Jan Ference

Executive Director, Haven Society

March 1, 2022 1:05 pm
The Neuroscience of Trauma and Attachment: How the relationships you have built during the pandemic offer hope and healing

When a child is exposed to chronic stress, trauma, violence and/or neglect, brain development is impacted in a significant way. This in turn influences daily function, and the ability to devel-op in a typical manner. This interferes with a child’s ability to learn and attach in a consistent way, and in turn, often impacts their ability to stay focussed and regulated. This is often seen and then labelled as hyperactivity, non-compliance, daydreaming, aggres-sion, and/or anxiety. Gaining a better understanding of the under-lying neurological mechanism of what drives these behavioural challenges, assists educators and caregivers in finding successful solutions.

Science is teaching us that adversity has a direct correlation to both emotional and physical health that can be passed onto fu-ture generations. We are also learning that the quality and nature of the early attachment relationship is more imperative than we ever understood. This information allows us to see the child from both their chronological age as well as their developmental age. Many children with significant adversity in their early develop-ment, can present as immature, and therefore age-appropriate interventions often are not effective.

How has the disruption of life and the additional stress of Covid-19 impacted our kids and their parents? How does this information relate to your work? How can it assist children in the healing and learning process using a neurobiological perspective? How does our society and culture ignore our greatest biological gifts, that are the potential key to lasting change? Lastly, but most im-portantly, how can we find hope in our work?


Jan has spent her entire career working with at-risk children and their families. She completed her Bachelor of Education at the University of Victoria, and got her first teaching job in an inner city school. She quickly realized that she wanted to know more about the social emotional well-being of the complex children she was teaching. She completed a Master’s in Counselling program at the University of Portland. About seven years ago while managing a behavior resource department for a School District, her colleague suggested she attend a three-day workshop on trauma, and that was Jan’s first exposure to Dr. Bruce Perry’s model. From that day on, she was inspired to change her practice and the systems that serve the most vulnerable children. Jan currently mentors clinicians who are training with Dr. Perry.

As of April 1st, 2016, Jan created and led a specialized, early intervention, trauma team. This team has had inspiring outcomes working intensely with women in the perinatal period who have Opioid Use challenges. They have been able to facilitate community system change based on the rich learnings gained from the perinatal work.

In February 2022, Jan assumed the role of Executive Director of Have Society. Haven is a leading anti-violence organization providing service to women, children and youth who have experienced violence.

In 2016, Jan graduated from the Infant-Parent Mental Health Fellowship through University of California. This fellowship has been life changing, as the knowledge and understanding of early caregiving experiences is the key to understanding all life experiences that follow. In addition, she has recently completed the Reflective Supervision Academy 2021/ 2022, through UC Davis.