Some kids experience devastating abuse and neglect, often at the hands of people they should be able to trust from the moment they are born. They will need ongoing treatment and support for many years to come, but there is always hope.
A life of pain and neglect
Dean was six years old when he was removed from his mother and placed in foster care. He had cigarette burns and bite marks on his body. He had experienced ongoing sexual abuse from adults who visited the house and physical abuse and neglect from his mother.
When Dean entered foster care he didn’t speak to grown-ups, although he openly communicated with other kids. He hummed most of the time and showed problematic sexual behaviours resulting from his abuse. Although older than most children in year one, he hadn’t been enrolled in school yet.
Lasting effect of trauma
Dean has had one stable placement since first entering foster care. While he attends school regularly and has supportive teachers, the anxiety and trauma from the abuse he experienced was preventing Dean from having a happy and normal childhood.
How we helped
When Dean was eight years old he was referred to Act for Kids for help. Developmentally delayed, he was struggling at school. Dean was unable to use words to express himself and was showing worrying sexual behaviours which was putting other children at risk of harm.
Our team worked with Dean continuously over two years to address a range of concerns. Initially he saw a Speech and language therapist, Occupational therapist, and Educational Support Teacher to address his developmental delays. He then worked with our Sexual Abuse Counselling Service Psychologist for 30 individual sessions over a year.
In the time we have been seeing Dean, there have been some significant improvements in his behavioural and emotional wellbeing.
Still a long way to go
Although he has come a long way, Dean continues to have difficulties in day to day functioning. He still struggles with social interactions and conversations, is often distracted in class and sometimes finds it hard to control his emotions. This is normal considering what he has been through, and we will continue to support him towards a brighter future.
The Bigger Problem
reports were made to child protection authorities
accessed child protective services
1 in every 32
Source: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Child protection Australia 2019-20.
Abuse and neglect
The majority (54%) experience emotional abuse, followed by neglect (22%). One in five (14%) experience physical abuse and 9% experience sexual abuse.
Abuse and neglect can impact a child’s brain development, how they feel and think about themselves, how successful they are at school, even their physical development and skills. In the long term this can lead to drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, difficulty developing and maintaining good relationships, unemployment and all sorts of social disadvantage.
Early intervention makes the world of difference
With early and appropriate support, children and young people can overcome their experiences.
Our team of psychologists and therapists help kids to work through nightmares, aggressive outbursts and social and learning problems through therapy that’s effective for their age.
Due to the severity of abuse and neglect he has experienced, Dean has complex needs across a range of areas which means his progress will be gradual and ongoing. He will need therapy in future when stressful and challenging situations arise.
Dean’s story shows the lasting effect that abuse can have on a child, but also that even in the darkest situations there is still hope and the opportunity to turn a life around.
How you can help
We rely heavily on donations to support our Integrated Therapy Services, and provide help to children and families who have experienced or are at risk of harm. With your support, we can continue to help keep kids safe, heal from trauma and lead happy lives.
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