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Protecting Children is Everyone's Business

Posted by Kerrie Gottliebsen | 30/08/16

Protecting children is a priority at Tweddle. During Child Protection Week, 4th – 10th September, we celebrate the privilege of caring for families while highlighting the importance of our role in keeping children safe. Child abuse can mean physical abuse, psychological abuse, sexual abuse, neglect and exposure to violence.

Paramount to our range of parenting programs and keeping children safe is supporting parents to identify their children’s non-verbal and verbal cues. Babies and very young children communicate in different ways when they are feeling loved and safe, they also communicate when they are feeling frightened or anxious. 

All Tweddle programs are underpinned by the growing body of evidence relating to the adverse impact on infants who experience traumatic stress in the crucial early childhood development phase. 

Child and family vulnerability can result from a number of parental risk factors including: poor mental health, substance use, learning disabilities, family violence, homelessness and isolation.

In 2014/15 Tweddle supported over 1400 mums, dads and children who were admitted to a residential program. Families admitted to a Tweddle program through an intake and assessment process have identified that they are experiencing multiple risk factors which we know can place a child at risk. While at Tweddle, families learn how to respond to and build attachment with their child which we know impacts brain development.

By the age of 3, a baby’s brain has reached almost 90% of its adult size. The growth in each region of the brain largely depends on receiving stimulation, which spurs activity in that region. This stimulation provides the foundation for learning. Stable and nurturing relationships provide positive stimulation that builds the architecture of the brain and connects up neural pathways.

Parents who are unresponsive, frightened, frightening or abusive are unlikely to be able to provide attuned and appropriate responses for their children. Family violence is known to negatively impact a mother’s capacity to attune to her infant and to provide responsive, sensitive care. Their responses may promote chronic hyperarousal, which has enduring effects on children’s ability to think and modulate strong emotions (van der Kolk et al 1996).

At the foundation of Tweddle’s work with families is the concept of attachment, which refers to the emotional relationships we have with other people. An infant’s early attachment to his or her primary caregiver provides the foundation for future emotional relationships. It also provides the base for other learning, because babies and children learn best when they feel safe, calm, protected and nurtured by caregivers. 

A parent with multiple complex needs will experience difficulty responding to their child’s needs. Parents at Tweddle might be experiencing anxiety, irritability, anger, hostility, violence, emotional unavailability, harsh or ineffective discipline practices  and fearfulness.

Exposure to trauma (such as abuse, neglect or exposure to violence) affects an infant’s psychological functioning such as emotional regulation, behaviour, response to stress and interaction with others. Tweddle plays a critical and timely role in protecting children and building parents’ internal and external resources, skills and capacity to manage challenges and stress which can impact a child for life.

 

Tweddle Child and Family Health Service

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