Service Spotlight: Oasis Community Children's Centre
Oasis Community Children’s Centre is a 92-place early education and care service based in Salisbury.
In 2021, the team at Oasis Community Children’s Centre were observing a variety of behaviours from the children in their care including aggression, difficulty interacting with peers, lack of trust in adults and an inability to regulate their emotions or responses. The team were feeling overwhelmed with the intensity and frequency of these behaviours and found traditional ‘behaviour guidance’ methods were ineffective in supporting the children. They were aware that this was likely due to the high rates of adversity and trauma experienced by many of the children and families attending the service. Despite being aware of the likely causes of these behaviours, the team was left feeling ill-equipped.
This prompted the leadership team to seek support from Connect.Ed. With support from their Inclusion Professional, Oasis submitted an application to access Innovative Solutions Support funding via the Inclusion Support Programme. This funding provided an opportunity for the team to engage in professional development on a variety of topics, including brain development, developmental trauma, understanding children’s behaviours, attachment and regulation. Alongside the professional development sessions, the project included regular out-of-hours meetings with the leadership team and regular mentoring sessions whereby a Child Development Practitioner from Connect.Ed attended the service to support the whole team with recommendations, guidance and role-modelling of trauma-informed strategy implementation.
One of the key goals the service identified at the beginning of their project with Connect.Ed, was for educators to be able to identify their signs of dysregulation and how this influenced their responses to children’s behaviour. Upon the project completion, the team shared key reflections and almost every team member identified that they felt more confident and comfortable, as a result of the project, identifying when they were becoming dysregulated, and their individual strategies to manage this. One team member identified that, when they were beginning to feel overwhelmed, they would become ‘busy’ doing small tasks, and often standing up. They reflected that, whilst this was successful in providing space between them and the children, it was actually impacting on their ability to authentically connect with them. This insightful reflection allowed the educator to try a new approach, including sitting and actively connecting with the children. When the children became dysregulated, the educator practiced co-regulation (as discussed throughout the professional development session). The educator was able to identify that these moments actually led to a calmer group and, therefore, the educator felt calmer themselves!
Throughout the project, the team learned a lot about the needs and reasons that underlie children’s various behaviours, which helped them to re-frame what they were seeing and understand it from different perspectives. Many of the educators expressed that this was helpful in making the tricky behaviours feel less frustrating, as they had increased empathy for the experiences of the children. However, an unexpected benefit of learning about the needs and reasons underlying behaviour, was the capacity for the team to apply this to their interactions with each other, as well as the children.
The project provided the team with opportunities to understand each other’s different communication styles, strengths, times when they needed support, and how their individual experiences might show up in their interactions with each other (because after all, we are all whole human beings with unique experiences that have influenced who we are and how we interact!). This increased empathy and understanding for each other allowed the team to build even stronger cohesion, which facilitated a more consistent approach with the children and families.
The team at Oasis have worked incredibly hard throughout 2022 to support each other, the children, the families and their community using a trauma-informed lens. They actively and wholeheartedly embraced the support available to them and continue to work on embedding trauma-informed practice into the fabric of their service, whilst also connecting with other professionals to support children and families. This is allowing them to continue learning, growing and becoming a fantastic example of successful trauma-informed practice in early years education.
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: Chloe King
Chloe is a Child Development Practitioner at Connect.Ed.
Originally published in Connected Caregiving Spring 2022