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Shining the Spotlight on Early Intervention for Children and Families

by PeakCare Qld on 5th February 2015

Home -> Articles -> 2015 -> February -> Shining the Spotlight on Early Intervention for Children and Families

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Queensland’s community services are well aware of the absolute significance of focusing attention on the well-being of children and their families. This factor, highlighted in the Carmody Report and embraced by government and non-government organisations alike has led to a unified desire to ensure that children and families can recover from trauma and disruption to family life, receive appropriate interventions to enhance well-being and fulfil the goal of so many families to cope and thrive in spite of life’s challenges.

Overcoming difficulties that arise such as poverty, domestic and family violence, mental ill health and the plethora of issues facing Queensland children and families can sometimes seem overwhelming. Especially without the prevalence of a suite of appropriate and effective program options to assist.

This was the reality many yourtown staff and clients experienced. Many of the children entering yourtown child and family support programs displayed emotional and behavioural traits of insecure, disorganised or disrupted attachment or had suffered abuse or neglect. Violence against their primary care giver was one key issue, others struggled due to the primary care giver being chronically impacted by their own victimisation. Housing instability, poverty, disability and mental ill health are just a few further examples of the stressors that meant caring for infants and small children occurred at times in haphazard environments.

With awareness of the significant impact of such childhood trauma and attachment issues on infants and children, yourtown was determined to find solutions to the issues their professionals noted in supporting children and families facing these multiple complexities. “It’s never too early to work with very young children. They can participate in therapy, given the right tools – people, setting, resources – and can respond magically with the right combination.” Elisabeth Kobierski, National Community Services Manager.

Yet, so often the resources for support were not available, particularly with regard to very young children. In a rare moment of serendipity yourtown was able to respond to this clearly identified need through a timely offering by a gratefully received benefactor with like-minded intent. From this moment of serendipity, innovation was possible and Expressive Therapies Intervention was born. yourtown, having operated family programs for quite some time grasped this generous offering to enhance support for young children with behavioural and emotional difficulties not receiving appropriate responses due to sector capacity. As such, they designed the project and evaluation framework to best meet the needs of the presenting children and families.

The generosity of the Margaret Pemberton Foundation which funded the Expressive Therapies intervention from 2011-2015 offered the building blocks of this much needed solution which includes many elements including art and play therapy intended to connect with children and their families in their own time and space. This partnership allowed yourtown to respond to a need they and so many of their sector and government colleagues were grappling with.

yourtown are now able to share their work and the evaluation of their Expressive Therapies Intervention. The Author of the recently released report: Evaluation of BoysTown’s Expressive Therapies Intervention, Jenni Southwell noted that although residential care services are well aware of the needs of young people in this arena, for family support workers and interventions with small children, this is such a new area. There has been a lack of investment in the past and yourtown want to be able to share this research given the preliminary findings suggest that this intervention modality is very effective.

The findings note excellent outcomes for children including significant enhancements to their self-esteem and self-regulation. Especially noteworthy is the vast improvements observed in parent-child relationships. This is an exciting innovation for Queensland’s community sector and government partners. Given the growing understanding of the need to intervene with children and their families as early as possible, this project is a timely and exciting addition to enhance the practice of professionals working with children and families in this complex area of practice.

Healing is an essential component for any person who has experienced trauma. This is particularly pertinent for children, especially when we consider as a sector and as practitioners we are interested in ensuring the least harm as possible for our children and young people to ensure they grow into well-adjusted young people and adults:

“BoysTown provides an environment where children and families feel safe, confident and surrounded by caring professionals. This environment and our therapists’ innovative approach allows children to play with as few limits as possible and ultimately to heal”. Wendy Protheroe, Counselling Services General Manager.

Through the generosity of the Margaret Pemberton Foundation, yourtown had the opportunity to be responsive and creative and to meet a genuine need through innovation. Now they are taking the generosity of their benefactor and sharing the evolving program development and research together with the wisdom gleaned by their organisation and staff by ‘paying it forward’: “We’re keen to enhance the overall capacity of the community sector to respond to the need of traumatised children. That’s why we want to share this widely across the community sector and government” said the report’s Author, Jenni Southwell.

Given our sector’s acknowledged need to intervene with children and families at the earliest opportunity possible, this innovation is exciting and offers a wide reaching capacity for demonstrated positive responses to children and their families. This report will most certainly be of interest to government and non-government agencies across Queensland. As well as the fountain of knowledge it imparts, this report is filled with beautiful sentiments and artwork by children and parents who participated in the Expressive Therapies Intervention program.

Please click here for a copy of the report.

Lorraine Dupree
Projects Manager, Policy, Practice & Service Development