Creswick Fellowship Tour – Sandhill Childhood Development Centre

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I spent the week of May 12 -16 with the staff and residents at Sandhill Child Development Center in New Mexico.  “Sandhill Child Development Center is a residential program for children ages 5 to 13 at admission, who are experiencing significant difficulties functioning in their current home, school or community due to an inability to regulate their emotional states. By repairing a child’s trust in care and adult guidance, Sandhill gives the child the tools necessary to proceed with a healthy and bright future. Sandhill Child Development Center emphasizes a relationally-based clinical approach that is grounded in the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) developed by Bruce Perry, M.D., Ph.D. and The ChildTrauma Academy.” Sandhill takes children from all over the United States.

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As one of the ChildTrauma Academy’s initial partner certification sites there was no question about visiting Sandhill. Having been at the implementation of neurodevelopmentally informed interventions in their residential treatment for some time now, I wanted to see for myself where they were up to and what discoveries they had made.

Interventions include:

  • Individual weekly therapy for the child
  • Family therapy
  • Parent training sessions
  • Modelling sessions/co-parenting on site
  • EMDR
  • Animal Assisted Interventions
  • Nutrition – provision of a “brain friendly” diet which strives to use many organic and whole foods.
  • Exercise and recreation – including sports, team building, martial arts and other exercise based activities.
  • Service Learning via voluntary interaction in the community
  • Neurofeedback
  • Wilderness Adventure Therapy.
  • Daily education

All of this provided on site or as part of the one program! Sandhill has capacity for up to 30 children and adolescents at any given time and their average length of stay is around 18 months. Read more about Sandhill Child Development Center 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

International Speaker – Jenny Fox Eades

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During my time in Australia, it was my pleasure and privilege to tell stories about heroes to two groups of Australian teenagers. I told my grandmother’s story, of struggle and humour and courage in the slums of the East End in the early part of the 20th century.

And I told the story of John, Violette and Abdullah – all of whom gave their lives for their country, one a hundred years ago, one fifty years ago and one two months ago. The teenagers were those who attend the Morwell and Noble Park campuses of Berry Street School.

I was in Australia (I live in the UK) for ten days and the reaction and welcome and feedback I had from the students at the Berry Street School was as insightful, as moving and as humbling as any I heard on my visit. The students were able to enjoy a moment’s quiet to listen to a story simply told – and to identify strengths in the characters they had heard about. They said the lesson was ‘fun’; they said it was interesting; they said it was ‘practical’ – you could touch and feel and see what we were talking about.120729_161

I have worked with stories and strengths for ten years now and I am always amazed by how quickly this simple but profound language prompts students to ask deep questions and to reflect on what they hear with clarity and insight. The students were not new to the language of strengths. Their teachers had clearly been doing some great work in this area that I was able to tap into and build upon.

I immensely enjoyed working with Australian educators during my visit. And telling a few more stories…

 

Berry Street Education – Pt. 1

Pt 1 in a series on Berry Street Education 

StudyingBerry Street Education seeks to:

  • Advance models of secondary schools to meet the needs of educationally disadvantaged / disengaged young people with a history of trauma, abuse or neglect.
  • Bring together three fields of research:

o   trauma-informed

o   neurodevelopmental

o   positive psychology/education, uniting them in a strong culture of academic achievement.

  • Inform the teaching practice of vulnerable children through this integrated approach in a continuum of school settings.

Cognitive & Non-Cognitive Skills at the Berry Street School:  CHARACTER COUNTS

At Berry Street, our knowledge of trauma’s impact on our students’ development guides our education program design. We seek to understand and undertake a bold next step to our curriculum development and school culture: the integration of our knowledge of trauma’s impact on neurodevelopment along with the best practices around the sciences of well-being, human flourishing and positive psychology.

Our students come to us with histories of education neglect, substance abuse, generational trauma, and a great deal of personal struggle.  We seek to create dual-purpose educational experiences: building both cognitive skills and strengths-based resilience.

