PEOPLE CHANGE THROUGH STORIESAdvice from a renowned researcher on listening and lifting up stories to cultivate family well-being.
Systems change when people change. And people change through stories. Dr. Bruce Perry candidly offers compelling insights on the power and science of storytelling. This episode demonstrates how some of the most important things we can do to improve family well-being and change systems starts with listening.
Dr. Bruce Perry offers insights on what our culture needs for deeper understanding of the core issues communities face.
Matt shares his origin story as a case worker and shares what happened when he stepped back from his social worker checklist and listened to someone’s story.
What are the origins of the book title “What Happened to You?” as it relates to Dr. Bruce Perry’s work?
How can we alter the trajectory of the current child welfare system?
What happens when practitioners ask families “What happened to you,” versus “What’s wrong with you”? Dr. Bruce Perry references how this question shift derived from Dr. Sandra Bloom’s work on The Sanctuary Model.
“When you change your stance from authoritarian to curiosity, it really makes a difference,” says Dr. Bruce Perry.
Matt shares, “I think that if we’re worried about kids who are coming into CPS and we’re worried about their safety (which we are), then we have to be worried about their parents, their families, and their communities, too.”
Dr. Bruce D. Perry on his decision to use storytelling in his work.
Dr. Bruce Perry shares his insights on the impact of storytelling on a listener.
“People change through stories,” says Dr. Bruce Perry.
Matt shares an audio clip from Episode 2 “LOOKING FOR THAT WARM HUG ALL MY LIFE” with Shrounda Selivanoff.
“She [her counselor] acknowledged my pain,” said Shrounda, “and it wasn’t this ‘you’re not enough,’ it was ‘I see your pain and I want to really comfort that.’ That woman nurtured my soul.”
Bruce recalls his book with Oprah where she describes her experience of being seen and preludes stories from a documentary he’s working on.
How can people create powerful connections and open brave spaces for deep understanding?
“To put everything aside and be fully present in a moment is a necessary element to making that kind of connection.” says Dr. Bruce D. Perry.
Dr. Bruce Perry asks, “how do we make it easier for our front-line people to be the providers of [full, present] moments.” He and Matt offer insights.
Assessing and working towards relational wealth versus relational poverty.
What is “traumatic wisdom” and where does it come from?
Dr. Bruce D. Perry offers advice to organizations and systems on chasing change.
Matt shares final thoughts.
- Documentary Film “From Place to Place” | Institute for Family
- EP 66: Social Workers in Film | NASW Social Work Talks Podcast
- Dr. Bruce D. Perry's website
- Book: What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing | Author: Oprah Winfrey and Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D.
- Oprah Winfrey and Dr. Bruce Perry on 60 Minutes: Treating childhood trauma | CBS News
- Resources | The National Child Traumatic Stress Network
- Work with Dr. Sandra Bloom, M.D. that helps organizations become trauma-informed, trauma-responsive, and trauma-resilient: The PRESENCE Model | Creating PRESENCE
Bruce Perry: People change through stories. If we really want people to know more about the value of early childhood or appreciate aspects of child abuse and neglect, it’s not about another white paper consensus with experts. It’s about compelling narrative integrated into soap operas, dramas on TV comedies, the storytelling mechanisms of our culture. That’s the way we change.
Matt Anderson: That was the voice of Dr. Bruce Perry. And if you don’t know who Bruce Perry is, you probably know who Oprah Winfrey is. Bruce and Oprah just published a new book titled “What Happened to You”. Dr. Perry is a researcher, a clinician, a teacher, and probably one of the foremost leaders in the fields of trauma and adverse childhood experiences.
I’m Matt Anderson and welcome to another episode of seen and heard by Institute for Family. On this podcast, we engage in stories and conversations. That recognized child welfare transformation starts with seeing families for who they truly are. The conversation that I had with Bruce focused a lot on the importance and the impact of storytelling.
So I wanted Bruce and you the audience to know a little bit more about me and my origin story. And so that’s actually where we started the conversation.
Matt Anderson: Bruce. Welcome. So glad to have you here.
Bruce Perry: Thank you very much. I appreciate the opportunity.
Matt Anderson: So my hope is we can do something a little bit different with this conversation. I’m hoping that we can try to actually apply your work and what you raised in the book to some of the work that we’re doing at Institute for Family
Bruce Perry: Yeah. Love it. Great.
