Just picture one of the wonderful children in your life.
Now picture them in another scenario: having suffered severe neglect and abuse – and having to be removed from home.
It’s absolutely heartbreaking. Unfortunately for us, it’s the reality of our work every day.
Nathan and Lucie are two amazing children we work with through our Children Ahead program. They were recently referred to us after going to live with carers – in this case, with friends of the family.
They were there because their mother who battled drug problems wasn’t able to care for them properly and they had already lost their dad a year earlier from a heroin overdose.
While we don’t know exactly what the children experienced as a result of their parents’ drug use and what they understand about the death of their dad, we do know that they are struggling to make sense of what has happened to them. We also know they are very afraid about what will happen next.
When children are traumatised, it affects their physical and emotional development – they can feel insecure, and have trouble learning and managing their emotions. They also often find it hard to trust others and feel unsure of their place in the world.
Nine-year-old Nathan has trouble with auditory processing – and in turn, speaking. He has trouble understanding instructions and struggles to concentrate in class and at home. He also always appears to be ‘on alert’ and is described by his carer as jumpy and highly anxious. This is likely to be a result of neglect during his early years.
Seven-year-old Lucie has difficulty sleeping. This has a negative effect on her concentration, school work, processing skills and friendships.
The family caring for these heartbroken and devastated children have had a tough time themselves and have recently experienced the death of a close family member. This has added to the stress in the family and things were beginning to fall apart. The carers weren’t sure that they could continue to care for Nathan and Lucie and turned to our Children Ahead program, absolutely desperate for help.
Caring for devastated children is very hard. It’s an incredible amount for anyone to deal with.
At the Alannah & Madeline Foundation, we help children in many ways. And in many cases, with your support, together, we literally change their lives.
One of the key ways we collectively do this is through our Children Ahead program, where we provide intensive, therapeutic support to children and young people to help them recover from significant trauma or violence. It’s critical for them to get help after their ordeal.
But that’s why we’re here and with supporters like you we can help more children like Nathan and Lucie.
Our Children Ahead program works with families, children and schools to overcome obstacles caused by trauma and violence. Our qualified staff work directly with children and young people alongside their family and school to support their emotional, educational and social needs, as well as their psychological wellbeing and any overall health concerns.
There was much work to be done with Nathan, Lucie and their carers.
The Foundation worked with the family to offer direct support, including paying for sessions with a speech pathologist for Nathan and working with him in physically creative ways instead of relying on verbal communication.
Our Children Ahead practitioners worked with the children’s carers, giving them practical strategies to use to make life easier at home. We provided invaluable emotional support as well – sitting and listening to the struggles that the carers were facing as they sorted through their own grief and loss. We pulled them back from the edge of placement breakdown and helped them find the strength to keep going with Nathan and Lucie.
With children, we use therapeutic tools and activities to help each child speak openly and safely about their experiences and feelings. They learn skills to build self-esteem and resilience, how to manage strong emotions, and learn how to build friendships, trust and develop social, communication and conflict-resolution skills – as we did with Nathan and Lucie.
A child who has been through trauma and violence is much more likely to have problems in relationships, friendships and with authority figures, including teachers and the police. They’re less likely to finish school, and often find it difficult to study or hold onto a job. There is increased risk of addiction, depression, anxiety, physical conditions and self-harm, amongst others.
These all have devastating knock-on effects and are damaging to society in general, as well as other people: physically, emotionally and financially.
In most cases, it is only with specialist, long-term help that children with traumatic backgrounds can hope to lead fulfilling and satisfying lives through their adult years.
If programs like Children Ahead didn’t exist, Nathan and Lucie would likely be caught in the cycle of violence for generations to come.
Through research, evidence and experience, we know that for children and young people to recover from serious violence they need a safe, predictable and stable environment – one where they have the ability to express and communicate their feelings, maintain positive relationships and connection to family, and continue to develop resilience.
Your support can help change a child’s life.
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