The longest relationship

Children in out-of-home care often have uniquely strong sibling relationships. This article looks at some of the reasons siblings are separated and ways sibling relationships can be maintained and nurtured while children are in out-of-home care.

By Dr. Trish McCluskey, Berry Street

Almost all of us have one, or more. Sometimes we wish we hadn’t and then we cannot imagine our lives without them. Remember primary school? We fight with them, they fight with us and then we fight for them.

Siblings: our closest genetic relative, our soulmates, rivals for parental affections, the keepers of our unembellished history.

For children in out-of-home care and indeed for all of us, our siblings are usually the longest relationship of our lives. Sometimes these are close and loving relationships and other times they are not. Interestingly even fraught sibling relationships can often be repaired and research shows siblings being identified as major supports as we get older.

Why then do sibling relationships seem to be so underestimated and overlooked for children in foster, kinship or residential care? Continue reading “The longest relationship”

The value of strength-based parenting

Strength-based parenting can bring huge benefits, using positive psychology to unlock your children’s potential and enhance their wellbeing.

By 

It’s widely accepted in today’s culture that good parenting requires a balance of warmth and control. Research shows that parents who respond to the needs of children in loving ways, whilst setting rules that build independence and emotional intelligence, produce the best-adjusted, most resourceful, and highest-achieving kids.

Referred to as ‘authoritative parenting’, this style of parenting was identified by University of California, Los Angeles, psychologist Dr Diana Baumrind, whose research on parenting spans three decades, from 1960-1990.

Her work identified that authoritative parenting has the most positive effect on a child’s wellbeing and inspired further research that began in the 90s, on emotional coaching (the warmth aspect) and autonomy-granting parents (the control aspect), and still continues today.

While I certainly agree with an authoritative approach, I’d also argue that parenting research needs to evolve. Sure, parent-child relationships still need warmth and control but, as a psychology researcher and a mother of two, I’m interested in updating our knowledge of effective parenting. After all, we’re well and truly into the 21st Century and yet the bulk of parenting practices are based on ideas put forward in the 1960s and 1990s. Isn’t it time for an upgrade? Continue reading “The value of strength-based parenting”

Root of youth riots demand, not management

By Dr Sarah Wise, University of Melbourne and Berry Street Good Childhood Fellow.

Spectacular incident and response scenes at the Parkville youth justice precinct have sparked a lot of talk in the community on how to manage serious and violent acting-out behavior and offending by a small number of young people in Victoria. Predictably, the voice of ‘tough on crime’ populism has been at high volume.

Before we snap to punitive responses, it’s worth understanding the true complexity behind these events and youth crime more generally, as well as the systemic approach to youth justice that we have in place already. Continue reading “Root of youth riots demand, not management”

Insights from Dr. Bruce D. Perry’s Masterclass on Applying the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics

Dr Bruce D PerryOur second day with Dr. Perry gave us an opportunity to delve deeper into the theory underlying the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) and its application as a framework for clinicians to use and apply their own skills or training to. It also gave us a chance to hear from practitioners from around Australia about the application of the NMT in a variety of local settings. Continue reading “Insights from Dr. Bruce D. Perry’s Masterclass on Applying the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics”

Insights from ‘Transforming Childhood Trauma’ with Dr. Bruce D. Perry

Dr. Bruce D. Perry

Today we were thrilled to present Dr. Bruce D. Perry’s ‘Transforming Childhood Trauma’ workshop in Melbourne. It was an inspiring, thought-provoking day that delivered a wealth of insights for the audience to apply to their practice. In this post, we share some of our highlights from the day.

In the beginning of the presentation, Dr. Perry explained the complexity of the human brain. One of the fundamental principles about the brain is that it develops sequentially, from the simplest parts to the most complex. The cortex, which controls higher reasoning, isn’t fully developed until people reach their early 30s. The brain also processes information sequentially – the lower, less complex parts have ‘first dibs’ on incoming information. This has significant implications for how we respond to stress.

“Part of what we know about the brain is that we don’t know that much about the brain”

Continue reading “Insights from ‘Transforming Childhood Trauma’ with Dr. Bruce D. Perry”

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”

If We Value the Expertise of Children and Young People

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“Yet, without the participation of experts we won’t be successful. And the expert is the child”

Janusz Korczak

I have recently begun to ask myself the question: how different would out-of-home care look if we truly valued the expertise of the children and young people that live in it? In fact, would so many children, young people and families be so enmeshed in the benevolent web of services that accompany the child protection and out-of-home care systems if those systems routinely and genuinely valued the expertise of children and young people right from the beginning?

My internal dialogue takes the discussion further… Let’s say, for one utopic moment, that we sit as equals at the table with young people who have experienced abuse, neglect and the terrifying complexity of the system set up to serve their ‘best interests’. Let’s imagine that they have proffered arguments and evidence alongside academics, experienced sector professionals and bureaucrats, in support of approaches (for we know without doubt that one size does not fit all) that focus on making their childhood good. What might that look like? And more importantly who would have the courage to make it happen?

We won’t ever know if we don’t ask.

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Young people who have lived through abuse and neglect and have subsequently been bounced, powerless, through the pinball machine of court processes, case managers, care placements, care plans and repeated attempts to ‘go home’ – these young people know. They know what it all feels like. Under their skin, in their hearts, they know how it feels.

Countless reforms and ‘system improvements’ will continue to achieve minimal success at best if we continue to prevent the key experts from leading the discussions and shedding light on the impact of decisions made by people so far from the ground that we all look like ants from where they sit.

Maybe childhood would be better for the huge numbers of children and young people in care if we were prepared to let them show us how to make it so. We won’t know unless we try.

Post written by:  Lauren Oliver, Youth Engagement Coordinator, Berry Street Childhood Institute