Matt Anderson: Okay. So I’d like to actually give a little backstory before we get into the conversation. So this might take a few minutes. If you don’t mind. I want to share just a little bit, and this is some of my origin story in this work. And why I think your book resonates so much with me and so many others.
So the backstory is about a young man named Cody. Cody was a kid that I worked with when I started my career in child welfare. And so he was in foster care. I was an Independent Living Case Manager and my job was to help prepare him to age out of foster care. So think about housing, employment, education. These were the goals that we were working on to help him make a successful transition from foster care to independence.
And so I was eager to help him. And I remember sitting in his apartment one day and we’re sitting on his couch and I’m there kind of with my checklist. And, you know, he basically just interrupted me and said, you know, “do you know my story?”
And I said, “not really”. And he said, well, “I’d like to tell you my story”. And I kind of had that moment of, okay. Do I just keep going with the goals or do I take a pause and listen to a story? And of course, I decided to listen. And so he told me about being removed from his mom and being separated from his siblings and going into the first foster home for the first time people that he didn’t know.
And then he just told me his journey of 17 different placements, over seven years. Group home foster family detention centers, and a little bit of like what it was like to go from one place to the next. And then he, you got to the current day and started talking to me about his fears and concerns about aging out.
And then he got really serious. And you, you know, it’s not a particularly serious kid. He was much more of a goofy kind of lighthearted, big imagination kind of person, but he got really serious and he said, “you know, my life matters. And people need to know what happened to me.” And he paused on that. And then jokingly said, “we should make a movie about my life.”
And I said, well, “what do you want this movie to be about?” And he said, “well, I just want to tell my story of all these 17 different placements and what it was like.” And I thought it was a brilliant idea. And I said, we should do that. We should make a movie. We should call it From Place to Place. And we’ll tell your story of going from place to place in foster care.
And, and three years after that day, we released a feature documentary. One of the first things we filmed was Cody getting off a Greyhound bus in Missoula, Montana. After he had aged out of foster care two weeks after he had been in Phoenix, Arizona meeting his dad for the first time in his life. And I asked him this question, I said, what was it like to meet your dad?
And he had a very simple answer as one sentence. He said, “it was pure joy”. And I thought, man, you know, seven years in foster care, and did we ever give him an experience of pure joy? What could we have done differently? And that was 14 years ago. And that moment of stepping back and listening to Cody’s story of what happened to him was the moment that changed me.
And so part of why I want to have this conversation with you and talk about the work that you do is. Let me stop there and just let you chime in on what you’ve heard in that story.
Bruce Perry: I love that story. I wonder how many other people in his life, he tried to tell a story to who didn’t take that moment and listen, and how many felt compelled to fill out their forms, check their boxes and do their job and not hear him.
So I think first of all, good for you, but also what a generous kid. To give you that gift, pretty special. And also just think about what kind of kid is able to still be so open and forgiving to his own father, who I’m sure there’s a story there, but then experienced that and let himself be open enough to experience that in a joyful way. It sounds like a real special boy.
Matt Anderson: He is one of the things that he told me to, I asked him why it was pure joy to meet his dad. And he said, well, he taught me how to make pancakes and wash the car. And man, like all the things I’ve been trying to help you with and you didn’t want to learn a thing from me. And then that relationship, it made all the difference.
Bruce Perry: Yeah. It’s powerful story. You know, the nice thing about it is this a story that led to action, which. Is important in a lot of times, our stories will have an emotional impact or they’ll make us think or feel, but it’s nice to see when stories lead to action. That’s how the world changed.
Matt Anderson: Absolutely. So I want to come back to that actually. I want to talk to you a little bit more about that. And so that gives you a kind of a sense of sort of my origins, but that’s led to where we are here today. I work for Children’s Home Society of North Carolina. We just launched Institute for Family. This is a new effort for us. It’s really grounded in this idea that we want to elevate and prioritize family wellbeing.
And I’ve followed your work for a long time. I’ve learned a lot from you. Your work makes sense to me. And then I read this book “What Happened to You”. And my work started to make more sense to me and the work of the Institute started to make more sense to me of, oh, this is what we’re doing. This is what this podcast is about. I’m super curious where that, like, why that question? Where did that question come from?
Bruce Perry: The origins of that shift in focus actually comes from Sandy Bloom’s clinical group. There’s a guy named Joe Foderaro who is a social worker who worked with her. You know, Sandy was also one of the pioneers of trauma and they were discussing a client.