We know that for our Berry Street students to succeed in school, in transitional career pathways and beyond, we must teach a mosaic of both cognitive and non-cognitive skills.   We define cognitive skills as the skills necessary to understand and process information—the foundational academic skills for literacy, maths, inquiry-based learning, vocational knowledge and electronic media.

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

TARA program helping parents

Kate Cordukes, GoodChildhood 2013_430a Family Therapist and Arts Therapist, and Meisha Clark, a Social Worker and Family Therapist, led a session on the TARA program and the ways they work with parents experiencing violence from their child.

TARA stands for Teenage Aggression Responding Assertively and is an 8 week program for parents with the recent addition of a 1 day workshop. TARA aims to reduce violence, teach anger management strategies and enhance the relationship between parents and their adolescent.

70% of violent adolescents tend to be young men whom target their mothers. And so, anger management and other strategies are discussed in sessions. However, young people in attendance often feel blamed and don’t want to talk.

An aspect of the TARA session geared at parents is ‘family origin’. That is, parents think about the way they were parented and how it has impacted upon their parenting style. Some families are not ready to talk through the issues stemming from family origin issues.

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The notion of self-care is vital to the ability of parents and caretakers to look after their family. Parents need the strength and energy to do things differently at home, and in addition to this, adolescents are telling parents that they need boundaries.

Early intervention and an openness to working on family dynamics are a starting point in tackling violence from an adolescent.

Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.

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.

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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.

Kinship Care: the mainstream out of home care

In 2010 kinshipshutterstock_71181379 care overtook foster care as the predominant form of out-of-home care in Victoria. Children are usually happier in kinship care, but is it always the best choice? That’s the question Meredith Kiraly asked.

Kinship carers are usually poorer, older and in a poorer state of health than other foster carers. The majority of kinship carers are the grandparents of the children they care for, and often they take on children because they can’t turn down their own family.

But is love enough?

Meredith says that while love is obviously important, there also needs to be safety and wellbeing in care scenarios.

Kinship care assessment is far less rigorous than foster care assessment, often involving little more than a police check. It’s based on the assumption that carers and children already share a close relationship, but this is not always the case. Given that less than 1% of people who engage in acts of child molestation have a criminal record, there are questions over whether this assessment is adequate.

Meredith told the story of an infant girl who was in stable foster care. She was moved to live with her grandparents prior to initial assessment. Further assessment was delayed for months after she was placed with her grandparents, and warning signs – minor cuts and bruises, were ignored. A year later she was admitted to hospital unconscious with a head injury, it was not until this point that she was returned to foster care. In this child’s situation, there was no urgency, she was in stable foster care to begin with, so why was she moved before proper assessment was made?shutterstock_108866654

Meredith indicated that more extensive assessment of kinship carers is needed to ensure that kinship care provides a safe, stable and nurturing environment for children. Do you agree?

Post written by a youth blogger from SYN Media.

Imaginate: discovering what makes a good childhood

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We’re smack bang in the middle of the entry period for Imaginate, our national multimedia competition for young Australians (13-25). As we receive the entrants’ photographs, stories, poems, videos, music, fashion design and drawings, we’re gradually building a picture of what a good childhood should look like, from the perspective of young people themselves.

So, why do we care?

Well, firstly we care because we feel really strongly that young people are experts on modern childhoods:

  • They have the recent experience, which gives them first-hand knowledge;
  • Just enough time has passed that they can be objective about the whole of childhood, without getting bogged down in the detail of whether a Barbie makes a childhood better than an Xbox;
  • And, they have the skills and creativity to communicate their beliefs and opinions in ways that resonate with a wide audience.

Secondly, we care because what young people have to say about good childhood will be one of the major foundations of how we, at the Berry Street Childhood Institute, approach our work.

And finally, Imaginate matters because we want to see a critical mass of young Australians stepping up to make change happen for childhood, and for the issues that matter to them.Imaginate pic

What better way to start than with a little creative thinking…

Visit the Imaginate site to enter the competition and vote on current entries! http://imaginate.org.au/, or for more information like Imaginate on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Post by: Lauren Oliver, Youth Engagement Coordinator