Children who have been around domestic violence are often highly alert and sensitive to changes in their environment. They’re constantly on the look out for cues that might indicate a situation about to turn dangerous.
Jumpy and on edge
When four-year-old Grace came to the Act for Kids she was constantly on edge. She was jumpy, emotionally reactive, had difficulty concentrating, and had difficulty engaging socially with peers.
There were concerns about her ability to enter the school system the following year and to progress and learn with her peers. Grace had not received the attention she needed to develop as she had never lived in a safe environment, making it difficult for her to engage with learning and focus on anything other than her immediate safety.
Teary and terrified
She was constantly terrified and would often become easily upset and cry. She had difficulty engaging appropriately with peers as she was constantly trying to make sense of her experiences. Grace would often engage in play reflecting the trauma she had experienced – scenes that no four year old should ever witness.
How we helped
At Act for Kids, Grace was given a place in the Early Education Program, providing her with specialist educational support given her background of trauma. In this small group environment, her teacher focused on helping Grace establish a sense of safety, routine, and safe relationships with adults and peers that assisted her to feel less threatened. This new environment of safety increased her capacity to focus more on other important aspects of functioning, such as learning, relationships, and wellbeing. Through her engagement with the Early Education Program she has developed skills in the areas of emotional literacy, reading and writing, fine and gross motor skills, and protective behaviours.
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
In individual therapy sessions, Grace was provided a safe space to process her experiences of trauma. There was a noticeable change in her engagement, and as she began to feel safer in the space and at the centre, she was able to open up more, be more relaxed, focus more and was not as hyper-vigilant. Although Grace is still impacted by trauma experiences, changes in her presentation are noticeable. Engagement with Act for Kids has also included sessions with Grace’s carer and through the application of a trauma-informed support, goals of facilitating greater understanding of Grace’s behaviours, needs and strengths are starting to be realised.
While we are still working with Grace, she has been able to successfully transition into a formal mainstream prep class, with ongoing support through this transition from her EEP teachers. Grace also receives ongoing school visits from our outreach teacher and will have ongoing therapy sessions and family support available as she navigates the journey into the school system alongside her peers.
How you can help
We can’t do this important work without your help. We rely heavily on donations to support our intensive therapy programs for abused and neglected kids, and early support for families at risk. Your donation will help us keep our doors open and expand our services.
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