From safe child to humane adult
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Celebrating 10 years of Success in Caring for Extremely Vulnerable Children and Young People. From Safe Child to Humane Adult. Christina Enright 26.06.08. Growing Up in the UK: Is Britain the Worst Place To Be A Child?. The true measure of a nation’s standing

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From safe child to humane adult

Celebrating 10 years of Success in Caring for Extremely Vulnerable Children and Young People

From Safe Child to Humane Adult

Christina Enright 26.06.08

From safe child to humane adult

Growing Up in the UK:

Is Britain the Worst Place To Be A Child?

From safe child to humane adult

The true measure of a nation’s standing

is how well it attends to its children-

their health and safety, their material security, their education and socialisation, and their sense of being loved, valued, and included in the families and societies into which they are born’

Unicef Report 2007

Assessment of levels of well being of children and adolescents in economically advanced nations

Assessment of levels of well-being of children and adolescents in economically advanced nations.

6 dimensions

  • Material

  • Health & safety

  • Educational

  • Family & peer relationships

  • Behaviour & Risks

  • Subjective sense of well-being

    UK last in 3/6 and bottom 1/3 for 5/6

Uncomfortable shameful truth

Uncomfortable & Shameful Truth

‘A generation of young people who

are unhappy, unhealthy, engaging in

risky behaviours, have poor relationships with family & peers, low expectations and who do not feel safe’.

From safe child to humane adult


  • What Underlies our Failure to Nurture Happy & Healthy Children in UK?

  • Northern European Countries Sweden & Netherlands in Top 4- what are they doing right/ differently?

  • Not just about poverty- poorer economies such as Poland and Chek Republic did better

From safe child to humane adult

Some Worrying Statistics

  • UK Child Poverty doubled since 1979

  • 1:5 children growing up on benefits

  • 553,000 children referred to CP due to neglect & abuse. Only 30,700 are protected through CP register

  • Space for children to roam, play, explore reduced by 90% in 20 years

  • Children play time as low as 3% (11 hrs in front of TV)

  • Parents too busy to listen

  • Most Conversations issuing instructions in 48 hour period

Children s worries

Children’s Worries

  • 34% of British Children always worried

  • 11% extremely worried

    What About?

  • School work

  • Death/poor health

  • Parental conflict

  • Falling out with friends

  • 10% hate leaving home in the morning

    because of problems at school

  • 31% experience bullying

Kids company

Kids Company

  • 84% homeless

  • 82% substance misuse

  • 81% criminal involvement

  • 83% complex trauma through formative


  • 39% young carers struggling to cope

  • 87% emotional difficulties and mental health


Violence abuse

Violence & Abuse

Violence is a public health issue!

  • Underreported

  • 16% experience serious maltreatment

  • 1/3 more than one type

  • Mother responsible most often

  • Seriously undermines safety and attachment

  • Violence & Abuse in the home seriously traumatising for children

Human brain not designed for modern world

Human Brain Not Designed for Modern World

  • Traditional small multigenerational family groups

  • Early Childhood Social Interactions- modern v hunter

    gatherer societies :- 4:1 / single caregiver: 1:4

    classroom: 2:30

  • Compartmentalisation of Western Life- separated by:

    age, wealth, work, education, profession, ethnicity, religion, race.

  • Children have fewer emotional, social & cognitive

    interactions with fewer people

  • Make sense to expect one person to meet multiple needs?

Neurodevelopmental perspective

Neurodevelopmental Perspective

  • Innate drive to form social bonds – power of relationships

  • Repetitive, patterned stimuli create neural networks

  • Secure attachment & sense of safety fosters healthy brain development

  • Quality of attachment determines social, emotional and cognitive capacity, plus ability to form future relationships

  • Primary maternal preoccupation –internal template for world/expectations

  • Childhood experience today dramatically different – poverty of relationships (developmental trauma)

  • Early neglect =profound abnormalities in structure & function

Why does relational health matter

Why Does Relational Health Matter?

  • Attachment fosters development of capacity to care, share, listen, value others, be empathic/compassionate- from being cared for, shared with, listened to, valued and nurtured

  • Internalisation of healthy self-regulatory process

  • Violence, suicide, mental illness, physical illness and host of social ills increase when the social fabric fragments

  • Attachment curbs our aggressive impulses/ promotes prosocial behaviour

  • Pleasure/ reward from relating – inhibits the misuse of substances

  • Social alienation/isolation- highest risk factor for school


Effects of developmental trauma

Effects of Developmental Trauma

  • Trauma- brain hardwired for stress

  • All information filtered through brain stem upwards

  • First experiences create template – interpret/filter

  • More primitive structures as move along arousal continuum – more threatened/ less mature

  • Continual scanning & appraisal of relational environment for threat- hypervigilance

  • Fight/flight/freeze

  • Novel stimuli remembered/ anxiety provoking

  • Abused children shut down capacity to feel

What is needed

What is Needed?

  • Policy with Serious and Firm Commitment to invest in Wellbeing of Children

  • Children are Our Future- change public attitudes

  • Putting knowledge into practice/share good practice – schools etc

  • Programmes to Decrease Social & Emotional Isolation

  • Emphasis on early years interventions – enriching environments- identify those at risk for intergenerational transmission

  • Particularly hard to reach groups

What is needed contd

What is Needed? (contd)

Model To Recreate Ideal Healthy Family/ Community

- pre& postnatal care/ support

- home visiting

- community involvement programmes

- school based service delivery

- parent education broadening range of contacts/experiences

  • Better support for those working with traumatised children

  • Models that focus initially on achieving emotional regulation

  • Models that address developmental deficits through matching

Kids company system of care

Kids Company System of Care

  • Service at street level

  • Underpinned by relationships – modulates stress response

  • Informed by neurobiological research /experience

  • Child/young person centred

  • Wrap around service- practical, social, emotional, educational support

  • Early intervention

  • Support for staff

  • Emphasis on healing through creativity

  • Experimentation with new ways of working – therapies geared to brainstem regulation

From safe child to humane adult

“What we do to our children

they will do to


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