Implementing the KidsMatter framework in schools and early childhood services is enhanced through a connection to the broader community. Such collaborations: facilitate linkages with professionals who can support children's social and emotional wellbeing; increase access to parenting support; and can ensure that children who need mental health support can access it when they need it. 

KidsMatter strongly encourages partnerships between early childhood services or schools and health services, universities and professionals.  Working together in partnership will look different depending on the setting. Some schools or services may already have well-developed connections, while others may be making their first steps towards establishing community partnerships. 

The following stories of partnership collaborations seek to provide inspiration, information and ideas on how to work together to promote children’s mental health and wellbeing.

Click on the tabs below to explore these stories in more detail.

      • Alunga Children’s Centre became aware that many children in the area were struggling with social and emotional skills before entering kindergarten. At the same time, Illawarra-Shoalhaven (IS) Medicare Local were keen to work with early childhood services in their region with the view to supporting local families and improving the mental health and wellbeing of young children. KidsMatter connected the two services and they subsequently forged a partnership with the shared goals of building children’s resilience through enhancing relationships, reducing the risk of mental health difficulties, and supporting families in need at the Centre.

        “The partnership was a result of an assessment that was undertaken in the local area, that found there was a gap in supporting young children who may be having mental health difficulties”, said Rachel Bridge, a psychologist at IS Medicare Local.

        The main focus of the partnership was to implement the Kids Count Program, which targets early childhood centres who employ the KidsMatter framework, and who service a population identified to be at risk.

        The Program allowed a psychologist to work with Alunga staff to strengthen educators’ knowledge and understanding of the social and emotional needs of young children, build their capacity and skills in effectively responding to a child’s individual needs, and recognise when a child and family may need additional psychological support and a referral to the Kids Count Program psychologist.

        The psychologist facilitated training sessions for educators (sometimes after hours) on specific topics like the Circle of Security or reflective practice. “When the Centre was open, she would be on the floor with staff providing them with support and opportunities for observing and reflecting on how they were interacting with the children”, said Rachel. “She would then hold individual reflective practice sessions with individual staff members to help them up-skill and come on board with this new way of working.”

        Armed with this knowledge, educators were then well placed to support and encourage families to access appropriate support services beyond the early childhood context.

        Additionally, physically placing a psychologist at Alunga overcame some of the barriers that might prevent families from accessing these services. Parents and carers were provided with strategies for effectively communicating with, and supporting their children, and sessions with families were provided by psychologists. “We intended for the Kids Count Program to compliment and build on the KidsMatter foundation”, said Rachel Bridge.

        Since the establishment of this partnership, Alunga educators are continually building their knowledge of early childhood mental health as well as playing an important role in supporting the children and families at the Centre.

        Read more about the Alunga partnership

         

      • Dubbo and District Preschool participated in the pilot of KidsMatter Early Childhood from 2010. As they implemented Component 2: Children’s Social and Emotional Development, educators began to notice some children appeared to be more shy and anxious than their peers. This led to an interest in learning more about children’s social and emotional development – particularly focusing on resilience, anxiety and separation anxiety.

        Centre Director, Louise Simpson, contacted her local Dubbo Community Health Centre, seeking to arrange a session for the centre’s educators to help recognise when children may be at risk or showing early signs of experiencing mental health difficulties. Dubbo Community Health Centre was happy to assist, and so Senior Psychologist Ann-Maree Hartley gave a presentation to the centre’s educators on childhood anxiety that included when to seek professional advice, the referral process, and suggestions on how to approach parents of children who may be experiencing difficulties in this area.

        Once educators were able to identify children in their centre who were more anxious, shy or inhibited, the centre engaged with the children’s parents and offered a free workshop run by Ann-Maree. Ann-Maree taught parents valuable skills and exercises to reduce excessive anxiety and increase confidence in children. 

        The workshop was held during the day and the preschool provided childcare for siblings from TAFE students studying Certificate 3 – Children’s Services. Afterwards, centre educators reinforced these strategies and ideas, and provided positive feedback to parents about the children’s development and improvement over time.

