Service Spotlight: Fleurieu Occasional Community Children's Centre
It’s no surprise that many children and families have been impacted by the ongoing uncertainly and stress surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic. The team at Fleurieu Occasional Community Children’s Centre felt a real shift, not only in the levels of stress and anxiety within their community and families, but also within themselves as ‘essential workers’. They also understood that this ongoing stress was having an impact on the children in their care. We spoke with their director Kirsty, to learn more about how she supported her team throughout this unprecedented time.
Fleurieu Occasional Community Children’s Centre is located in Noarlunga Centre and provides care for families of diverse backgrounds, including families experiencing adversity and trauma. As such, the service often finds themselves supporting high numbers of children exhibiting challenging behaviour and require additional support.
While the Educators (who are, for the most part, very experienced in the sector) have worked with similar behaviours previously, they found the rates of this were quickly growing and, due to the ongoing stress and uncertainty of our ‘new normal’, the Educators found their resilience was waning and this was impacting on how they were able to interact and respond to children, families and their team.
“Educators were struggling to be their best selves when coming to work.” All these compounding factors led Kirsty, Centre Director, to reach out for support.
“We already identified that educator wellbeing was a priority for our service to explore. We were committed to supporting the mental health and wellbeing of educators, children and their families.”
With the support of their Inclusion Professional, Kirsty wrote a business case and applied for Innovative Solutions Support (ISS) funding via the Inclusion Development Fund Manager (IDFM). Kirsty contacted Connect.Ed to facilitate the project, as “their values align with those of our service” and she was drawn to the tailored support they could provide.
A variety of support strategies were included in the project design, including monthly facilitated team meetings and reflective practice sessions. Various topics were covered such as brain development and developmental trauma, self-awareness, regulation, and educator wellbeing.
Kirsty described the topics as “interesting, and important for our work with children.”
The project also included fortnightly mentoring sessions, which involved a Child Development Practitioner attending the service to support the team in their day-to-day work with the children through role modelling strategies, supporting reflection, and providing feedback.
According to Kirsty, “Mentoring, in particular, was very effective. Mentoring assisted us with the opportunity to see trauma-informed practice role modelled, whilst providing educators with an opportunity to reflect, in the moment. It also gave Educators an opportunity to translate new knowledge (as discussed in staff meetings) into practical skills and ensured that new knowledge was embedded into daily practice.”
Throughout the project, educators were able to grasp a solid understanding of trauma-informed care and how this can support the children and families at their service. “The project gave educators the confidence and skills to effectively manage challenging behaviours.”
Due to the projects focus on educator wellbeing, Educators were also more confident in recognising their own cues of dysregulation and were able to identify ways of supporting their own regulation, allowing them to be more available to support the children.
Over the course of the project, the team at Fleurieu demonstrated their commitment and passion for supporting their community through ongoing reflection in their work, and through both professional and personal development. Their commitment to wellbeing remains and following the project they developed a Wellbeing Action Plan so they can continue to build on their skills and knowledge.
Fleurieu is a leading example of ‘putting on your own oxygen mask first’. The team identified that they can’t pour from an empty cup and, in turn, focused on their own wellbeing in order to support the wellbeing of the children in their care.
The Innovative Solutions Support (ISS) funding is available through the Inclusion Support Program (ISP) to assist eligible early childhood education and care services to fund innovative, flexible and responsive solutions to barriers to inclusion and embed inclusive practices.
Innovative Solutions Support provides flexible funding to empower services to carefully consider their inclusion challenges and take on an active role in finding solutions and build their capacity and capability to include children with additional needs.
For more information about the funding, please contact the South Australia Inclusion Agency firstname.lastname@example.org
Connect.Ed can support early childhood education and care services to implement trauma-informed practice, using a regulatory and relationship-based approach. This approach is different to a ‘traditional’ behaviour-management approach and, instead, focuses on supporting children to regulate their emotional experiences using their emotional connection with Educators.
For more information about accessing support from Connect.Ed, please contact email@example.com
Words: Nicola Vozzo
Nicola is a Child Development Practitioner at Connect.Ed and one of the faces behind Connected Caregiving
Originally published in Connected Caregiving Spring 2022