Page 2072 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 2 August 2016

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Lisa is a 10-year-old girl who entered care after experiencing serious and sustained neglect and now lives with a foster carer. This neglect has had a lasting impact on Lisa, in the way she expects to have her needs met by the adults around her and the way she forms relationships with people. Because Lisa’s needs were not met in a consistent and predictable way when she was little, she has learnt that adults cannot be relied on to help her and support her through difficult times. Lisa also struggles with her emotions and to make and keep friends.

After an argument with her friends; she comes home from school and is very upset. Her carer’s immediate reaction might be to ask what is wrong, and then give Lisa time alone to calm down and then ask again later if she wanted to talk about what had happened. But for Lisa, this approach makes her more upset, resulting in sobbing for hours, having problems sleeping and appearing more “disconnected”. Giving Lisa time to calm down before discussing what is upsetting her might be a reasonable response. However, because of Lisa’s past experience, being left alone when she is so upset reinforces for her that adults are not reliable and will not support her through difficult emotional times.

A therapeutic response is informed by an understanding of Lisa’s experience and response to trauma. In this example, a therapeutic response was to provide Lisa with some “time in”, where the carer sits quietly with Lisa, without talking, reassuring her first that she was physically and emotionally safe; maybe giving Lisa’s hand a massage and slowly helping her to calm down. The carer does not rush Lisa and shows her that she is present with her, and able to help her manage through these difficult feelings.

As you can see from this example, carers are at the heart of the out of home care system, and so the training and development program under a step up for our kids has prioritised improving the way we support carers to undertake their caring role.

I am proud to say the ACT is one of the only jurisdictions in Australia that has provided, and continues to provide, potential foster carers with an accredited training program. This training program, called positive futures caring together, equips foster carers by giving them an understanding of child abuse and neglect, the key tasks of fostering and responding to behaviours. The training program has been further enhanced to provide carers with information about the impact of trauma and how to respond therapeutically to the needs of children and young people in their care.

The training was previously coordinated and delivered through the Community Services Directorate. Under a step up for our kids, this responsibility now transfers to ACT Together who will continue to provide accredited training that will also be available to kinship carers. A further training and development program has been developed under the strategy to embed and sustain the cultural shift across the workforce required to develop a truly trauma-informed, therapeutic service.

In September 2015, the directorate engaged the Australian Childhood Foundation, a nationally respected training organisation, to provide trauma-informed care in practice, specialist training to kinship and foster carers and agency and government staff. The

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