Early Childhood: the importance of the early years

This post is part of our series on what makes a good childhood.

Although intuition tells us how important a child’s early experiences are, the evidence is now overwhelming. A good childhood really is the foundation for a healthy adult life and cohesive society.

Over the previous decade, we have seen a greater focus on, and understanding of, the importance of childhood wellbeing, both from an objective and subjective perspective. It is now generally understood that children’s wellbeing is crucial, not just for their own lives, but for society as a whole. Continue reading “Early Childhood: the importance of the early years”

Childhood Wellbeing

This post is part of our series on what makes a good childhood.

Childhood wellbeing – how we define it and what its key factors are – is a growing field of research around the world.

Childhood wellbeing is generally understood as the quality of children’s lives. It is an overarching and multi-dimensional concept that encompasses both subjective indicators (i.e. perceptions of quality of life and overall life satisfaction) and objective indicators (i.e. household income and health status) that focus on the immediate lives of children but also consider the longer-term outcomes. Continue reading “Childhood Wellbeing”

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”

What makes a good childhood: Pre-pregnancy

We know that the foundations for a good childhood start well before conception. This may seem a little strange at first, but there are a number of key domains that are important for the future child to have functioning well enough in their prospective parents.

By Dr. Nicole Milburn, Senior Manager for Infant Mental Health and Developmental Consultancies, Take Two

Some of you might remember from my guest blog in late July that I promised to write a series of posts about the importance of a good infancy for a good childhood.

In the meantime I have been diverted by other Institute activities, not least of which was the national speaking tour of Dr. Bruce D. Perry, Child Psychiatrist and Neuroscientist. Dr. Perry and his colleagues at the ChildTrauma Academy have made an enormous contribution to our understanding of the impact of trauma on development. They have clearly articulated that the brain develops in a sequential way, from the most primitive functions to the most complex. This means it is vital that we understand what happens and when it happens within the timeline of the developing brain so that we can understand the impact of events and what to then do about it. This model also gives the appropriate emphasis on very early development as laying the foundation for life.

A couple pre-pregnancyWe know, however, that the foundations for a good childhood start well before conception. This may seem a little strange at first, but there are a number of key domains that are important for the future child to have functioning well enough in their prospective parents. Continue reading “What makes a good childhood: Pre-pregnancy”

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”

If We Value the Expertise of Children and Young People

shutterstock_67275946

“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.

shutterstock_2738324

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