She kept trying to get people to focus on. Don’t worry about what they’re doing, not what happened and how did they get this way. And ultimately he basically summarized the shift in their clinical work by saying, it says, if we’ve changed our primary question from what’s wrong with you to what happened to you.
And that summarize this sort of developmental perspective very nicely. And now here’s the interesting thing about that. I’ve known Oprah for 30 years and I’ve been talking to her about this stuff for 30 years, trying to get her to understand all of this stuff. And little by little, you know, she’s a very smart woman, but she’s also very overextended.
You know how it is when you’re busy busy. The opportunity to reflect on things is fleeting. So we’d have all of these experiences of talking and solving problems and then talking and solving problems. And finally, we were doing this 60 minutes piece about three years ago, and she was asking what’s wrong with these kids that are doing this?
And I said, well, it’s not really what’s wrong with them. It’s the key question is what happened to them. And for her, she says, that’s when the light bulbs went off. And it made me realize that what a shitty teacher, I was, it took me 30 years for her to find out,
Matt Anderson: Your going to have to change your bio.
Bruce Perry: No really haha. It took forever for her to get it, but that’s the power of that change in perspective, I think.
And so she wanted that to be the title of the book. And I think it does, as you point out, I think it captures a real important shift in people’s frame of reference. And it really is also a question that is important and understanding how systems work like think about our child welfare system. It’s like the reality is we need to understand where it came from, you know, what’s the evolutionary trajectory of the current system.
And if you understand that and then you go, okay, I understand why they do this. And then once you understand why those policies and practices are in place, then you go, all right, we don’t need that anymore, we don’t need that anymore, we know better now, so let’s change. But I think if you don’t have that developmental perspective or historical perspective on systems change, it’ll be the same thing as with people you just are going to do. Well-intended things that don’t have much impact.
Matt Anderson: I think that’s right. I think that’s the power of that question and that framing is, is it simplicity, right? It’s just a simple, straightforward question, but it stops you dead in your tracks. I feel like. And then, now all of a sudden you’re asking that question about the people that you’re seeing in your work, and it changes your point of view.
What do you think about this? Just occurred to me as you were talking, actually the shift that happens on the other side of the let’s just call it the therapist, client relationship. When the therapist starts asking, or the social worker starts asking what happened to you rather than what’s wrong with you?
What do you think’s happening on the other side of that for the parent, for example, in the child welfare system?
Bruce Perry: You know, I think that general perspective is kind of a shift from being all-knowing and authoritarian, to being curious and questioning. It takes you away from being judgmental. You can be less punitive.
It puts you in a better position. Uh, whether it’s a therapist or an administrator or anybody to form a real respectful relationship with whoever it is you’re interacting with. When you change your stance from authoritarian to curiosity, it really makes a lot of difference. We did a study many years ago, where we did an assessment within the first week of the parents and the child, when there was a removal, everybody said, all these parents are never going to talk.
They won’t give you accurate information and they’re going to lie to you. And I said, why don’t you have a chance? You know, let’s just ask. And it was unbelievable. We had like 99% of these parents, the only parent group in our pilot study of 275 families that would not sit down and talk with us about all this stuff was a wealthy family. That had lawyered up immediately after the process, but all these other families, which introduce ourselves and say, listen, we know this is a really challenging time. Nobody knows your child better than you do. And we want you to help us do our best by your child. And they were open. They talked about how overwhelmed they were.
They talk about when they hit them, they talk about all kinds of stuff. And we really wanted to know how did it get to the point, that the child that you loved that had aspirations and hopes for you just couldn’t handle.
Matt Anderson: Yeah. And I think that if we’re worried about kids who are coming in to CPS, which we are, and we’re worried about their safety, which we are, then we have to be worried about their parents too, and their families and their communities.
And asking the simple question allows us to get to that place of curiosity, as you’re describing it in a place of empathy. And then a place of understanding and then, okay. Maybe we can take a different pathway forward. That is based on what parents need rather than our intent to intervene on families.
And I think it’s a big shift. So you mentioned Oprah a minute ago. So I want to ask you a question about storytelling and the significance of storytelling. Oprah is one of the world’s great storytellers, I think. And you’ve chosen to work with her and put your work into writing that often is storytelling.
