What makes a good childhood?

shutterstock_2040590By Dr. Nicole Milburn, Clinical Psychologist and Internal Consultant for Infant Mental Health at Berry Street Take Two

The Berry Street Childhood Institute has a primary task of helping the community think about what makes a good childhood. In health and welfare work, we are so often required to focus on what is not good enough and what requires improvement. To have an institute in our field that is dedicated to sharing a conversation about what makes a good childhood is a really wonderful addition.

I am a Clinical Psychologist and Infant Mental Health Specialist. The field of infant mental health has been burgeoning over the last 50 years and has much to say about what constitutes a good childhood. Infant mental health has particular strengths in this area, having come from the fields of both psychoanalytic theory and developmental psychology.

Psychoanalysis has a long history of thinking about what lies inside people’s heads; what conscious and unconscious drives and motivations are acted out in behavior, and how people see themselves in relation to one another.  Continue reading “What makes a good childhood?”

Attachment-based Practice with Adults: Understanding strategies and promoting positive change

shutterstock_65734030By Clark Baim, UK presenter and Berry Street Childhood Institute Fellow

I was delighted to facilitate a training event hosted by the Berry Street Childhood Institute focusing on attachment-based practice with adults.

Attachment theory is often misunderstood as applying only to infants and toddlers. This training focused on contemporary theory and research, which demonstrates that attachment strategies are crucial to our psychological, social and emotional well-being across the whole of our lives. Continue reading “Attachment-based Practice with Adults: Understanding strategies and promoting positive change”

Creswick Fellowship Tour – Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch

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Cal Farley’s is a one of a kind service.  It is one of America’s largest privately-funded child and family service providers, specializing in both residential and community-based services at no cost to the families of children in their care.

Cal Farley’s operates like a small town – hosting a chapel, fire station, its own bank, post office and independent school district, activity centre etc. Many of the staff live on site, and at capacity, Cal’s can have up to 260 children and young people at a time.  Residential homes are staffed by 2 sets of house-parents, the lead house-parents and relief house-parents.

Neurodevelopmentally informed interventions/activities include:

  • Individual Therapy
  • Neurofeedback
  • Play Therapy
  • Art Therapy
  • AAT – largely equine based including colt and filly training and Rhythmic Riding
  • EMDR
  • Adventure Therapies – Ropes Courses, Kayaking, Trail Rides, Challenge course
  • Computer Lab
  • Robot and other electronics programs
  • Rodeo skills
  • Drumming
  • Archery
  • Gardening/Agriculture
  • Agriculture workshop
  • Mentoring of younger children by older children
  • Capacity for vocational training and part time employment

All this is embedded in a community where relationships serve as the key to success. I had to remind myself that this was a service for children and young people who had mental health, emotional and behavioural problems, because often what I saw seemed just like any ordinary community.  The importance of relationships whereby the kids were positively supported, contained and nurtured by multiple adults in their daily experiences was evident in the way the children and young people conducted themselves in the community. I’m not saying that there were no challenges, but on the whole the adults in this community do a wonderful job of creating a relationally rich environment filled with amazing activities, “interventions” and opportunities.

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If you work in the child and welfare sector and ever find yourself in Amarillo Texas – look Cal Farley’s up and see if you can visit – it’s nothing short of impressive and it’s folk are just downright good people who are absolutely and only in this for the best outcomes for kids.

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

Importance of relationships for the developing child – Dr Bruce Perry

Bruce Perry Keynote Day 1” I think its always important to be reminded of how important it is to create safe, developmental experiences for children,” Dr Perry.

Dr Bruce Perry was referring to the Good Childhood Conference, reiterating how essential it is for society to understand that at every point in time, we are in “the process of inventing the future”.

The presentation, recorded in his Chicago hotel room, resonated with the themes of the conference, focusing on brain development at an early age and building healthy communities.

Sociocultural evolution has, over time, lead to the changes in the way we construct our society: our language, religions, childrearing, family structures, art, science and technology.

Dr Bruce Perry

The focus of Dr. Perry‘s presentation lay with the relationships and interactions children are offered at a young age and the profound influence intimate moments such as talking, touching and holding eye contact can have.

Human beings have also absorbed thousands of learnings from previous generations. But this is not always a good thing.

“In the process of inventing the future, we have invented some things that are really wonderful…and we have invented some practices that actually are quite disrespectful of some of our genetic gifts,” Dr Perry said.

Our greatest biological gifts are the power of relationships and the brain’s malleability.

Dr Perry referred to the case where a young girl was, essentially, raised by a pack of dogs and, with no human interaction in the early stages of her life, she essentially acted like a dog. Dr Perry co-authored a book on another similar case, emphasising the malleability of human brains to learn from and adapt to their surroundings.

He then went on to explain how relationships in modern society have taken a turn for the worse because we are now based within huge networks of people unlike the small clans of hunter-and-gatherer times. Children are no longer raised surrounded by extended family and small tribes of people but spend countless hours surrounded by other humans who they don’t know and don’t interact with. Furthermore, technology is a distraction and is reducing the amount of intimate interactions children share with others.

“You might have 100 friends on Facebook but you might not have one single person to have dinner with,” he said.

In what he termed “modern tribalism”, Dr Perry said the ways in which society compartmentalises itself has resulted in material wealth yet “poverty of social relationships”.

“A healthy human being is a related human being.”

Humans are wired to feel stressed and threatened by other humans. After all, we are our own main predator. This stress can be managed throughout life if productive interactions and and healthy relationships are forged during childhood.

But, according to Dr Perry, the way our culture is currently organised induces a state of social and cultural neglect in our children.

Any programs that decrease physical, social and emotional isolation will be effective in making a difference. Currently, the percentage of children in “high-risk” categories is growing and the apparent “poverty of relationships” is a leading reason.

CEO Sandie de Wolf at The Good Childhood Conference

Dr Perry said programs and initiatives such as the Good Childhood Conference are important in encouraging investment into children and developmentally-appropriate ways to raise children.

Berry St CEO, Sandie de Wolf AM, agreed saying: “Relationships are at the core of everything we do”.