Hannah is an 8-year-old girl, who currently lives with her father and step-mother, after spending her early childhood living with her mother interstate.
Removed from her Mother
In 2019, when Hannah was 6-years-old she visited her father on school holidays, it was then her mother refused to have her returned to her care. This caused Hannah to experience significant abandonment issues. In addition to this sudden change in living circumstances at 6-years-old, Hannah had told her father and step-mother that she had witnessed severe verbal and physical abuse towards her mother from her mother’s partners. Hannah had also experienced emotional and verbal abuse, often precipitated and perpetuated by her mother and her partners’ substance use.
Hannah was subsequently referred to the Act for Kids Flourish Child and Family Therapy program by her new school guidance officer for support and management of significant emotional dysregulation and behavioural problems. When Hannah first came to Act for Kids she presented with multiple trauma symptoms, such as emotional dysregulation, aggression, anxiety symptoms, including worry and sleep concerns, low mood and rule-breaking behaviour. Hannah also suffered low self-esteem, stating things like “I am dumb” and “I give up”, and interpersonal relationship problems. The 8-year-old was regularly getting into fights with her peers at school and her parents. Additionally, her father and step-mother were having difficulty managing her emotional and behavioural difficulties, and found disciplining Hannah a challenge.
Getting the help she needs
A psychometric assessment of Hannah found she had symptoms of anxiety, depression, somatic complaints, thought problems, rule-breaking behaviour, aggression, and social problems all falling within clinically significant ranges.
CBT-Based psychotherapy was provided across the course of 13 therapy sessions with Hannah, along with multiple parent sessions with her father and step-mother which were conducted in person and via telehealth due to COVID19 restrictions. Although Hannah was initially reserved and appeared apprehensive towards therapy, a strong therapeutic alliance formed over time, and she became enthusiastic to attend sessions, engaging well in the centre space. Hannah particularly enjoyed the mindfulness, relaxation and self-esteem building activities involved with her therapy. With the support of her father and step-mother, Hannah showed rapid improvements and started reporting enjoying using her new skills outside of therapy, such as writing in a journal, practicing her breathing, and using sensory toys to assist with calming her body. Parenting skills and parenting support sessions assisted with Hannah’s behaviour management and led to healthier disciplining alongside greater parenting support. The 8-year-old’s father and step-mother also engaged positively in the therapy sessions and demonstrated the use of new learned skills being applied in the home.
On the right path
Hannah underwent another psychometric assessment at the conclusion of her therapy sessions. Results demonstrated significant improvements in all areas, with anxiety and thought problems improving from clinical range to borderline clinician range. Results in other areas of concerns such as depression, somatic complaints, social problems, aggression, and rule-breaking behaviour fell within normal ranges. Hannah’s father and step-mother also reported observing positive changes in her behavioural and emotional functioning, as well as her anger management and self-esteem.
They also told their therapist they were feeling more confident with parenting skills. A special milestone in Hannah’s journey was when she came to one of her final sessions holding three certificates she had received for good behaviour in the classroom from school. Hannah proudly showed them to her therapist.
Hannah continues to regularly using intervention strategies, such as writing in her journal, verbalising her feelings and processing strong emotions with her father and step-mother and before finishing her therapy she told the Act for Kids team she hadn’t been in one fight this year and had set multiple positive goals for the remainder 2021.
Hannah had already started achieving these goals before she finished therapy with Act for Kids earlier this year.
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 can overcome their experiences and go on to have happy and productive lives. With continued support and positive reinforcement Ethan will be able to overcome his traumatic childhood experiences and achieve his full potential. Thank you for helping us give these kids the childhood they truly deserve.
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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