And I just wonder what drives that decision for you to engage in this way of doing your work as what I would call a storyteller?
Bruce Perry: When you are a therapist. You kind of are a story collector, you hear lots of people’s experiences. I think that there’s power in people being able to share their story, like the way we started this podcast, that was a powerful experience for that boy that somebody wanted to hear his story and that he could tell his story.
And it’s a way of being seen. Right? It’s a way of not being invisible. A lot of these kids feel like they don’t matter. Like they’re not part of anything.
Matt Anderson: You mentioned a second ago, the idea of somebody being able to tell their story and somebody listening to them, listening to their story, the experience of being seen, being heard.
And sometimes I think it goes as deep as feeling loved in that moment. And that with this podcast, the kinds of conversations that we’re having, it’s, we’re getting into those kinds of moments for people and, you know, letting them tell us what that experience was like to be seen. What do you think that’s doing for the listener?
Like where do you think the listening to the story moves people as the audience or the listener to action? Or what impact is that having? That’s a big question, but curious.
Bruce Perry: No, that’s it. That’s a great question. I think at a really important level, one of the most important things that does happen when people watch a good interview or a good conversation is that listening is basically modeled for them. I don’t think we’re good at listing in our society. We don’t really, you can teach people how to do it. And so I think on one level, when there is a positive, reciprocal, respectful conversation, it’s modeling for people and so they can learn.
The second thing is that when two people have a conversation or an interaction, and they both feel as if it was positive. There are physiological things that happen in the brains of both people and they mirror each other. So that certain parts of the brain that are involved in pleasure, regulation will be activated.
So people feel safer and they feel pleasure when they are in this reciprocal relational thing. And now I don’t know that they’ve studied or looked at observer of that kind of conversation, but I would not be surprised if a similar kind of phenomenon happens almost as if you’re joining in and you’re part of that experience.
You’re probably aware of the literature about building empathy from reading novels. I would suspect that the same kind of empathic emotional practice can happen watching film.
Matt Anderson: I think so. I was saying that I believe that story is one of the best ways that we can create change in the world. We have to understand people’s experiences to know why we want to do something differently oftentimes.
Bruce Perry: I think it’s important that we talk about this a little bit more in-depth, because if you’re interested in systemic change, we will never change systems or public opinion. By having traditional public engagement campaigns, the ad council, God bless them, that’s not going to change people. People change through stories.
And so if we really want people to know more about the value of early childhood or appreciate aspects of child abuse and neglect, It’s not about another white paper consensus with experts. It’s about compelling narrative integrated into soap operas, dramas on TV comedies, the storytelling mechanisms of our culture.
That’s the way we change I’m with you a hundred percent. I think anything you do to recognize that human beings are storytelling, apes. It’s the way we transmitted information from generation to generation to generation. Before we had the written word and we’re neurobiologically primed to sort of fall right into a story.
I know that, uh, an opportunity to talk to a good science reporter and get a paragraph or two in the New York times about trauma will reach more people than every single academic article I ever wrote. And so the stuff that you guys are doing, that’s going to be using methods that are even more compelling. So film will reach even more people than, you know, popular written books.
Matt Anderson: So that, that being said, we want to play a clip for you. So this is going to be a clip from one of the conversations that I had for this podcast. It’s with Shrounda Selivanoff. And so Shrounda is in Washington. She’s a public policy director for Children’s home Society of Washington.
And she has a long-lived experience of system involvement and these sorts of things. And so the clip that you’re going to hear is actually from our conversation, but she’s reflecting on one of her many kind of transformational moments where she’s talking to her therapist at a treatment center that she was in and the moment that she experienced with that woman.So I’d love to hear your reaction.
Shrounda: I’ll never forget this time. Uh, when I was in treatment and one time I was sitting in her office and my mom angry with me and she was chastising me and my mom had a way of chastising me that even as a grown woman, it would reduce me down to a five-year-old child. And I remember I was talking with, uh, the counselor and the counselor was there during the conversation.
And at the end of the conversation, you know, I was getting ready to just kind of sulk away and she acknowledged my pain. Like she saw me. She saw the broken child, she saw the shattered woman, and I have to tell you very few people have ever acknowledged my own pain. And that was such a life-changing moment that someone saw me. Like they saw who I was and it wasn’t this, you know, you’re not enough. It was, I see your pain. And I want to really comfort that. That woman nurtured my soul.
