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Early response program targets family trauma

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A new early response program - funded by the NSW Domestic and Family Violence Innovation Fund - has been developed with the help of Goodstart Early Learning.

Goodstart national manager professional practice Greg Antciff and national lead social inclusion Penny Markham worked with Early Childhood Australia (ECA) to deliver the new program for educators—Early signals. First Responses.

It will resource and support early childhood educators and carers to better recognise and respond to young children who have been exposed to or experienced family violence.

The focus of the Innovation Fund on long-term prevention and early intervention strategies ensure educators receive resources and information to respond to the needs of young children who have been exposed to violence in the home.

Early Signals. First Responses is a unique program that combines face-to-face and online learning techniques including: webinars; expert coaching and networking opportunities and is developed by experts in the fields of domestic violence and trauma in children.

"Sadly one-in-four children in NSW experience family violence so there could be up to twenty five thousand
children under five years old attending early childhood services who need support and understanding," said
ECA CEO Samantha Page. 

Very young children who have been exposed to violence in the home do not have words to express their
anguish and trauma.

There is increasing awareness that children exhibiting difficult, challenging or
withdrawn behaviours may be affected by trauma, and educators are calling out for support and resources
on how to recognise trauma affected behaviour and respond in a way that helps children.

Collaborators on the project included Professor Richard Fletcher (University of Newcastle), Dr Anne Kennedy (early childhood researcher and consultant), Alys Gagnon (The Parenthood), Janet Williams-Smith (child protection specialist and now Director Service Development & Strategy, ECMS) and well-established early childhood service providers who bring decades of experience in early childhood, family services and transdisciplinary teams: Goodstart Early Learning, Gowrie NSW, SDN Children’s Services and Betty Spears Child Care Centre.

"Our aim with Early Signals. First Responses is to develop the skills and confidence of early childhood
educators to safely and professionally respond to young children affected by family violence and trauma
and work with their families," said Ms Page.

"This innovative program will support educators to respond to children’s immediate unmet needs and
change the long-term trajectory that early exposure to conflict, abuse and hidden violence creates over
young children’s future lives."

"Based on evidence-informed practice, ECA’s Early Signals. First Responses will enable educators to
support children to process their feelings, reduce anxiety, support secure attachment with caregivers and
develop protective behaviours that potentially interrupt generational patterns of violence," said Ms
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