Thirteen Relationships Australia SA staff attended the Childhood Trauma Conference in Melbourne from 6-10 June. This international conference focuses on innovation in therapeutic approaches with children, young people and families, and draws over 2000 delegates from around the world. Our staff had the opportunity to listen to seminal thinkers such as Dan Siegel, Pat Ogden, Judy Atkinson, Vittorio Gallese, Russell Meares and many others.
Helping mums and dad do ‘something remarkable’
In a talk given by Deb Lockwood, Relationships Australia SA’s Manager of Child and Youth Programs, conference attendees were told that small changes in parenting practices are unlocking better infant mental health outcomes for SA families. Lockwood said that neuroscience presented at the Australian Trauma Conference, ‘has put some weight behind what we’re doing with the First Touch Infant Massage Program.’
Lockwood said the course, run since 2012 in collaboration with Baby in Mind, is not just infant massage. “It’s actually all the other things that are going when you are staring lovingly at your baby.”
The program coaches mums with ‘deceptively simple’ techniques such as eye contact, singing, listening to their babies and asking permission to touch their babies. ‘A lot of mums and dads doing the course don’t know they’ve done something remarkable for their baby’s mental health’, Lockwood explained.
Lockwood said the course crucially changed mums views on crying. They go from seeing crying is a problem to be solved to seeing crying as their baby expressing a need. Program evaluations have shown parents get greater parenting confidence overall and decreased signs of post-natal depression for those at risk.
The First Touch program was developed by Baby In Mind. Community members can join via their local Children’s Centres. An accredited ‘Train the trainer’ course is available at the Australian Institute of Social Relations, the Registered Training Organisation of Relationships Australia SA. For more information about the course visit their website or contact the AISR at 08 8245 8100.
Homeless kids need ‘shift in paradigm’
Homeless children risk being overlooked despite being a quarter of the homeless population, said Iain Henderson, Relationships Australia SA’s Practice Manager for Education and Training in his talk at the conference. “People are bringing their children to services – so notice them,” said Henderson.
Henderson said a new paradigm, ’Child focused practice’, can help workers assess children’s needs. “It’s about working to engage a child in a meaningful way and can be as easy as just getting on the floor with the child-focused,” said Henderson.
RASA has developed a training resource called Child Focused Practice Online to teach this new paradigm to workers. “It’s free, on-line, self-paced and can be used across the sector,” said Henderson, “and 99% of people doing said it improved their ability to develop a child focused case plan.”
Carly Siviour, team leader for RASA’s Together 4 Kids program, added, “It’s also a great introduction to new workers in the field. Without it, all the focus is on the parent, not the child.” Siviour, a family therapist, said a child focus improves children’s mental health and wellbeing.
Together 4 Kids is funded under the National Affordable Housing Agreement.