        The workshop was very successful at supporting parents, and has subsequently been offered each year to new parents at Dubbo and District Preschool. In addition to the core purpose of reducing anxious behaviours, it has enabled parents to form support networks and has helped educators to track the positive progress of the children in their care.

        Read more about the Dubbo and District Preschool partnership

         

      • At Manningham Community Health Service (MCHS), one of their health promotion priorities is to support the mental wellbeing of young children aged under six years. The service sought to become involved with local early childhood centres and support the educators and children. Consequently, Karen Lovell, a Dietitian and Health Promotion Worker from MCHS, joined the KidsMatter Early Childhood Leadership Team at Creative Play Early Learning Centre in Bulleen.

        MCHS has helped connect Creative Play with community health programs and services, including mental health first aid training and counselling supports, and has provided resources, such as specially designed mental health mapping tools to the early childhood service.  They have also supported Creative Play in participating in the Victorian government’s health eating program called 'Go for your life', ensuring the centre also embeds the values of healthy eating and physical activity.

        “MCHS see being involved in KidsMatter as highly valuable”, says Karen.  “The work they do with Creative Play is sustainable, and children and families will benefit into the future. At MCHS, we don’t have the capacity to undertake such work ourselves so to be able to support KidsMatter is a valuable and appropriate use of our resources.”

        Read more about the Manningham Community Health Service partnership

         

      • KidsMatter and ANU Research School of Psychology sought to find ways of partnering to support early childhood services and primary schools.  Previously, postgraduate students from the Psychology Clinic had undertaken placements in schools. As an alternative, group work in schools was considered as a useful placement opportunity for students, as well as a valuable service to schools.

        Consequently, a ten-week KidsMatter social and emotional learning program called Playing and Learning to Socialise (PALS) was facilitated in a KidsMatter School over two terms by students from the ANU Psychology Department under the supervision of Joan Webb, Clinical supervisor from the Department.

        Additionally, over 8 weeks, 3 clinical trainees from ANU delivered the PALS program to two individual kindergarten classes.

        Within each session, the children were engaged in small group practice with the trainees, who were supported by executive teacher, Erin Jordon-Divorty.

        Information for families about the content of each session was sent home following each session so that family members could continue discussions and learning at home.

        The partnership reported many successes. Students learned more appropriate ways to communicate with each other through PALS and a common, supportive language was established between students and adults. Additionally, potential ‘at risk’ students were identified by the ANU Psychology trainees, as the Psychology students were able to notice behaviours not always picked up by school staff.

        Read more about the ANU partnership

        Tools for universities:

      • Flinders University and Uni SA took the radical step of being competitive collaborators in an effort to find meaningful field placements for their Social Work students. Prior to this collaboration, school placements were arranged individually. Social Workers in the Department of Education and Child Development (DECD) suggested that the universities target placements with schools that had signed up for the KidsMatter framework due to the close alignment between KidsMatter and Social Work values and principles.  

        Mary Duncan, Manager Field Education (School of Social and Policy Studies) at Flinders University said, “KidsMatter and Social Work is a perfect fit and this had made it easier to plan and develop solid placements that have positive outcomes for students and school communities".

        Through conversations with the DECD, KidsMatter schools were identified as a great opportunity for social work student placements for a number of reasons:

        • The KidsMatter framework, underpinning values and principles align closely with Social Work values
        • KidsMatter focus aligns with the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) core curriculum content areas
        • School settings provide a range of experiences that align with Social Work practice
        • KidsMatter enables a shared supervision model for students

        Mary said, “Social workers have a very broad continuum of practice areas (eg working with individuals and groups, doing community development, social policy and research) and there are opportunities in schools, in the KidsMatter program, to do all of those things.

        “I want students to think that schools are micro communities in a bigger community and what’s happening in that bigger community impacts on school and the students and families in that school.”

        Chris Champion from KidsMatter recognised symmetry between the KidsMatter framework and the social work competencies.  He said “There are four core components of the KidsMatter Program: creating a positive school community, social and emotional learning for students, working with parents and carers and helping children with mental health difficulties. These match perfectly the seven social work and human service work standards and competencies that the students must identify and meet as part of their assignment criteria.”

