Concurrent Session - Day 2 - Sirius Room

Safe, thriving and connected – Responding to children and young people's support and recovery needs

Narelle Pryer & Stephanie Rea

Narelle has more than 25 years’ experience working with children and families in both regional and metropolitan areas. Narelle has worked with vulnerable families in the early intervention space in service delivery, practice development and policy roles, and as an early childhood teacher. Her interests include; promoting the importance of infant and perinatal mental health, working with families to increase parental knowledge and efficacy, and connecting with service providers to inform and improve practice. Narelle is currently the President of the Australian Association of Infant Mental Health WA Branch and an Endorsed Infant Family Worker.

Stephanie is a Nutritionist and Antenatal teacher and has been working with parents and children for over 20 years in the fields of pre and post birth education, parent support and early years nutrition.

In both the UK and Western Australia, she has worked with expectant couples in preparing for childbirth and the early postnatal period, helping navigate the joys and challenges that come with new parenthood. 

Stephanie spends her time in Perth delivering parent  workshops  to support parent child attachment and is currently studying for Master of Counselling at Notre Dame. She works at Communicare for the South East Metro Parenting Support Service (SEMPSS) and is also a committee member of the Australian Association of Infant Mental Health WA branch.

Stephanie believes the early years represent a crucial time for an infant’s future health and wellbeing outcomes, and works to support mothers and fathers who are struggling with the most important job of all; being a ‘good enough’ parent.

What about the baby?

While in a refuge the infant’s physical needs are met, but what about their emotional needs, and why is this important?
Nurturing relationships begin before birth. Babies’ brains are sensitive to both the physical health environment of the mothers’ uterus and the relational environment beyond it.
Infants and children need stable and responsive attachments with caring adults. Relationships play a central role in their social and emotional development and mental health. These earliest relationship experiences act as the foundation upon which all subsequent relational opportunities (those that are good and those that are not) will be built.
If an adult’s responses to a child are unreliable, inappropriate or absent, the damage to the developing architecture of the brain can have lifelong impacts on learning, behaviour, physical, mental and emotional health.
Babies are particularly attuned to their primary carer and will sense their fear and traumatic stress; this is particularly the case where family violence is present. They will become unsettled and therefore more demanding of an already overwhelmed parent.
Putting a ‘safe roof’ over your client’s head is fundamental to your work. Fundamental to infant development is a ‘safe environment’ AND ‘safe relationships.’ These need to be not just consistent but lively, enjoyable and responsive. If the parent is so deeply stuck in their own trauma that they are unavailable to their infants, then others need to urgently step in and be a responsive, soothing and protective adult in the infant’s life.
Building the capabilities of adult caregivers can help strengthen the environment of relationships essential to children’s lifelong learning, health, and behaviour.
Your role is to support the infant and the mother to feel safe and secure. Not to be the therapist. However, your interaction can be therapeutic. How can you or your staff do this

Catalina Paulsen & Savina Gavrailova

Catalina Paulsen and Savina Gavrailova work as the DFV Specialists and Child and Youth Advocates at the Brisbane Domestic Violence Service.

Catalina has a background in clinical psychology working with Children and Adolescents in Chile, a Masters Degree in Peace and Conflict Studies from UQ and is currently studying a Graduate Certificate in Childhood Developmental Trauma.
Savina comes from a Social Science background and has worked with children and young people in the statutory and non-statutory system, as well as youth homelessness and families facing statutory intervention. Savina is currently completing an Masters Degree in Social Work at SCU

Thriving through Connection

The child and youth program (CYP) at the Brisbane Domestic Violence Service – an activity of Micah Projects, aims to increase immediate physical and psychological safety resulting from experiences of domestic and family violence (DFV). The CYP program provides evidenced based individual case management support and two psycho-educational programs with a focus on specialist domestic and family violence child centred and trauma informed practice. CYP uses active engagement strategies to establish a positive rapport through Trust-Based Relational Intervention to create a group social learning experience, therefore breaking down social isolation by normalising experiences and removing social stigma of DFV. Flexibility of this model allows us to tailor the content to individual family needs such as providing one on one support. CYP centralises the voices of children and young people and their mothers by seeking feedback on all aspects of program delivery to enhance continuous improvement. One of the main benefits identified from feedback was the development of connection with others with shared experiences, thus removing shame and guilt and transporting participants from a victim centric position to empowered survivors. This presentation will explore the learnings, challenges and outcomes experienced over the past 2 years of planning, implementation and adaptation of this program guided by the input of families, children and young people.

