Valuing Vulnerable Children

The Zedler family

Joy Zedler didn’t realize her adopted children felt abandoned when she sent them to time-out, nor did she understand why their behavior wasn’t correcting until her family discovered Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI) in 2014. Four years later, Zedler and her husband, Stephen, start-ed a nonprofit, The Pearl Project, to support and equip other foster and adoptive families, teachers, caseworkers, church volunteers and others.

Through The Pearl Project, so named because “many children’s stories begin in hard places,” the Zedlers off er a parenting method that’s diff er-ent from the traditional lens and that sees trau-ma-exposed kids acting out as, oft entimes, a mere response to their turbulent history.

“Our mission is to help vulnerable children know their value,” Zedler explains, “And we do this through education. We educate, empower and equip anyone who works with children.”

TBRI is a trauma-informed method that is a holistic approach to relating and raising children with a history of abuse or neglect, Zedler offers. There are three principles: connecting, empowering and correcting. Connecting is understanding what you as the parent are bringing to the table, empowering is creating an environment to make your child feel safe, and correcting is trying trauma-informed disciplines to help kids overcome certain behaviors.

After discovering TBRI, Zedler started taking her kids to a quiet place and sitting with them when they acted out, rather than putting them in time-out. This behavior started positive changes, she shares.

The Pearl Project offers multiple resources, such as support groups, training, a Kid-2-Kid Closet and a Hope Fund dedicated to making more resources affordable for families.

There are more than 500 children in the foster care system in Marion County.

“A lot of children we serve are the youngest victims of the opioid crisis,” Zedler notes. “They’re kids who are born substance-exposed, they’re kids who are removed from their home; if we don’t step in, statistically, these kids are going to end up in jail.”

The Pearl Project welcomes support through Pearl Partners, who commit to donate each month, volunteers to be trained in TBRI and play with the children while the adults are in sessions and in fulfillment of prayer requests listed in their online newsletter.

For more information about The Pearl Project, visit

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