        The aim of these in-school placements for Social Work students was to ultimately benefit primary school children by targeting their mental health and social and emotional needs and showing the importance of a healthy mind and life.  However the Social Work students who had placements within the KidsMatter schools benefited immensely too as many had a desire to work with children, but were not often given the opportunity.

        Mary Duncan said, “Compared to a student teacher on placement, a social worker has a different and perhaps broader perspective on things.  They are taught to see relationships within a systems framework, which is in line with the KidsMatter framework.  So they are well placed to implement the principles of the framework.

        As preparation for these placements, Uni SA and Flinders University ran a two-day induction for the Social Work students at which KidsMatter staff presented the framework, and went through the expectations on the Universities and the schools and what some of the challenges might be. Placement was not like a student teacher placement as it would be managed by a social worker in the field. The induction also covered appropriate conduct in their placements, as they were still students and needed to ensure they operated in a legally safe manner.

        Additionally, as part of the placement program, group supervision was provided and these sessions incorporated theories and frameworks aligned to early childhood education.

        Mary Duncan saw the placement program as very successful.  “There have been great outcomes at all levels. At the partnership level we have a group of organisations committed to the ongoing development of a placement program in schools. For the universities, we have increased placement numbers and been able to focus efforts and resources on placement development. For students they have reported that their presence in schools has contributed to KidsMatter outcomes and their own Social Work learning outcomes.”

        She also made the point that this collaborative approach with KidsMatter schools has meant the placement program has been much more efficient and effective.  “One of the challenges of social work placements is, if you’ve got your staff resources spread over 10 very different agencies, the support you can provide is minimal. If you’ve got a focus like KidsMatter, it’s much easier; even though it’s multiple settings it’s systemically the same. So we can hold a comprehensive two day orientation for students going into KidsMatter schools.  If we had 10 students in one type of placement, 10 in KidsMatter and 10 in a third program we just couldn’t do it.”

        Patricia Muncey, KidsMatter Placement Program at Uni SA believes the collaboration with their traditional competitor, Flinders University, was very successful. “We both desperately needed more placements for Social Work students and for Social Science students.  It’s made a huge difference to both universities because we’ve been able to do combined training, share resources and give students a really good introduction to the whole program that we would have just been duplicating otherwise.”

        The benefit for the students has been substantial.  Robby Drake, from Uni SA said, “As far as our students were concerned they had the opportunity to have a placement which was very hands on.  They got direct practice and the extent of which they could stretch themselves depended on a lot of them and the school.  For example, some students ran “What’s the Buzz?”  a social and emotional skills-based program.  They could also do support work in social skills and develop their own programs which fit within the KidsMatter framework around student wellbeing. They can work autonomously and also as part of the school team.  In our supervision model, we also provide the opportunity for the students who are working in schools to come together during the course of their placement so that they can share ideas for how they are going in the schools, and share ideas in the programs.”

        Read more about the University of South Australia (Uni SA), Flinders University partnership

        Tools for universities:

         

      • Child Aware is a Brisbane-based practice that provides counselling and psychology services for children and families, and has developed a partnership with KidsMatter through health and community work in Queensland. Through the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) Child Mental Health program and the support of KidsMatter, Child Aware was able to provide free in-school counselling to children in selected Brisbane schools.

        Child Aware recognised that children and families often don’t seek mental health support due to common barriers, such as the logistics of getting to the appointment, the need to obtain a referral from a general practitioner, the risk of missing out on school, and a lack of awareness about the funding available through Medicare.

        A total of three schools within the Greater Metro South Brisbane Medicare Local region participated in the project, one of which is a KidsMatter school. Child Aware psychologists provided a total of 74 counselling sessions to 19 children, either before school, after school or during school hours.

        The initiative aimed to offer a flexible and collaborative approach to service delivery, and to assist families to access available rebates via Medicare, ATAPS and private health funding.

        Sessions were open to any parent who felt that their child needed assistance, and school staff were also able to identify children who might benefit from accessing the service. Child Aware provided information about the referral process, and thus created a bridge between the school, the family and the GP.

        In-school counselling sessions were provided by Child Aware as a way to reduce or remove these barriers for children and families. The support was welcomed by the school. “The KidsMatter School we contacted was keen to jump on board... keen to be a part of it”, said Susie Upton, a psychologist at Child Aware.

