decrease in these types of incidents after the first two years of the implementation process.

Decreases in serious incident reports by 39% and containments by 60% after TBRI implementation in a group home setting providing transitional services for children ages 4 to 12 who could no longer live with their families.

Mitigating the societal costs of trauma

OrphanWise leverages the power of TBRI® to bring hope and healing to children who have experienced trauma. As an interventional tactic, TBRI® empowers caregivers to better care for children from hard places through connection, empowerment and correction.

By replacing the cycle of re-traumatization with a cycle of healing, OrphanWise can mitigate some of the costs associated with the following systemic issues:

In a three-state study, researchers discovered between 47 and 62 percent of foster parents exited foster parenting within a year of the first placement in their home, many of whom listed stress as a primary cause. With an estimated cost of $6,000 to recruit, license and train two foster parents, turnover is a costly problem.

Because parents who have undergone TBRI® training report significantly less stress as reported on the Parental Stress Scale, OrphanWise may reduce the public cost associated with foster parent turnover.

A 2005 Harvard study indicated that children in the foster care system are twice as likely to develop PTSD as soldiers returning from war. Nonfatal child maltreatment, just one of the factors intimately connected to the dev-elopment of PTSD, is estimated to bear a total lifetime cost per child of $210,000 in medical, educational and legal costs. Through our evidence-based method, OrphanWise can mitigate some of these costs by equipping caregivers to heal the scars left by abandonment and abuse.

Youth violence bears an estimated $21 billion price tag in the United States alone. That figure encompasses combined medical and lost productivity costs and does not take into account the significant costs associated with the criminal justice system, psychological and social consequences for victims, perpetrators and their families.

When youth violence is reduced – even at the relatively small scale of a single group home or school – the effects can be tremendous. After just two years of TBRI® implementation, one school at a facility for at-risk youth reported a 93% decrease in referrals for physical aggression or fighting with peers.

Even after children have been removed from dangerous home situations, the foster care system can be a perilous place. One study indicates that, by age 17, more than half of all children in the foster care system have experienced an arrest, conviction, or overnight stay in a correctional facility.

In the United States, the average cost of incarcerating a minor of $407 per day, if the most expensive option is used, resulting in an annual cost of nearly $150,000. As of 2019, person offenses – such as robbery and assault – were leading causes of youth incarceration. Aside from the direct costs of incarcerating juveniles, juvenile incarceration costs state and local governments between $8 billion and $21 billion annually in the form of lost wages, fewer tax revenues, increased recidivism and increased reliance on public assistance. By equipping foster parents to diffuse tense situations before they escalate into prosecutable offenses, OrphanWise hopes to reduce youth incarcerations among its target audience.

Multiple studies indicate that adolescent girls who have been in the foster care system are significantly more likely to engage in health-risking sexual behaviors compared to their peers outside the system, such as having more sexually permissive attitudes, earlier onset of sexual intercourse and selecting sexual partners with risky characteristics (e.g: drug use, delinquency).

Girls in the foster care system are twice as likely as their peers to become pregnant by age 19.  According to a focus group study of 120 foster youth, having a child is a way for some foster youth to create the family they did not have or fill an emotional void. In contrast, teenagers who feel highly connected to their parents— those who report that their parents are warm, caring and supportive —are less likely to become pregnant.

In 2010, the estimated public cost of teen pregnancy was $9.4 billion in the United States. Costs stem from the children born to teen parents, who are more likely to suffer poor health, underachieve in school, be incarcerated or placed in foster care, live in poverty and become teen parents themselves. In addition to the costs associated with public health care (Medicaid and CHIP), the child welfare and criminal justice systems, lower levels of education among teen parents and their children often result in reduced earnings and spending.

By helping foster parents forge genuine connections with the children in their care, OrphanWise will reduce the public cost burden associated with risky sexual behavior in teens.