A Berry Street team at the forefront of change

Berry Street’s Y-Change initiative is a social and systemic change platform for young people with lived experiences of socioeconomic disadvantage. As Lived Experience Consultants, they challenge the thinking and practices of wider social systems through advocacy and leadership.

For Berry Street’s 2019-20 Annual Report, the team contributed the piece below that explores what change means to them, and what needs to urgently change across the sector to help create a better future for children and young people.

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Resolving unprocessed family violence trauma with butterfly hugs

Benji* is in Grade 3. His favourite animal is a tie between sloths and dogs.  He loves his Mum’s apricot chicken, playing with Lego and watching Harry Potter movies.

When he’s finished school, he wants to either be a YouTuber or a vet.

But Benji wasn’t thinking about his future much a year ago. Both his parents grew up as wards of the state after experiencing abuse at home.  Benji’s lived in 11 different places, been to 4 schools and has been scared of his dad for as long as he can remember.

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For some, Christmas isn’t merry and bright

As we come towards the end of what has been a difficult year, school and kinder stop for holidays and there’s lots to do. There’s the end-of-year busyness as we rush towards the finish line.  There’s lots of trying to squeeze in seeing friends, buying presents and preparing food for gatherings. While all this activity can be fun for some – and certainly many people feel like there’s extra to celebrate this year – for others it’s an extremely stressful and anxious time of the year.

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A year of two halves – Y-Change in conversation with our President and CEO

It’s been a year like never before. One that has —in so many complex ways —demonstrated the constancy of change, as well as how rapid change can so brightly shine a light on existing inequality. A time when we’re confronted to see the reality of what lies before us and work through some of the most challenging times in our lives.

At the same time — amongst the very real upheaval of the COVID-19 pandemic and the effects it will continue to have on children, young people, families, and societies the world over — there are glimmers of hope. We’ve been presented with a time potentially like never before, when all is laid bare, to challenge ourselves and reimagine how we can work together to courageously change lives and shape a new future. This includes a future where — as we believe at Berry Street — children, young people and families are safe, thriving and hopeful.

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How the Teaching Family Model is transforming residential care in Victoria

The number of children and young people coming into out-of-home care in Victoria has increased significantly in the past 5 years. But for those who have experienced significant and repeated trauma, traditional out-of-home care (such as foster and residential care) doesn’t always provide the right specialist support.

It is critical that they get the care they need to recover and ultimately thrive. This is why Berry Street runs a new, proven model of care to reimagine the future for our most vulnerable children and young people: the Teaching Family Model (TFM).

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Celebrating our Elders of tomorrow

By Kim Bradford, Aboriginal Consultant, Berry Street Take Two.

Nearly a quarter (23%) of the babies, children and young people referred to Berry Street’s Take Two service are Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander. 

Yet Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children make up less than 2% of all Victorian children (Productivity Commission 2020).

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Video: Radically improving someone’s life: the emotional health of the babies

Babies – like all humans – can have good mental health, poor mental health or anything in between.

The first 1000 days of a child’s life is crucial to their mental health later in life. All babies need to feel safe and looked after – it’s what sets up their expectations of what a loving relationship feels like.

If the baby is not fed when they are hungry, held when distressed or spoken to regularly, they quickly learn to expect not to be looked after.

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Sensory strategies for calming the body and mind

Berry Street’s Take Two program has recently had an article published on the CFCA information exchange on the Australian Institute of Family Studies (AIFS) website.

The article explains how and why children who have experienced trauma may find it more difficult to regulate their emotions and behaviours than other children.

Practice Development and Training Team Leader Clare Ryan explains how Take Two uses the Regulate–Relate–Reason framework in its clinical work to assist children to calm their bodies and emotions. The framework is a core element of the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics (NMT) approach developed by Dr Bruce Perry in the United States.

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Through Elijah’s eyes: the best things about his Teaching Family Model home

For children who have experienced significant and repeated trauma, traditional out-of-home care (such as foster and residential care) doesn’t always provide the right support. Berry Street is implementing a new, proven model of care to reimagine the future for our most vulnerable children: the Teaching Family Model (TFM).

TFM is an evidence-based, alternative approach to traditional residential care. It offers an innovative way of caring for children and young people in a family-style setting. TFM practitioners provide children with trauma-informed care, help them learn important interpersonal and living skills, and how to better manage their emotions.

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Free Social Story: Getting tested for COVID

Getting tested for COVID is uncomfortable. The nurse or doctor needs to swab the back of the throat and mouth.

Being prepared for the procedure will help children cope better and feel less anxious.

Berry Street’s Take Two Developmental Specialists Team have developed a free printable social story that explains in familiar terms, what will happen and why the test is needed.

Take Two invites carers or parents (especially those looking after children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) or other developmental differences including a trauma history) to share the social story with their child to make a COVID test more manageable.

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Tips, tricks and resources: What’s been helping during COVID-19 and as we transition into our new “normals” | Part 3

Part 3 of our series ‘Mental illness relapse and recovery during a global pandemic: lived wisdom from young people’s perspectives’

“We will not go back to normal. Normal never was. […] We are being given the opportunity to stitch a new garment. One that fits all of humanity and nature.” – Sonya Renee Taylor

As a collective, we’ve found that the advice from many think pieces during this time has been removed from lots of people’s actual lived experiences. Right now, we’re in an absolute unknown. Things are going to be and feel different, strange and exhausting as we adjust to completely new versions of “normal”. For some of us, no amount of meditation and mindfulness helps in general, let alone during a pandemic, especially if our basic needs aren’t being met.

This is the final part in our series, ‘Mental illness relapse and recovery during a global pandemic’. For those of us who are working hard on our recovery journey, where can we seek specific support during this time? What are some useful tips, tricks and tools from peers in this space with relevant lived experience?

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How COVID-19 intensifies symptoms of mental illness | Part 2

Part 2 of our series ‘Mental illness relapse and recovery during a global pandemic: lived wisdom from young people’s perspectives

“Shouting self-care at people who actually need community care is how we fail them.” – Nikita Valerio 

For young people experiencing socioeconomic disadvantage, experiencing isolation and lockdown brings up a whole lot of stuff around coping mechanisms.

In part 2 of our series, we look at some changes in our own behaviour that we’ve observed and some common symptoms for those of us already managing mental illness.

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