        Child Aware sought to offer families affordable, accessible and high quality counselling services for children who were ‘at-risk’ of developing mental health difficulties. The focus was on helping children to manage their symptoms, emotions and behaviours, and to make sure that children were getting the best out of their learning environment.

        These in-school counselling sessions were successful at enhancing collaboration between schools, GPs, KidsMatter and Child Aware. They also improved outcomes, efficiency and overall awareness of the ATAPS Child Mental Health Services program.  

        Read more about the Child Aware partnership

        Tools for schools:

      • A partnership between KidsMatter and Mindful from the University of Melbourne has enabled the first facilitator training for Tuning in to Kids™ and Tuning in to Teens™ in the Northern Territory. Ann Harley, parenting educator and co-author of the Tuning in to Kids™ program, travelled to Darwin to facilitate the training with 18 delegates.

        Tuning in to KidsTM is an evidence-based parenting program that focuses on the emotional connection between parents and children. In particular the program teaches parents skills in emotion coaching; how to recognise, understand and respond to children’s emotions in an accepting, supportive way. This approach helps the child to understand and manage their emotions.

        Tuning in to KidsTM  was developed by Dr Sophie Havighurst and Ann Harley in Melbourne, and has been evaluated in multiple randomised controlled trials that have shown the program leads to positive outcomes including improving parenting, parent-child relationships and children’s emotional competence and behaviour. The program has been particularly effective with children with clinical-level emotional and behavioural difficulties.

        The KidsMatter and Mindful partnership aims to improve quality of life, mental health and the social and emotional wellbeing of children and families. This collaboration has led to better access to parenting interventions in the Northern Territory and more options available to families.

        There are many health and community professionals engaged with KidsMatter in the Top End. These professionals support schools to implement KidsMatter, help keep a focus on mental health and wellbeing in schools and assist to deliver mental health support to children and families in school settings. These professionals were supported to attend the Tuning in to Kids™ and Tuning in to Teens™ training with discounted registration.  

        Read more about the Mindful from the University of Melbourne partnership

        Tools for universities:

      • Flinders University and Uni SA took the radical step of being competitive collaborators in an effort to find meaningful field placements for their Social Work students.  Prior to this collaboration, school placements were arranged individually. Social Workers in the Department of Education and Child Development (DECD) suggested that the universities target placements with schools that had signed up for the KidsMatter framework due to the close alignment between KidsMatter and Social Work values and principles.  

        Mary Duncan, Manager Field Education (School of Social and Policy Studies) at Flinders University said, “KidsMatter and Social Work is a perfect fit and this had made it easier to plan and develop solid placements that have positive outcomes for students and school communities".

        Through conversations with the DECD, KidsMatter schools were identified as a great opportunity for social work student placements for a number of reasons:

        • The KidsMatter framework, underpinning values and principles align closely with Social Work values
        • KidsMatter focus aligns with the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) core curriculum content areas
        • School settings provide a range of experiences that align with Social Work practice
        • KidsMatter enables a shared supervision model for students

        Chris Champion from KidsMatter recognised symmetry between the KidsMatter framework and the social work competencies.  He said “There are four core components of the KidsMatter Program: creating a positive school community, social and emotional learning for students, working with parents and carers and helping children with mental health difficulties. These match perfectly the seven social work and human service work standards and competencies that the students must identify and meet as part of their assignment criteria.”

        The aim of these in-school placements for Social Work students was to ultimately benefit primary school children by targeting their mental health and social and emotional needs and showing the importance of a healthy mind and life.  

        However there were other benefits too. The program also included education of parents and carers on these important topics and support for them to have a better understanding of their children’s current mental health state. Additionally, the schools benefited from having this program in their schools due to the ability to easily integrate social work skills into their environment without any budget outlay. The students who had placements within the KidsMatter schools benefited immensely too as many had a desire to work with children, but were not often given the opportunity.

        Mary Duncan saw the benefit for the children. “Compared to a student teacher on placement, a social worker has a different and perhaps broader perspective on things.  They are taught to see relationships within a systems framework, which is in line with the KidsMatter framework.  So they are well placed to implement the principles of the framework.”

