How culture helped a child find his voice

By Jen Willis, Communications Consultant, Berry Street – Take Two

Lots of 7-years-olds wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between a moth and a butterfly. But Jay can.

Jay is an Aboriginal child going to a local primary school in suburban Melbourne. But unlike the others in his class, he has only just started talking.

Continue reading “How culture helped a child find his voice”

Childhood – an historical perspective

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

Attitudes towards children and the way in which we interact, engage and care for them has changed dramatically over the previous 500 years.

In centuries past, children existed alongside adults, and once they were past infancy, were expected to work, firstly with their families, and then often as waged or unwaged labourers, in order that they and their families could survive.

The concept of childhood – how we define it and the experiences and activities of children within it – is an ever-shifting one that has presented us with many opportunities and challenges across the centuries. Continue reading “Childhood – an historical perspective”

What makes a good childhood?

The concept of a good childhood means many things to many people, yet one thing we all have in common is the experience of having once been a child.

The period of childhood, when we reflect back, is often remembered as a fleeting time. Researchers and early childhood practitioners however, tell us that this ‘fleeting’ time is one of critical development for a child, and the importance of it must be understood.

In early 2017, Berry Street’s Childhood Institute commenced on a research project to bring together information around current thinking and research findings and practices, frameworks, key issues and approaches, around how a good childhood is defined and the key factors and domains of a good childhood. Continue reading “What makes a good childhood?”

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

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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

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?”

Childhood Conversations Pilot Program – Session 2

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Continuing our retrospective trip back in time to the era in which you were a child…

We are still focussing on Family Environment. Let’s have a conversation about where you believed that children ‘fit’ within the family unit when you were growing up.

My personal experience was that there was a very clear family hierarchy, with dad firmly at the top!

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As children, we were expected to be respectful and to do as we were told. The phrase “children are seen and not heard” was a good indication of how families operated during that time.

What are your perceptions of how children ‘fit’ within the family unit when you were a child? Please share your ideas!

Post written by: Julie Noonan, School Engagement Co-ordinator, Berry Street Childhood Institute

Childhood Conversations Pilot Program – Session 1

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What makes a good childhood? 

The ‘Childhood Conversations’ Pilot Program seeks to engage parents of Victorian children in conversation about 21st century childhoods, in order to increase their understanding and awareness of what sustains a good childhood; and empower them to find solutions and advocate for change.

Take a trip back in time with us to the era in which you were a child…

Whether this took place in the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, 80’s or 90’s, there are often common elements that typify or mark the era in which we grew up. 

We are looking at the Family Environment and in particular ‘Family structure and work/life balance’.

My experience of growing up in the 70’s was that the nuclear family was the norm and there were strongly defined mother/father roles. Parents (fathers in particular) seemed to work long hours but the hours were predictable. Family life seemed to be able to be structured around work hours.

What are your perceptions of how families were structured and parent’s work/life balance when you were growing up?shutterstock_123839083
We would love to hear from you!

Post written by: Julie Noonan, School Engagement Co-ordinator, Berry Street Childhood Institute

Childhood Conversations – Part 2

A retrospective look back at the era in which we grew up…

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Childhood. It’s arguably the most important time of our life: a precious time where we need to feel safe, happy and loved.

Most importantly, for some of us, it is a time where some of our happiest memories were made.

Berry Street believes that every single child deserves to grow up with a childhood they want to remember.

The first of our ‘Childhood Conversation’ sessions involved 6 parents from a local school, taking a retrospective look back through their own memories and experiences at the era in which they grew up.

Discussion was informally structured around the following five key themes:

  • Family environment- including: what did the average family structure look like? What were your perceptions of your parents’ work/life balance?
  • Health & wellbeing – including: how did you play – structured or unstructured? What environments did you play in? What food did you eat? How much time did you spend out of doors? Risk taking behaviours?
  • Education & Technology – including: what role did technology play within the family? What and how was information shared about families? Participation in education?
  • Community Participation – including: involvement in local community? Consumerism targeting children? Children’s voice in decision making?
  • Material Basics – including: understanding of poverty? Perception of employment/unemployment?

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It was a fun and enlightening conversation and we look forward to bringing you a summary of the issues raised.

Post written by: Julie Noonan, School Engagement Co-ordinator, Berry Street Childhood Institute

Childhood Conversations

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Is childhood today more complicated than ever before?

  • Are children losing the joyful, unselfconscious, carefree experience of childhood?
  • Do children spend too much time on technology?
  • Do you think it is worth talking about?

Current Australian research tells us that on many important indicators the health and wellbeing of today’s children is not on the rise, but on the decline. Increasing numbers of early 21st century children are known to have complex diseases such as asthma, diabetes, and eating disorders. In particular, psychological problems such as learning disorders, depression and anxiety appear to be increasing.

We know that a good childhood is the foundation for a healthy society and that whilst parents have the primary responsibility to provide their children with a good childhood, they cannot do this alone.

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The ‘Childhood Conversations’ Pilot Program seeks to engage parents of Victorian children in conversation about 21st century childhoods, in order to increase their understanding and awareness of what sustains a good childhood; and empower them to find solutions and advocate for change.

Through three x 2 hour sessions, parents will take a reflective journey through the context in which they experienced childhood and talk about the issues facing childhood in the 21st century.

We hope these conversations will inform a program model that may later be adopted by school communities across Australia.

It will be a fascinating journey and we look forward to sharing our progress with you.

Post written by: Julie Noonan, School Engagement Co-ordinator, Berry Street Childhood Institute

Therapeutic Preschool: Building Emotional Regulation

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Sumner Mental Health Services provide therapeutic support to the Futures Unlimited Preschools in Wellington KS. Specifically they provide support via the provision of Mental Health Case Management and a role called Individual Psychosocial Rehabilitation workers (IPR), for children classified with Severe Emotional Disturbance (SED).

I observed the absolute value of the IPR role in the preschool setting as I watched an IPR with a 6 year old child with significant emotional disturbance.  From the outset of allocated time, the IPR provided this child with one to one, undivided attention, co-regulation and supported emotionally and developmentally respectful redirection when necessary.  Enacting her role, the IPR was regularly in physical contact with the child in the classroom.

The IPR worker scaffolded the child from activity to activity in transitions, keeping distractions to a minimum and providing nothing short of opportunities for success for the child, all of this done through largely relational based interaction and regulation.

What really stood out to me was the fact that this child, in the hour supported by the IPR was able to experience success and a baseline level of emotional regulation, contrary to descriptions that had been given of her.

shutterstock_3095802Imagine the long term benefits we could achieve if our kindergarten/preschool children who struggle emotionally, received opportunities like this at the time when their brains are still actively organising neural networks.  Could we start to create early changes in neural templates from over active stress response systems and emotional dysregulation to enable younger children a better platform for self-regulation?

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