Most, if not all, children and young people living in out-of-home care arrangements have suffered trauma. This may have been abuse and/or neglect prior to their removal from their family of origin and/or other subsequent trauma including that associated with a multiple placement history.
The future for many of these children is bleak. Well-documented research identifies an inability to maintain relationships, poor education achievement, criminal involvement, mental health problems and high levels of addiction/substance abuse as just some of the likely adverse outcomes for these children and young people.
Recent advances in neuro-imaging techniques have resulted in concrete evidence of altered brain development and functioning in children, who have suffered trauma, abuse and neglect. This means that adverse outcomes, previously explained in psychological, emotional and behavioural terms are now better understood.
For example, certain brain areas may react to chronic stress and/or fear by producing excess hormones, which can destroy neurons and impair functioning. Additionally, persistent stress or fear is shown to cause activation of certain pathways, not normally activated. Such pathways may become sensitised and create memories that automatically trigger the fear response. This explains some children who are hypersensitive to nonverbal cues such as eye contact or a touch on the arm, which they perceive as threatening. See http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/issue_briefs/brain_development/brain_development.pdf for more information.
Timely, targeted, developmentally appropriate, trauma-informed interventions are vital to minimising the long-term adverse effects of such early insults on brain development. It is often important that interventions involve patterned and repetitive activities that are designed to activate the neural pathways necessary for re-organisation. Such activities may include music, movement and massage. Once improvements have been made at this level, for example an improvement in the child or young person’s ability to self-regulate, it is possible to introduce therapeutic techniques that are more insight and verbally oriented such as cognitive-behavioural or psychodynamic approaches.
In summary, children in the out-of-home care sector require timely access to appropriate therapy interventions in combination with quality case management and care.
With this in mind, The Wishing Well was established to provide therapies so these children and young people can recover from the trauma, abuse and neglect they have suffered and have the opportunity for happy and productive lives.
Some examples of therapies, which are effective in treating children and young people who have suffered trauma, abuse and neglect include:
- Art therapy
- Play Therapy
- Massage therapy
- Equine Assisted Psychotherapy
- Music therapy
- Heal For Life Camps
- Educational support, tutoring and remedial work
- Nutrition support and guidance