        Robby Drake, UNi SA agrees. “If a teacher is concerned about a student’s wellbeing, having a social work student in their class is like a direct line that they can ask all those kinds of questions that can be clarified quickly.”

        Read more about the University of South Australia (Uni SA), Flinders University partnership

        Tools for universities:

      • Alunga Children’s Centre forged a partnership with Illawarra-Shoalhaven (IS) Medicare Local to build children’s resilience through enhancing relationships at the Centre, reducing the risk of mental health difficulties, and supporting families in need at the Centre. 

        The main focus of the partnership was to implement the Kids Count Program, which allowed for a psychologist to work on-site with Alunga staff to strengthen educators’ knowledge and understanding of the social and emotional needs of young children, build their capacity and skills in effectively responding to a child’s individual needs, and recognise when a child and family may need additional psychological support and a referral to the Kids Count Program psychologist.

        The psychologist was able to support children and their families by working with them directly, and by upskilling educators and demonstrating ways to effectively respond to the needs of individual children at the service. 

        “This was the bit that I was quite inspired to talk to you about”, said Angela Robertson, an educator at Alunga. “I have seen some very dramatic changes in quite a few of our children who have connected with the Kids Count Program.”

        Clinical psychologist, Susan Lozenkovski, from IS Medicare Local agreed.  “The feedback that we got was quite dramatic for the families; what they noticed in the children’s behaviour but also shifts that they made themselves.” Specifically, they stopped viewing their child’s behaviour in terms of needing to be controlled but rather, began to understand it as a way of communicating how they were feeling. Susan goes on to say “making a child feel safe, filling their emotional cup, will mean that they are better able to function in the world when they go on to primary school, and then beyond that. This style of working with a child provides children with a greater capacity to learn because they feel safer and more comfortable in themselves.”

        Angela described a child who had been experiencing extreme separation anxiety and who would cry intensely for up to 40 minutes every morning after drop-off.  This put enormous strain on his mother, and also impacted on the child’s relationship with the other children at the service. The educators had, prior to the implementation of the Kids Count Program, initiated a range of strategies to assist the child and his family, however nothing they did alleviated the child’s distress. Angela noted that through working with the Kids Count Program “the child is happy to get dropped off in the morning.  The relationships that he’s built with the other children have just flourished because he’s feeling so safe and secure and confident in the environment now that he’s willing to go and explore and mum isn’t having any problems getting him here either.” 

        In this scenario, the Kids Count Program psychologist worked directly with the child’s mother.  The sessions focussed on providing her with the tools to offer her son reassurance and comfort.  The psychologist also worked with Centre educators, showing them ways of effectively responding to the child so that he felt safe and secure in the environment.

        Susan explained. “When children come into the Centre, they want to know that they are on the staff member’s radar, that one of the educators is ready and available to look after them. Both the child and the parent want to make sure that the child feels safe and well cared for. There is a space set up for them where educators can work with children, giving them space to check in on the child’s emotional needs and how they might be feeling. The space is set up for this to occur so that it actually offers an internal space where the two of them can connect in with each other.  Added to this is the intentional use of language where an educator might say, “I’m here to keep you safe,” and “It’s okay to feel that way.”

        Susan also highlighted how their work assisted children in their relationships with their peers.  She described a young boy who displayed aggressive behaviour and who was unable to connect with others.  Once the staff had worked with him, and once he felt safe, he was better able to connect with his peers and make friends. “These kinds of interventions and changes can have lifelong implications”, said Susan.

        Alunga’s play spaces were also rearranged more thoughtfully to support a child’s sense of autonomy, resilience and social and emotional learning. “It has involved planning and considering all of a child’s developmental domains, rather than just focusing on what the experience offers,” said Angela. “For example, if a child is working with Lego, we keep the Lego in the same place so that a child can go back to it and continue and persevere with an activity. They may be working on a train with the Lego pieces, so we might add pictures of trains in the designated space”.

        Angela observed the change in the day-to-day behaviour of the children. “Now I feel that the children are so much more settled and I feel more settled in my role here because you’re taking on that different point of view.”