Laureen Villegas & Leonie Burnham

Laureen Villegas is a senior research officer at eSafety with over 15 years’ experience in policy and research, across telecommunications and online safety. Laureen managed eSafety’s research on children and technology-facilitated abuse in family and domestic violence situations, and has managed several major research projects for eSafety. These include a mixed methods study on image-based abuse which informed the content of eSafety’s world-first image-based abuse portal, and and eSafety’s Youth Digital Participation survey, which explored children’s online activities, risks and opportunities. Laureen holds a BA and LLB (Hons) from Monash University and a postgraduate diploma in communications law from the University of Melbourne.

As part of the Learning and Development team in the eSafetyWomen program, Leonie Burnham brings over 30 years of experience to her role as Program Manager – Capacity Building. Leonie has worked across diverse sectors creating content, delivering innovative education programs, and facilitating critical discussions to raise awareness of the many issues impacting women and children experiencing or at risk of experiencing domestic and family violence. Passionate about transferring knowledge from research into best practice, Leonie brings the experience of working with private industry, not for profit and the community led sector, law enforcement and the justice system into her current work to support frontline workers and breakdown the challenges created by technology in unhealthy relationships.

Technology, children and young people – pathway to safety or tool for abuse?

Abuse through technology is evident in the vast majority of domestic and family violence cases. Using technology – mobile phones and other devices, social media and online accounts such as email and banking – perpetrators harass, stalk, threaten and intimidate their targets, and subject them to constant monitoring and surveillance. Abuse through technology can be difficult for practitioners – and also the person experiencing it – to identify, and this creates challenges in safely supporting victim-survivors and their children.
Recent research commissioned by the eSafety Commissioner confirms that children and young people are a prime target for perpetrators in these situations. At least one in four domestic violence cases involve technology-facilitated abuse of children. Children are either abused directly or used by perpetrators as conduits to gather information and further facilitate abuse of the other parent, often unknowingly and usually with no power for redress or options to escape to safety. The impact on their mental health and education, their relationship with the non-abusive parent, as well as their everyday lives can be profound.
We will provide key findings from our research into children’s experiences of technology-facilitated abuse and highlight the myriad and sinister ways in which children are further abused by perpetrators. Drawing from our eSafety Women program, we will also share insights into how to improve practice, inform policy and advocacy for those working with children, young people and women impacted by domestic and family violence, including how technology can be used positively as part of the safety solution.

Alison Evans

Dr Alison Evans has deep commitment and substantive knowledge and experience in working to end violence against women and children, to achieve gender equality and promote women’s health through her work in education, as the Executive Officer of the Women’s Community Health Network for nearly a decade and in her current position as the Director of Family, Domestic and Sexual Violence

Building on children and young people’s capacity for resilience and agency

A credible body of research has evolved on resilience and children and young people exposed to family and domestic violence. This information can be drawn on for resilience-informed approaches specifically aimed at working with children and young people exposed to violence. Extant studies indicate some children and young people show resilience after family and domestic violence exposure. Yet little has been written on how resilience can be fostered with exposed children and young people. 

In this session resilience research regarding family and domestic violence-exposed children and young people will be summarised. As well, case examples will be presented for ways to foster resilience with FDV-exposed children and young people. Suggestions are made for a resilience-informed approach with this population at the individual, familial, and community level that can help ensure these in-risk children and young people have a better chance to enjoy positive life outcomes.