Early childhood educators play a vital role in shaping the lives of young children. Their impact extends far beyond the classroom, as they help build the foundation for a child's future success and emotional wellbeing. However, some children come to early education settings with experiences of trauma that can significantly affect their development, and impact those around them.
Trauma comes in many forms, such as physical, sexual and emotional abuse, neglect, family violence, community violence, family breakdown, grief and loss, natural disasters and exposure to mental illness and substance abuse.
Findings from the Australian Maltreatment Study, released earlier this year, reveal that childhood trauma is a prevailing concern in Australia, affecting over 62% of children and young people. Trauma during childhood can have profound and lasting effects on cognitive, social, and emotional development.
We know that high-quality early years education plays a crucial role in identifying issues early and ensuring appropriate assessment and support for affected children and families. It can also act as a protective factor and a soft spot to land for children experiencing adversity. However, educators face challenges, including vicarious trauma due to exposure to children's traumatic experiences.
The Alannah & Madeline Foundation's Trauma Consultancy Service (TraCS) program and their recently launched Trauma-informed Practice Guide (TIO Practice Guide), is transforming the way educators approach teaching and caregiving.
About the TraCS Program
The TraCS program is specifically designed for early childhood educators and is geared towards building their capacity to provide trauma-informed care.
Children who have experienced trauma often require significant support to prepare them for their transition to school. TraCS recognises that the behaviours of children are best understood within the context of their environment, including their experiences and relationships.
It also recognises that early years educators are uniquely positioned to see the child in context, working with children and families on the front line.
The Alannah & Madeline Foundation TraCS consultants work hand in hand with early years educators, providing context and specific supports to help educators identify and address impacts of trauma on children in their care.
Recently evaluated by Monash University’s Health and Social Care Unit, the TraCS program was shown to improve educator trauma knowledge, practice and attitudes by:
- Helping educators understand challenging behaviours through a 'trauma lens'.
- Building the capability of educators to respond to challenging behaviours.
- Using a 'trauma lens' to foster educator wellbeing, ensuring they can stay happy and fulfilled in their roles.
- Empowering educators to foster trauma-sensitive learning environments.
- Supporting educators to be engaged and connected.
- About the Trauma Informed Practice Guide
In addition, the Alannah & Madeline Foundation recently launched Trauma-Informed Practice: A Guide for Early Childhood Organisations (TIO Practice Guide), in collaboration with Monash University’s Health and Social Care Unit (HSCU).
The Trauma Informed Practice Guide was developed in response to a critical need identified by the Alannah & Madeline Foundation for trauma informed approaches to be integrated into entire organisations, rather than just being practised individually. This realisation followed years of collaboration with early childhood education and care professionals and an increasing understanding that effective trauma-informed practice requires simultaneous action at the organisational level.
To create trauma-informed organisations, there is a need for a holistic approach, addressing culture, processes, and systems to create a safe, responsive environment. All staff members must receive the necessary skills, training, resources, and a supportive environment to incorporate trauma-informed approaches into their work, so everyone can thrive — ultimately reducing the impact of trauma.
- Learn more about Alannah & Madeline Foundation’s TraCS program here.
- A free download of the Trauma-Informed Practice: A Guide for Early Childhood Organisations is available here.
The Alannah & Madeline Foundation is a national not-for-profit organisation committed to protecting children from violence and trauma.