        Read more about the Alunga partnership

         

      • Dubbo and District Preschool participated in the pilot of KidsMatter Early Childhood from 2010. As they implemented Component 2: Children’s Social and Emotional Development, educators began to notice some children appeared to be more shy and anxious than their peers. This led to an interest in learning more about children’s social and emotional development – particularly focusing on resilience, anxiety and separation anxiety, and a desire to partner with parents to support the mental health and wellbeing of the children at the centre.

        Centre Director, Louise Simpson, contacted her local Dubbo Community Health Centre to arrange a session for educators to help recognise when children may be at risk or showing early signs of experiencing mental health difficulties. Once educators were able to identify children in their centre who were more anxious, shy or inhibited, the centre engaged with the children’s parents and offered a free workshop run by Senior Psychologist Ann-Maree Hartley. 

        Ann-Maree taught parents valuable skills and exercises to reduce excessive anxiety and increase confidence in children.  The workshop was held during the day and the preschool provided childcare for siblings from TAFE students studying Certificate 3 – Children’s Services. Afterwards, centre educators reinforced these strategies and ideas, and provided positive feedback to parents about the children’s development and improvement over time.

        The workshop was very successful at supporting parents, and has subsequently been offered each year to new parents at Dubbo and District Preschool. In addition to the core purpose of reducing anxious behaviours, it has enabled parents to form support networks and has helped educators to track the positive progress of the children in their care.

        Read more about the Dubbo and District Preschool partnership

        Tools for early childhood services:

         

      • At Manningham Community Health Service (MCHS), one of their health promotion priorities is to support the mental wellbeing of young children aged under six years. The service sought to become involved with local early childhood centres and support the educators and children. Consequently, Karen Lovell, a Dietitian and Health Promotion Worker from MCHS, joined the KidsMatter Early Childhood Leadership Team at Creative Play Early Learning Centre in Bulleen.

        MCHS has helped connect Creative Play with community health programs and services, including mental health first aid training and counselling supports, and has provided resources, such as specially designed mental health mapping tools to the early childhood service.  They have also supported Creative Play in participating in the Victorian government’s health eating program called 'Go for your life', ensuring the centre also embeds the values of healthy eating and physical activity.

        “MCHS see being involved in KidsMatter as highly valuable”, says Karen.  “The work they do with Creative Play is sustainable, and children and families will benefit into the future. At MCHS, we don’t have the capacity to undertake such work ourselves so to be able to support KidsMatter is a valuable and appropriate use of our resources.”

        Read more about the Manningham Community Health Service partnership

         

      • Alunga Children’s Centre forged a partnership with Illawarra-Shoalhaven (IS) Medicare Local to build children’s resilience through enhancing relationships at the Centre, reducing the risk of mental health difficulties, and supporting families in need at the Centre. 

        The main focus of the partnership was to implement the Kids Count Program, which allowed for a psychologist to work on-site with Alunga staff to strengthen educators’ knowledge and understanding of the social and emotional needs of young children, build their capacity and skills in effectively responding to a child’s individual needs, and recognise when a child and family may need additional psychological support and a referral to the Kids Count Program psychologist.

        The psychologist was able to support children and their families by working with them directly, and by upskilling educators and demonstrating ways to effectively respond to the needs of individual children at the service. 

        “This was the bit that I was quite inspired to talk to you about”, said Angela Robertson, an educator at Alunga. “I have seen some very dramatic changes in quite a few of our children who have connected with the Kids Count Program.”

        Angela described a child who had been experiencing extreme separation anxiety and who would cry intensely for up to 40 minutes every morning after drop-off.  This put enormous strain on his mother, and also impacted on the child’s relationship with the other children at the service. The educators had, prior to the implementation of the Kids Count Program, initiated a range of strategies to assist the child and his family, however nothing they did alleviated the child’s distress. Angela noted that through working with the Kids Count Program “the child is happy to get dropped off in the morning.  The relationships that he’s built with the other children have just flourished because he’s feeling so safe and secure and confident in the environment now that he’s willing to go and explore and mum isn’t having any problems getting him here either.” 

        In this scenario, the Kids Count Program psychologist worked directly with the child’s mother.  The sessions focussed on providing her with the tools to offer her son reassurance and comfort.  The psychologist also worked with Centre educators, showing them ways of effectively responding to the child so that he felt safe and secure in the environment.

