Developing a national Trauma Informed Practice framework

Berry Street believes that an important priority for the next three year action plan, as part of the National Framework for Protecting Australia’s Children, should be the development of a national Trauma Informed Practice framework.

Julian Pocock
Director Public Policy & Practice Development

Over the last two decades strong evidence has been established of the impacts of childhood trauma arising from exposure to maltreatment, abuse, neglect and violence on healthy human development, and the need for children and young people to receive effective support to heal and recover from trauma.

We know more about the way trauma affects brain development, the consequences for the capacity of children to form healthy relationships with secure attachments and the behavioural challenges that traumatised children and young people present within their families, their broader network of relationships and within service settings from maternal and child health, early learning and care services, schools and the out-of-home care system.

In more recent years child and family welfare service systems have sought to respond to this evidence by developing ‘trauma informed’ policy, program and practice initiatives to support children and young people to recover and heal from childhood trauma.

Continue reading “Developing a national Trauma Informed Practice framework”

Creswick Fellowship Tour – Alexander Youth Network

AYN wood

I journeyed to beautiful Charlotte in North Carolina to spend the week with my colleagues at Alexander Youth Network (AYN).  AYN’s main campus or headquarters, and the home of its Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facility (PRTF) and one of their Day Treatment Programs, is located on a picturesque 60 acre property with buildings nestled in a woodland area with open grounds and recreation areas for their clients.  This campus also houses facilities including a gym, indoor swimming pool and cafeteria.

AYN is a non-profit community based organisation receiving funding from fees for services (medicaid, insurance and the like) as well as contributions from individuals, corporations, foundations and government agencies.  AYN serves children ages 5 to 18, who are referred from hospitals, physicians, parents, schools and from state and county organisations such as department of social services and juvenile justice.  AYN serve over 7000 children each year.

AYN provide an array of mentAYNal health treatment for serious emotional and behavioural difficulities including: diagnostic and outpatient services, community based programs, multisytemic day therapy, therapeutic foster care and an onsite, 36 bed psychiatric residential treatment facility.  The idea being that children, young people and families accessing their services can move from service to service with established working relationships of trust within the one organisation.  Added to this is the strong grounding the staff have in child development, trauma, attachment and neurodevelopment as a core component of their orientation and ongoing training.

AYN offers services such as:

  • Individual therapy including EMDR, play therapy, sand tray and an awesome play room furnished largely by donation and financial grants
  • Art Therapy including pottery and their very own kiln
  • A ropes course for adventure therapy
  • A Labyrinth
  • Occupational Therapy with a motor and sensory furnished room including a swing and tunnels.
  • Physical Therapy
  • Reiki

…Read more about Adventure Therapy here, at Chelle Taylor’s blog, My Creswick Fellowship Tour

Edited version of a post written by: Michelle (Chelle) Taylor, Clinical Psychologist and NMT Consultant, Take Two Program

Berry Street Education – Pt. 3

Pt 3 in a three part series on Berry Street Education

Our knowledge about trauma’s shutterstock_160640774consequence on the neurodevelopment of children helps us when our young people become heightened, leading to flight, fight, or freeze behaviour.

Dr Bruce Perry has informed our work at Berry Street. Moving beyond the medical model, we work with Dr Perry’s Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (and his emerging Neurosequential Model of Education) as a structure for understanding the neurobiological development of children who have histories of threat, neglect, humiliation, degradation, deprivation, chaos, and violence.

We are building upon the Berry Street Model of Education, which encompasses nine domains of our trauma-informed education, such as the importance of the integration of clinical, welfare approaches, building positive relationships, developing community/pathway linkages, etc. Teens in library

Significantly, Berry Street has a commitment to teaching children in mainstream settings through the collaborative creation of the Child Safety Commissioner’s program: Calmer Classrooms.

 

Post written by Tom Brunzell, Berry Street Childhood Institute Senior Advisor, Teaching & Learning.

Berry Street Education – Pt. 2

Pt 2 in a series on Berry Street Education

Teens in class

Building upon the foundation of academic rigour and our teachers’ curriculum design for deep-understanding, we turn our focus toward non-cognitive skills.

We define these skills as the performance capacities necessary to support persistent, resilient, growth-mindsets of learning.  Research tells us that self-regulation is a better predictor of success than IQ.  Developing the strengths of courage, gratitude, kindness, and curiosity hold equal importance as learning literacy decoding skills.

We hold the firm belief that Berry Street can be an innovative contributor to the education for our most vulnerable students by integrating our understanding of trauma’s effect on neurodevelopment and evidence-based practice from positive psychology, mindfulness and well-being.

Four key drivers:

1.             Staff well-being and staff self-learning:  Staff must have an in-depth understanding of well-being and working from a strengths-based perspective.  How can staff best cultivate positive emotion and character strengths to be the best teachers/mentors for our students?

2.             Dual-purpose, implicit curriculum:  We seek to take our academic curriculum and revision it through a “dual-purpose lens.”  How will we teach both a literacy objective and a lesson on persevering in the face of obstacles at the same time? Every lesson has the potential to teach cognitive skill and character strength.Teen studying

3.             Explicit and specific character learning:  We believe that in addition to a dual-purpose curriculum, there are specific time-tabled ways to teach non-cognitive skills and through our own practice and refine these opportunities throughout the school day.  (Ex: Sessions that incorporate our knowledge from therapeutic movement, martial arts, creative arts, and personal development / psycho-education curriculum)

4.             Relationship based resiliency:  Our teachers know that relationship is key to our student’s emotional-safety required for learning.  How can we nourish relationships to increase our students’ hope for their own futures by understanding of non-cognitive skills?

