IMPACT Newsletter December 2020
The most amazing gift to give a child this Christmas
This year, we’ve all been reminded of the importance of community and connection.
Here at the Australian Childhood Foundation, the pandemic has brought home just how important it is for children like Charlotte and Ella* to be able to access therapeutic activities remotely and have the right tools on hand to promote healing.
We’ve developed the Little Hearts Healing Kit to help vulnerable Australian children like Charlotte and Ella heal from within the comfort of their new homes.
A Little Hearts Healing Kit can help comfort a child when they’re frightened or find connection when they’re alone. It helps them feel the joy of childhood, after losing their early years to trauma.
Charlotte and Ella’s story is heartbreaking, and, tragically, not as uncommon as you might think.
Having experienced significant neglect and abuse so early in their young lives, the two sisters were placed into foster care when Charlotte was four years old, and Ella just 14 months of age.
With a history of harm, and, importantly, a lack of unconditional love, the resulting trauma felt by Charlotte and Ella manifested in behaviour that rattled even the most compassionate of carers.
It was difficult to find a foster family willing to look after both Charlotte and Ella together. Eventually the only option was to separate them and place each child with a different carer.
This was devastating for both Charlotte and Ella, who relied on each other for love and security.
It was around this time that the Australian Childhood Foundation came into their lives.
One of our Therapeutic Specialist Counsellors, Jamie, worked with both girls to help them recover from some of their past trauma, so they could eventually live together again.
“Ella was super timid when I first met her”, says Jamie. “She couldn’t look me in the eye. She was wetting the bed and she used to throw herself on the floor, screaming and crying, when she was upset.”
Jamie focused on building trust with Ella.
“We held the therapy sessions at Ella’s foster home, where she felt most comfortable. We used lots of used lots of ‘move and soothe’ techniques to make Ella feel calm and relaxed. We did belly breathing exercises and used objects like feathers and bubbles.
Little by little, Ella became comfortable with me. She let me wrap a blanket around her, then give her a cuddle—a sign that we had established trust.”
Of course, every child responds to trauma in their own way. When Jamie started therapy sessions with Ella’s older sister Charlotte, she knew she’d need to take a different approach.
“Charlotte was 11 years old when I first met her”, explains Jamie. “Because their own parents had neglected them, Charlotte felt as though she needed to take on the role of being a parent to Ella.
Sometimes her worry and stress turned into anger. And if she felt threatened or scared, Charlotte would yell and lash out. She felt she needed to protect herself.”
In their sessions, Jamie used art therapy to help Charlotte open up and express herself. It also helped Charlotte regain a sense of control in her life.
“Through the activities, Charlotte came to understand that her brain and her body had developed certain coping mechanisms as a way of surviving. Far from being ‘bad’, her behaviour was actually testament to her strength and resilience.”
When it came time for Charlotte and Ella to live together again, a foster family was found who could care for both sisters. But Jamie’s work wasn’t over.
Using storybooks and games, Jamie helped prepare the girls for this huge change—living together as sisters once more. As the day of their reunion approached, the excitement grew. Ella had her bag packed a whole week in advance—she was that thrilled about living with her big sister again.
The sisters are happily settled in their new foster home. They can’t wait to spend Christmas together, for the first time in years. It will be the first time ever that they will have a loving, family Christmas and they can do only it this year because they have had help in recovering from some of their past trauma.
Therapy for children looks very different to therapy for adults. ‘Talking it out’ doesn’t cut it for traumatised children—they need to physically feel the sensations of safety and security in their bodies in order for healing to occur.
That’s why a Little Hearts Healing Kit is so effective. It contains a collection of items that might seem like everyday toys, games, resources and activities, but with the guidance of one of our therapeutic counsellors, these items are transformed into tools that facilitate profound healing in abused and neglected children.
Even the most traumatised hearts can experience healing when a child has the tools and resources available to feel safety and security within a relationship. This Christmas, you can make a difference in the lives of children like Charlotte and Ella, by purchasing a Little Hearts Healing Kit here.
If you would like to find out more about the Little Hearts Healing Kit please click here. If would like to contact Australian Childhood Foundation directly you can email or call us today.
Passing Christmas joy over the fence at Highpoint