        Melissa Ward, Alunga Director, also provided another example of how the Kids Count psychologist assisted educators in their efforts to form a secure and respectful relationship with the children at their service. “The educators began to tell the children that they are having a break before leaving the room”.  Angela agreed: “It’s about understanding that the children do need to be told because they do have a strong relationship with us and maybe we never realised how important that was.”

        Angela also explained that through their partnership with the Kids Count Program, they are also more tuned in to looking at a child’s behaviour from the child’s point of view, finding out about how the child may be feeling, rather than simply responding to how the child is behaving.

        Educators’ new way of working is now embedded in their practice, and a cultural shift has taken place within the service. Whereas in the past, they used to take time out with the psychologist and reflect on how they were responding to a child who was having difficulties, now educators don’t have to do this as much anymore.

        “I don’t think the educators really realised the progress they’ve made,” said Melissa.  “It’s all happening on the floor and they are doing it every day now.”

        Alunga’s play spaces were also rearranged. Whilst educators already knew that play was important, there has been an increased appreciation for, and recognition of how the environment can support a child’s social and emotional wellbeing. “I’ve worked in the industry for nearly 12 years and I think when I look at an environment now, I look at how much more it can offer by how it is set up… and I’m inspired now to give the child every opportunity in terms of social and emotional learning, realising how much the environment can support that,” said Angela.

        “Having a psychologist here on the premises has opened our eyes as educators, to the responses that we can have with children and how to support those children individually. It’s about how we manage these individual children and how we can be supported with the help of a psychologist to recognise our own interactions as educators, and how we can reflect on those to improve.”

        Angela observed the change in the day-to-day behaviour of the children. “Now I feel that the children are so much more settled and I feel more settled in my role here because you’re taking on that different point of view”.

        Rachel Bridges, a psychologist at IS Medicare Local, stated that she received a lot of positive feedback about the program and model.  Many Alunga staff commented on how Rachel was very approachable and helped them build their skills to manage difficult issues that some of the children were experiencing. Alunga educators have said that they feel more confident working with the families and children in their Centre.

        Read more about the Alunga partnership

         

      • Child Aware is a Brisbane-based practice that provides counselling and psychology services for children and families, and has developed a partnership with KidsMatter through health and community work in Queensland. Through the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) Child Mental Health program and the support of KidsMatter, Child Aware was able to provide free in-school counselling to children in selected Brisbane schools.

        Child Aware recognised that children and families often don’t seek mental health support due to common barriers, such as the logistics of getting to the appointment, the need to obtain a referral from a general practitioner, the risk of missing out on school, and a lack of awareness about the funding available through Medicare.

        A total of three schools within the Greater Metro South Brisbane Medicare Local region participated in the project, one of which is a KidsMatter school. Child Aware psychologists provided a total of 74 counselling sessions to 19 children, either before school, after school or during school hours.

        The initiative aimed to offer a flexible and collaborative approach to service delivery, and to assist families to access available rebates via Medicare, ATAPS and private health funding.

        Sessions were open to any parent who felt that their child needed assistance, and school staff were also able to identify children who might benefit from accessing the service. Child Aware provided information about the referral process, and thus created a bridge between the school, the family and the GP.

        In-school counselling sessions were provided by Child Aware as a way to reduce or remove these barriers for children and families. The support was welcomed by the school. “The KidsMatter School we contacted was keen to jump on board... keen to be a part of it”, said Susie Upton, a psychologist at Child Aware.

        Child Aware sought to offer families affordable, accessible and high quality counselling services for children who were ‘at-risk’ of developing mental health difficulties. The focus was on helping children to manage their symptoms, emotions and behaviours, and to make sure that children were getting the best out of their learning environment.

        These in-school counselling sessions were successful at enhancing collaboration between schools, GPs, KidsMatter and Child Aware. They also improved outcomes, efficiency and overall awareness of the ATAPS Child Mental Health Services program.  

