Beth Guy - Program Manager, Training and Professional Development

Understanding and
transforming trauma
A brief history
The Australian Childhood Foundation was contracted by the Department of
Education and Children’s Services (DECS) in August 2005 (now DECD
Student, Aboriginal and Family Services, Office for Children and Young
People) to deliver a specialist training program for education welfare
personnel to ensure they have the skills to support children at risk of abuse
and neglect, in addition to promoting and implementing school policies and
programs that have a focus on child abuse prevention and child protection.
This initiative has since become known as the Strategies for Managing
Abuse Related Trauma or SMART Program
A brief history
The purpose of the SMART Project was a part of the Keeping Them Safe
child protection reform agenda of the South Australian government. This
acknowledged the critical role of education staff, including those in early
childhood services, in supporting children at risk of, experiencing and healing
from abuse related trauma.
The project sought to build on the awareness and capacity of all education
personnel to both support individual children and promote and implement
policies and programs that focus on child protection.
The SMART program sits within a suite of government initiatives stemming
from the Keeping Them Safe agenda. The project itself utilised a multifaceted approach to access as many of the target audience as possible.
A brief history
Over the past 8 years sessions have been provided to leadership groups,
support staff, teachers, SSO’s and services associated with the case
management of children attending South Australian schools.
These sessions have been delivered to remote, rural and metropolitan
regions and have encompassed a range of generic SMART sessions
alongside tailored sessions focussing on assessment, problem sexual
behaviours, specific modality sessions for school counsellors, strategy
sessions, indigenous specific sessions, sessions for SSO’s and specific
sessions for early childhood, primary and secondary staff.
Project Aims
The project aims were to develop and deliver professional development opportunities for
education professionals, with the following outcomes:
To effectively communicate with children and young people about their experiences of
abuse, family violence and neglect;
To build integrated and collaborative interventions that engage schools in a team
approach to address the support and protective needs of children and young people
who have experienced abuse, family violence and neglect;
To contextualise exchanges with children and young people within an up to date
understanding of developmental theory, trauma psychology and family systems
To promote individual recovery for children and young people, as well as changes to
abusive family dynamics; and
To consider strategies to build commitment to whole of school approaches to child
abuse prevention and child protection.
Framework development
The Australian Childhood Foundation established a contractual relationship with the
Indigenous Health Unit in the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences at
Monash University and the National Research Centre for the Prevention of Child
Abuse at Monash University to ensure extensive and up to date knowledge and skills
were utilised in the provision of this comprehensive training strategy.
The key outputs of this project were based on a solid foundation of current research, a
sound understanding of adult learning principles and a sensitivity to the experience of
the education sector staff who formed the target group.
Framework & principles
Effective intervention and protection of children and young people relies
upon a sound understanding of the impact of abuse related trauma,
comprehensive risk assessment frameworks based on current research and
an ability to implement support plans for children and young people that not
only reduce the risk they are exposed to but also promote their recovery
from the harm they have experienced.
Risk and safety assessments need to be integrated into practice at every
stage of intervention with a child or young person.
Education environments can be healing environments when the whole
school community is trauma sensitive.
Manifestations of trauma
in the education
& Social
Participant feedback
“It will give the whole team a new perspective and approach to children affected by
“Help build relationships and be more aware of possible reasons behind their
“Affirmation of need for relationships with children- new strategies gained”
“Re-enforced what I need to look for to identify child with trauma and how to plan with
the teacher. Working relationships and a language to use.”
“Calmer me- calmer parents- happier children”
“Keeping communication lines open. Strategies/ideas discussed today useful for all
Participant feedback
“Deeper understanding of the brain responses and roles explained which is sound
theory necessary to work with teachers and schools”
“A great understanding of how children with trauma have no control often about how
they behave”
“Reconsideration of the perspective traumatised students bring with them”
“It's good to stay mindful of the effects of trauma on children before we get to work
with them”
“Heighten my understanding of children who have experienced trauma. Putting my
knowledge into practice.”
by education professionals for education professionals
The DECD Learner Wellbeing Inquiry Framework
How amazing to come into a school
and have such a great resource
handed to me to refer to. The
collated resource the school has of
SMART practice is like gold for a
new teacher.
Year 2 teacher new to Port Lincoln JP school
Trauma =
Educational Reform
Building an environment that is as familiar as possible feels safe.
Responses to children’s behaviour should always stem from an understanding
of the trauma-based origins of that behaviour.
The more we are attuned to the student’s patterns and processes of responding,
the better we are able to understand the individual and help him/her to
understand their own reactions.
Implementing strategies that build emotional literacy and allow students to
experience and recognize pleasure and success will improve the student’s
capacity to successfully interact
Children who have experienced trauma struggle to build those stories of
understanding because of the impacts of that trauma. These students need a
translator to facilitate the process of recounting and remembering.
Children who have experienced trauma often struggle with relationships with
their peers. Yet, these relationships can be a source of healing and nurturing
when developed and supported.
To facilitate positive outcomes for these children at all levels (educationally,
socially, emotionally, behaviourally), we need to provide and support
experiences of calm on a consistent and repetitive basis.
The experience of appropriate, supportive adult-child relational exchanges is
instrumental to supporting children who have experienced abuse related
32 DECD sites
early childhood to secondary
review of significant changes from project reports 2008-2013
Data sources
Class observation data
Circle of Courage Engagement Instrument
Most Significant Change
Pianta teacher-student relationship scale
Where am I at? young person’s self-assessment tool
Self-designed, self-reported surveys/tools
Interviews , focussed discussions
Life impact
Student excluded to alternative school for persistent and wilful inattention
progressing to 100 % engagement & successful transition back to home school
80% attendance improvement
Attending full time
Frequent flyer to office to twice in term 4
236 behaviour referrals to office term 1, 112 term2, 42 term 3
Behaviour incidents reduced 2/3, significant decrease in actual or threatened
Doubling usual rate of reading progress
Included in games
"It's so good to see my son smile and laugh again."
"I have learnt that my teachers and parents care for me."
Set and maintain the 'heartbeat' of the
classroom, quietly and calmly maintaining
relationships, routines and supportive
structures that are extraordinary in their
Pupil wellbeing – Teacher wellbeing: Two sides of the same coin?
Sue Roffey
Educational & Child Psychology Vol. 29 No. 4
© The British Psychological Society, 2012
Project resources
• SMART Online
• Discussion papers
Paper 19- Mindfulness
Paper 20- Shame
• Newsletters
• Further training opportunities in 2014
For further information:
Lee Duhring
Policy Advisor (Child Protection Initiatives)
8226 1359
[email protected]
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