Evolution of ACF's Therapeutic Services in Tasmania

This article is authored by Sonya Pringle Jones, Program Manager, Child Trauma Service Tasmania at the Australian Childhood Foundation.

As the Australian Childhood Foundation (ACF) celebrates its 30th birthday in 2016, we have been reflecting on our journey in Tasmania. ACF has been present in Tasmania for over 10 years, performing a range of different activities which encompass the many diverse and multi-layered ways that trauma work can be done….from prevention, education, advocacy, therapeutic support, collaboration and partnership.

Education and Training 

Our initial presence in Tasmania began with our work in the professional education and training space, when the knowledge around trauma theory and its application in supporting children, families and caregivers was in its infancy. Bringing this information into the professional sphere was, and continues, to be met with both positive affirmations, as well as challenges for professionals. Integrating our understanding of the impact of trauma into existing paradigms of practice is not always easy, but when systems are able to fully embrace its meaning, working alongside other models of practice, it helps to facilitate remarkable transformations for children and families. 

In partnership with the Department of Education, ACF rolled out an extensive program through 2011-12 called Transforming Trauma. With extensive training delivered into high schools across the state, this helped to nurture the knowledge base around trauma and its impact on children and young people in the educational setting. In addition to training, schools conducted action research projects, trialling and evaluating the uptake of different approaches in the school domain, particularly relating to students who were at risk of disengaging from education. The impact of this program is still felt today, with many schools continuing to embrace and embed styles of both connecting and educating young people that facilitate successful outcomes. 

Parenting Programs

Alongside our Therapeutic Services, delivering Parenting Programs in the community sector saw ACF’s presence in Tasmania grow further through 2010-2012. With funding made available from the Tasmanian Early Years Foundation, our work filtered into Child & Family Centres across the state, expanding ACF’s focus in preventative approaches. 

The Bringing Up Great Kids Program for families was delivered widely, through a ‘train the trainer’ model, and is strongly aligned with mindfulness and reflective practice as a cornerstone in creating positive change in parent-child relationships. This helped to bring the knowledge of trauma and brain development to parents and the professionals supporting them in meaningful, fun and practical ways. 

Therapeutic Services

From this launch-pad in education and training, ACF established its first stand-alone premises outside of Victoria in 2009. With offices located in Hobart, Launceston and Burnie, ACF operated the Child Trauma Service, funded by DHHS: Child Protection Services. This enabled us to work therapeutically with hundreds of children in the Out of Home Care sector, along with their natural and foster families, Child Protection Workers, teachers and the broader systemic relationships around them. 

Working in both outreach and clinic based models of practice, we were able to integrate and flexibly apply our service delivery to meet individually identified needs of children and their caregivers. We pioneered work in the sector relating to Care Teams, providing a strong blueprint of how systems can work collectively to meet the needs of traumatised children, and advocate strongly for the creative ways in which these needs can be met. 

ACF’s Child Trauma Service underwent significant restructure as part of the Out of Home Care Sector Reform in 2015. Our newly created Out of Home Care Program replaced the Child Trauma Service. This shifted our primary focus away from clinical intervention, and drew attention to providing systemic support to help build the capacity of the child protection service and out of home care agencies. 

With trauma-informed practice and caregiving at the heart of the approach, our work has seen us concentrate more in the delivery of training, consultation and direct support to the teams around children. Emphasis on the phased model of recovery for children has been important, ensuring that systems embrace the need for safety and stabilisation as integral to the repair for children and young people who have experienced relational trauma. 

What’s new? Family Violence Counselling Program for Children and Young People

As part of the Tasmanian Government’s initiative on family violence, the Safe Homes Safe Families Project, ACF has been successful in obtaining funding from DHHS to extend our therapeutic services into the family violence sphere. Since July 2016 we have been establishing our new Family Violence Program. This sees us doubling our clinical staff, moving premises in Hobart, as well as re-establishing our presence in Burnie to further service the northwest of Tasmania which was done from Launceston since mid 2015.
 
We are extremely excited about this recent addition to our services in Tasmania. Our therapeutic work has previously been in solely supporting children and young people who are in Out of Home Care, but now we can receive referrals from anyone in the community. A key focus on our therapeutic work with children and young people will be on helping to repair relationships that have been ruptured as a result of family violence. 

This means that our work may involve working with parents who have used violence, or even for children whose parents may still be in relationships characterised by violence. We hope to bring our presence more strongly in to the community, and help to lessen the secrecy and silence that sits around family violence. Our therapeutic work with children and young people will involve a new approach to assessment, bringing the child’s voice to life even more strongly than we have done so in the past. 

Since late September 2016 we have been open for receiving referrals for our new Family Violence Counselling service. Anyone can enquire or make a referral, and can do by phoning a central intake number:
1300 381 581

The future

We will continue to work towards the creation of our ‘trauma hubs’, centres that we can operate from that incorporate all these different functions in trauma prevention, education and therapy. By embracing multi-faceted approaches to working with abuse-related trauma, ACF will continue to provide interventions for Tasmania’s children that help to create happier childhoods. It is hoped that by improving the outcomes for children in childhood and adolescence, we will therefore create healthier adulthoods and happier communities.


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