Bruce Perry: Very powerful. If you recall hearing in the book, Oprah talking about being seen, it’s the same kind of powerful experience and for Oprah, her specialness being seen or acknowledged by her teacher was something that she refers to again and again.
And we just finished doing an apple documentary about mental health. And I think the title is “The Me You don’t see”, you know, so many of the people in it mentioned at one point or another, the incredible power of another person actually seeing the real them, the pain they have, that I may be a pro athlete, but I have depression, or I may have these other great gifts, but I literally loath myself that recognition I think of being seen in a true way is a powerful form of connection. And as we write about a lot in the book, connection is really at the core of, of all human success and human need. To be connected to belong to a people. And I think being seen is antecedent to that.
Matt Anderson: Yeah. And at the end of it, she says that woman nurtured my soul and it was that line that just makes me emotional just thinking about it.
And it just makes me wonder, like, how do we create those moments? For people so that we are in that space of nurturing people’s souls rather than judging people or treating people.
Bruce Perry: We talk a lot about that very issue that your ability as a therapist, teacher, parent, to put everything aside and be fully present in a moment is a necessary element to making that kind of connection that has such power.
The good news about that it’s not that that you have to do that for hours on end it’s it’s these truly full present moments as she talked about it, wasn’t the full hour that she listened to that stuff. It was that right at the end where she was fully present and felt seen, that was transformative. And I, I talked to my colleagues about this all the time that, that the dose of therapeutic change isn’t one hour, every week.
It’s literally the moments that we hope can happen throughout the week. And I think that part of what inhibits our ability to be that present like that is that we’re all overextended. We’re over-scheduled we’re overtired. We don’t build reflection and reflective time into our own day. We’re not very good at self-care.
So the recognition of the importance of those moments, I hope ultimately being told through stories like what you guys are doing. We’ll make some of our people in systems start to think about how do we change. You know, how do we make it easier for our frontline people to be the providers of those moments.
Matt Anderson: You just made me think about, we talk about self-care so much in our field, particularly in child welfare, because we, you know, a 40% turnover rate in an organization is not that bad because the work is so heavy and so difficult. But thinking about self-care from the point of view of how you care for your clients, how you care for parents, how you care for families.
So if you don’t have that space to be reflective enough to create those moments, are we really helping? And then it makes me think, too, we layer on top of that for the parent experience. We’ve now taken their child away and separated mom, dad from their kids, and then we’re creating these experiences. And how do you think about that?
It’s a big question too, but just the parent experience of going through this and not necessarily knowing where their kids are and how they’re doing?
Bruce Perry: well. You know, the irony is that if you think about this in a developmental way. We’re taking these same kids that we’re trying to protect when they’re young, now that they’re grown up and parents we’re further harming them, we’re marginalizing them, we’re blaming them or shaming them or withholding information from them we’re over controlling. We’re just, again, all well-intended, but really developmentally and trauma ignorant. And so I think, you know, one of the things I’ve seen a lot, is it a lot of the parents that we work with where things kind of unravel drugs are involved and the drugs are typically used to self-medicate trauma-related stuff.
And so when we add more distress and shame to their lives, we’re just increasing the probability that they’ll turn to their old tried and true ways of coping with problems. And so it’s always hard for systems to turn on themselves and go, wow, we really are doing the wrong thing. It’s easy to say all those parents are lazy.
They’re this they’re that. We’re contributing to the transgenerational problem. And until we really face that, and don’t extrude parents from the process and come up with some way to have a, I’ve seen this done very, very well in many indigenous companies. Or there will be, the child will just literally, instead of staying with mom, when she’s drinking and struggling, the family, the community gets together and says, all right, until you can get your stuff together, Billy is going to stay with auntie and you’re welcome anytime you want to come and eat. If as long as you’re sober, come to his events at school, but you gotta be sober and do what you need to get your stuff together. We’ll try to help you. In the meantime, we’re going to take care of Billy, no government agencies involved. It’s this family community derive set of solutions.
And of course it’s hard to universally apply that, but I think we need to try to be better at that kind of intervention.
Matt Anderson: Yeah. I mean, universally difficult, but I think fundamentally, and you’ve talked to, even in this conversation a lot about the importance of relationships and connectedness are. And so I wonder, fundamentally, should we be thinking about, particularly in the work with families about relational wealth versus relational poverty, and is that a driver for us? Should it be?