 

Post written by Tom Brunzell, Berry Street Childhood Institute Senior Advisor, Teaching & Learning. 

Thanks SYN Media!

We trust you’ve been enjoying reading posts about our Good Childhood conference over the past seven months.

Just to recap, a group of young people from SYN Media attended the conference and we have been sharing their descriptions of keynote and other presentations ever since. The youth bloggers wrote a total of 35 posts!

We want to thank SYN and the bloggers for their amazing contribution to the success of our conference. Their posts provide us with a terrific public record of the key conference themes.

And along the way, they posed important questions which have helped to keep alive the conversation about a good childhood.

It is also important to take this opportunity to recognise the value of youth led organisations like SYN Media. Melvin Delgado and Lee Staples talk about the benefits to both the young people who participate and the wider community of youth-led organisations.

Our conference was a case in point. We believe our message was strengthened by the inclusion of young people’s voices and we certainly hope the young bloggers gained valuable work experience and extended their skills. A win-win for all of us!

Future of the Good Childhood Blog

You may have noticed that that The Good Childhood Conference blog has been renamed the Good Childhood blog.

From now on we will be using this blog to discuss issues related to the Berry Street Childhood Institute’s aims. These posts will be part of our plan to bring about:

  • Increased understanding and awareness of what sustains a good childhood; and
  • Wider and more effective action directed at the amelioration of adverse childhood experiences.

Stay tuned for posts from Berry Street Childhood Institute staff, Associates and Fellows (many of whom are international experts in their fields!), as well as from other guest bloggers and even young people themselves!

 

Post by: Marg Hamley, Director Berry Street Childhood Institute

 

 

Wellbeing Workout Part 2

 

Part 2 of ‘Wellbeing Workout’GoodChildhood 2013_427

When you consider the definition of wellbeing, it becomes clear that it is more than simply the absence of illness.

There are varying levels of wellbeing – languishing to flourishing.

[Wellbeing] is the subjective experience of life satisfaction, positive emotions and high levels of functioning in life.

There are many social and work benefits to a greater wellbeing.

So, what determines wellbeing?

Jo divides it into three sections:
50% set range – your genetics; although this is a huge chunk, it’s not everything!
10% circumstance – something that our culture perhaps over emphasises (your age, gender, education, income, class, having children, ethnicity, intelligence, physical attractiveness)
General findings state that once you have the basic needs to live well, cars, clothes, holidays, cosmetic surgery, and education don’t necessarily increase happiness. There may always be a feeling of wanting “more”
40% intentional range – this is exciting because this is the most controllable, where an individual has the most influence. It is the ways we think, feel, and do.

Jo quotes, “Action may not always bring happiness but there is no happiness without action”. She speaks of micro-moments in our everyday lives that create significant change over time. Small thoughts, words, deeds that make a large difference in our live and the lives of others. Positive emotions, for a brief moment, broaden and “open up the world” to an individual. It broadens their thinking and behaviour. These positive moments, when frequent, broaden and transform people into an “upward spiral”.

Basically, over time, positive emotions increase work productivity, physical health, and better wellbeing.

The next activity involved getting audience members to pair up. One of each pair would be A, the other would be B. Both were told to stare at one another, stoically. Then A was told to smile. Somewhat amazingly, B smiled as a response. And vice versa, when told to do it again. (Fun fact: Adults tend to smile 40 times a day, while children over 400.)
So, try your best to smile as much as possible.

GoodChildhood 2013_403

Overall, Jo’s workshop was an informative, inspiring and productive session that really did foreground some of the important issues surrounding mental health and wellbeing. There were some great tips on how to maintain mental fitness, and help maintain a strong sense of wellbeing.

Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.

Wellbeing Workout Part 1

Jo Mitchell, The Mind Room & AFL Players Association
Jo Mitchell, The Mind Room & AFL Players Association

 

There are micro-moments of joy that can really create significant change over time.

 

This double workshop was jam-packed with interactive activities, great tips for maintaining wellbeing, and plenty of information on mental and physical health. It was so full of great ideas that the blog post will be in two parts.

It began by getting the audience members into pairs and having them complete a five-step workout:
1. Stand up and have a stretch
2. Notice what’s going on – thoughts, physical feelings, emotional feelings, etc.
3. Introduce yourself to your partner, and share something you’re looking forward to
4. Draw a portrait of the other person you see in 30 seconds – except that once the pen hits the paper you can’t look at the paper again, and must keep your eyes on the other person
5. Give your portrait to the other person

Jo explained that this was conducive with the Five Ways to Wellbeing, a workout incorporating over 500 studies. It is based on the human experience of maintaining wellbeing:
1. Being able to move
2. Tuning in (to notice thing, acknowledging the importance of mindfulness)
3. To connect with others (one of the strongest predictors of wellbeing)
4. To learn
5. To give

Jo explained that we tend to,as people, pay attention to the negatives in our life much more easily than to the positives. What we payattention impacts our performance in every day life, and therefore, our wellbeing.GoodChildhood 2013_401

Jo then spoke about positive psychology – this is changing the perception of people, by seeking what is right in their lives rather than what is wrong. This not a complete therapy, nor a traditional approach to mental health, or a ‘Pollyanna’ (always happy) approach – instead it just aims to re-focus the subject on a more positive aspect of their lives.

Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.