Service Spotlight: Goodstart Blackwood
Our team at Goodstart Blackwood recently received intensive support from Connect.Ed to understand children’s behaviours and respond using a trauma-informed approach.
As the Centre Director, I decided to reach out to Connect.Ed after starting at the centre and realising that the team were in need of support. I saw a high turnover of staff due to burnout and was committed to supporting the teams wellbeing, as well as their practice. With this goal in mind, we accessed the Innovative Solutions Support funding. We were recommended Connect.Ed through our management at Goodstart and, after doing our own research and speaking to people about their services, we decided they were very aligned with what we needed.
When I first arrived at the centre, it was clear that the team were struggling to support children’s behaviour. There was a gap in their skill set and a lack of understanding of the impact that trauma can have on children’s developing brains. This was leading to an increase in incidents which often resulted in children being evacuated from the room for safety. Educators were reportedly feeling ‘on edge’ and struggling to communicate with families about how they could support their children. Acknowledging that we required training on trauma-informed practice was the first step for us and, the more we became aware of this, the clearer the gaps in our knowledge became.
When we started the project with Connect.Ed, the team was initially apprehensive. They were feeling depleted and were lacking the energy to do ‘another thing’. However, once we engaged in the professional development and mentoring sessions, there was a real shift in attitude. The team started to deeply reflect on their beliefs about children and developed an understanding of the impact that trauma can have on their brains, bodies and behaviour. Overall, they started to view children differently. The team’s ability to see things from the child’s perspective, with such empathy, was a real turning point.
The project helped the team to feel more connected, not just to the children, but to each other. They were supported to develop skills in recognising their own triggers and were encouraged to call on each other for support. They started to view children’s behaviour as communication and became very attuned to validating children’s feelings and experiences.
One of the most impactful elements of our project was the role modelling and mentoring we received. We really valued having Nicola in the room with us, giving us language to use and showing us what connection, co-regulation and support for children can look like.
With that said, one of the most surprising parts of our journey was that we initially thought we would receive training that gave us an ‘answer’ to our problems. We wanted something easy and straightforward to implement, however, we soon realised that we would need to look within ourselves first, understanding our own brains and bodies, before we could support the children in our rooms. Our practice became about giving the best of us rather than what’s left of us.
Since completing the project, our team has been keeping trauma-informed practice at the front of our minds. We attend a free monthly Trauma-Informed Community of Practice Meeting (facilitated by Connect.Ed) which helps us to connect with other Educators who are on the same journey and helps us to continue our learning.
We now understand that children come from all different backgrounds and will need different things from us in order to thrive, and sometimes even heal.
Because of this project, we feel more confident that we can provide an inclusive and supportive environment for all children. We feel armed with the tools to deal with different situations and, because of that, we feel the project has reminded us why we love our jobs.
We have recently had new families enrol in our centre after being told [by other early learning services] that their child’s support needs couldn’t be met. We are so happy to be able to support families such as these and we pride ourselves on being an inclusive centre for all children.
"It has been such a wonderful learning journey for the team. We will use these skills each and every day, because we’ve got them for life."
Vanessa, Centre Director
"Connect.Ed has helped us with connecting and communicating with both the children and families in a better way."
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 email@example.com
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Words: Vanessa Rameh Vanessa is the Centre Director at Goodstart Blackwood.
Originally published in Connected Caregiving Autumn 2023