Bruce Perry: I think it should be the primary driver. If you look at so many different lines of research, One of the most permeating things that comes up again. And again, whether it’s resilience, population, health research outcome from mental health problems. Connectedness is such a powerful variable.
The presence of stable enduring relationships is such a powerful, predictive component. So when we do things that break that, that take a child from their scout troop, from their school, from their church group and put them in a new community where they’re disconnected, we’re just increasing their risk.
And again, we just have to get better at integrating these things into the way we solve problems. The wisest people I know of always Are people who have grown through their traumatic experiences, to be much more understanding and compassionate about the frailties of human beings, you know, Nelson, Mandela, you know, you look at what he’s suffered and all kinds of people that have experienced terrible things can still be very hopeful about humanity, very kind to other people.
Very generous. That quality, that survives, what we do to people is pretty amazing. Every one of those folks will tell you that they got there because there were other human beings who helped them. And so that connectedness part that we’ve been talking about Matt is really at the core of that process.
Matt Anderson: Yeah. I mean, it just has, I think the primary is the way to think about it. I mean, we should be assessing for it. We should be working towards it. It should be one of the biggest concerns that we have. When we start to work with families, is this family connected? Are we doing things that make them more or less connected?
When we did From Place to Place, the film that we made years ago, there was a year or two after it came out where I was traveling around the country and we were doing screenings. And anytime we did a screening, they would want me to do a talk back or Q and A that sort of thing. I said, I’m okay doing that.
As long as there’s somebody, at least one other person there with me that has lived the system. Cause I don’t know all the answers to the questions that people want to ask. There are people that are more expert than I am. And one of the questions that always came up for somebody that had say aged out of foster care, because they were usually folks that had had traumatic wisdom, right.
They’d come through and made it. And the question was always how you know, and the answer was always a little bit awkward because oftentimes it was a young person. Wasn’t quite sure yet how they had come to this place, but almost every time the answer came to the place of, well, there was this one person.
And this one person was connected to me and believed in me and it was unconditional and they were there and they were there at my graduation. They were there. We did a conversation on this podcast where it was, it was even that young woman’s mom, even though she spent most of her childhood in foster care, her mom was still showing up at all these places.
And now they’re reunited and I see it all the time. People come to this place. There’s that connection. There’s that person. And then oftentimes they’re ready now to reach back and lift other up.
Bruce Perry: And as you say mad, I mean, if someone who knows the system and has lived through the system is part of changing the system. You’re going to get to the focal points much more quickly than people on the outside looking in. I’ll never forget a presentation. When I was in Australia many years ago was by a foster. And he got up and it was sort of an in-your-face talk to all y’all were out there. And it was on a piece of paper. He had the 10 things that this is what we need.
Right. And it was like, unbelievably good. It was like, oh my God. And I have a copy of that somewhere. And I’ll try to find it and send it to you. But it was all just simple stuff. Listen to me, it just, wow, that’s pretty easy. Haha
Matt Anderson: Haha that’s not so bad, do we need a grant for that.
Bruce Perry: Yeah, exactly.
Matt Anderson: What’s the evidence.
Bruce Perry: What’s the evidence base. The talking to them actually makes a difference.
Matt Anderson: I want to go back to the beginning here to kind of wrap us up. You know, we’re building this Institute for Family to do a number of things, but a lot of it’s grounded in listening and lifting up stories, being a platform for people to tell their stories. So wonder what advice you would have for us as we go forward.
Bruce Perry: First of all, I think the fact that you’re even doing this is pretty amazing. I think my biggest sort of advice about systems or organizations is to not get fixed, stay flexible. You know, one of the things, again, being an observer, you know, that this is so true that the circumstances that lead to certain decisions and decision-making in this moment may change and we should be able to change with the circumstances. As you mature as an organization and evolve and listen to more people, it may become apparent that something that you thought was a great idea is maybe not a great idea. This is sort of an overused term, but the degree to which your organization can maintain an open mindset, that’s what I’d recommend is just always, just always be curious and introspective and reflective about what you’re doing. And you’ll do good things. You know, if you really listen to people, they tell you what, what works. I mean, it’s like, there’s so many times I’ve had patients that were telling me and telling me, and then finally I listen. I’m like, oh my God. So you’re saying we should actually do this. And they’re like, yeah, that’s true. And then lo and behold, that works right.
Matt Anderson: That’s the power of relationship being connectedness, right? It’s it’s that space where the truth emerges and we can work with it. That’s incredible. This has been a fun conversation. I’ve I’ve enjoyed it.
Bruce Perry: I have as well. Thank you very much. My pleasure. And keep up the good work. We’ll do it. We’ll have to
Matt Anderson: We’ll have to do this again.
Bruce Perry: Yeah. I’d love to.
Matt Anderson: Thanks again to Dr. Bruce Perry for a great conversation today. His new book with Oprah is called “What Happened to You.” I hope you enjoyed this conversation. And I look forward to seeing you on our next episode, you’ve
Isaiah: You’ve been listening to the seen and heard podcast by Institute for family. And I just wanted to say, thank you guys so much for tuning in today.
We went to see and hear from you. So be sure to rate us and leave us a review because we want to see how these stories are influencing your work. This week’s episode with Bruce Perry was full of resources and great tidbits. You can find what you didn’t catch on this week’s episode at SeenandHeardpodcast.com.
Go to SeenandHeardpodcast.com for videos, articles, and additional clips about Bruce Perry and all of our other guests. I’m Isaiah Strozier and I am a part of the creative team here. I’m not by myself though. We have Executive Producer, Michael Osborne, Editorial Assistance from Paige Williams, mixing and mastering and sound design all by Morgan Honaker. And our great composer is Christian Haigis. Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode. And I hope to see you next time.
More from this season / 6 Episodes
WHAT IF WE DIDN'T HAVE TO WAIT UNTIL BAD ENOUGH
Spoken word poet, Slam Anderson, and her mom, Lillie Lee-Williams, engage in an emotional conversation with host Matt Anderson that demonstrates the strength of family bonds despite a 14-year child welfare-initiated separation. This episode questions what would happen if the child welfare system was designed to support root causes of family stress instead of waiting for late-stage intervention. Plus, Slam recites her spoken word poem “My Need for Change,” detailing her experiences with the system, which Matt Anderson refers to as the “anthem” of the family well-being movement.
LOOKING FOR THAT WARM HUG ALL MY LIFE
Shrounda Selivanoff takes us on a journey from childhood to motherhood, including a head-on collision with the child welfare system. Hear from Shrounda on how being seen and acknowledged for who she was changed her life forever. Shrounda is a passionate mother, kinship caregiver, and parent ally who inspires and helps other parents who experience the system through her work as public policy director at Children’s Home Society of Washington.
MY DARKEST MOMENT WAS NO LONGER GOING TO BE BLEAK
Hear from Alise Morrissey about the impacts of individuals—a volunteer, a judge, an attorney, and a program leader—who offered glimmers of hope by seeing her for who she was instead of her circumstances. Alise tells her story of going from straight-A student to giving birth amidst a prison sentence. She reveals how her faith, the people who showed her kindness, and the determination of being there for her child led to recovery from substance use disorder and reunification with her daughter.
CRACK THE CONCRETE WHEN YOU WALK
Experience what life was like for Jaquia Wilson, the youngest of nine children, who went from growing up with a loving mother in the Bronx to aging out of foster care without a support system. Jaquia demonstrates resilience through the tragedy of losing her mother, becoming isolated from her siblings, experiencing an abortion, and entering foster care. With a little help from a caring social worker, Jaquia’s fighting spirit leads her to college and, now, advocacy work for youth in care.
THE WALLS STARTED TO COME DOWN
Hear about the loving relationship that developed between one foster family looking to adopt and one family fighting for reunification when they moved past the status quo and let their walls come down. Brett and Jessica Crisp decided to abandon their original plan of adoption to help a little girl placed in their care reunify with her parents. See what’s possible when this foster family decided to put their personal agenda aside and shift perspective to “what would I want to have happen if I were the birth parent?”
THE MOMENTUM IS BUILDING
From the national to community level, hear how the movement to prioritize family well-being is gaining momentum. In this season finale, Matt interviews three guests to hear the types of conversations taking place across the country around supporting families and recognizing their value. Jerry Milner, former Associate Commissioner at the Children’s Bureau, shares his perspective on the progress of the child welfare transformation work on a national scale. Sharee Pemberton and Hope B. Haywood of a rural county in North Carolina discuss how community leaders can bring about change and build trust through listening to families and meeting them where they are.