        Read more about the Child Aware partnership

        Tools for schools:

      • At Manningham Community Health Service (MCHS), one of their health promotion priorities is to support the mental wellbeing of young children aged under six years. The service sought to become involved with local early childhood centres and support the educators and children. Consequently, Karen Lovell, a Dietitian and Health Promotion Worker from MCHS, joined the KidsMatter Early Childhood Leadership Team at Creative Play Early Learning Centre in Bulleen.

        MCHS has helped connect Creative Play with community health programs and services, including mental health first aid training and counselling supports, and has provided resources, such as specially designed mental health mapping tools to the early childhood service.  They have also supported Creative Play in participating in the Victorian government’s health eating program called 'Go for your life', ensuring the centre also embeds the values of healthy eating and physical activity.

        “MCHS see being involved in KidsMatter as highly valuable”, says Karen.  “The work they do with Creative Play is sustainable, and children and families will benefit into the future. At MCHS, we don’t have the capacity to undertake such work ourselves so to be able to support KidsMatter is a valuable and appropriate use of our resources.”

        Read more about the Manningham Community Health Service partnership

         

      • Flinders University and Uni SA took the radical step of being competitive collaborators in an effort to find meaningful field placements for their Social Work students. Prior to this collaboration, school placements were arranged individually. Social Workers in the Department of Education and Child Development (DECD) suggested that the universities target placements with schools that had signed up for the KidsMatter framework due to the close alignment between KidsMatter and Social Work values and principles.  

        Mary Duncan, Manager Field Education (School of Social and Policy Studies) at Flinders University said, “KidsMatter and Social Work is a perfect fit and this had made it easier to plan and develop solid placements that have positive outcomes for students and school communities".

        Through conversations with the DECD, KidsMatter schools were identified as a great opportunity for social work student placements for a number of reasons:

        • The KidsMatter framework, underpinning values and principles align closely with Social Work values
        • KidsMatter focus aligns with the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) core curriculum content areas
        • School settings provide a range of experiences that align with Social Work practice
        • KidsMatter enables a shared supervision model for students

        Mary said, “Social workers have a very broad continuum of practice areas (eg working with individuals and groups, doing community development, social policy and research) and there are opportunities in schools, in the KidsMatter program, to do all of those things.

        The feedback from schools has been positive, and participating schools are asking for more students to do placements in their schools.  “It’s like an extra set of hands you’ve got.  They come from a broader perspective than education students on placement,” said Mary.  “There’s more flexibility in how a social work student could support the KidsMatter program because the social work program looks at an individual as well as who’s in their immediate community, who’s in their family, what are the relationships between those important communities, what’s that outer layer of legislation policy and how does that contribute to or mitigate against KidsMatter outcomes. That would be my idea of a highly functioning social work student.”

        To underline the success of the partnership, Mary Duncan pointed to research conducted by two of her Social Work students on evaluating the placements program.  The findings showed that the majority of social work student respondents believed that they contributed positively to the implementation of the KidsMatter program.   Additionally, a principal who was surveyed commented that the Social Work students provided additional resources and a knowledge base that could be utilised.

        Robby Drake, from Uni SA also says the anecdotal feedback from schools has been very positive.  “I think that most of the schools we’re working with can really see the advantage.  They’re saying that they want Social Work students to come constantly, so every semester we have students there.  Teachers are talking very positively about it, are very willing to have our students in the school.  The second semester last year was the first time that we had been part of this KidsMatter partnership and all the schools that we had worked with all have been very willing to work with us again.  We see that as very positive feedback.

        “There are some really small, practical, positive interactions.  For example, one of our students was working with a child who has epilepsy.  When they had the school swimming sports day, she was that child’s spotter (as that child had to be watched at all times around a swimming pool).  At the end of the day, the child thanked her and said that she really appreciated it, and the staff as well.  Successful school placements offer supportive opportunities that wouldn’t be there otherwise.”

        Read more about the University of South Australia (Uni SA), Flinders University partnership

        Tools for universities:

      • Alunga Children’s Centre forged a partnership with Illawarra-Shoalhaven (IS) Medicare Local to build children’s resilience through enhancing relationships at the Centre, reducing the risk of mental health difficulties, and supporting families in need at the Centre. 

        The main focus of the partnership was to implement the Kids Count Program, which allowed for a psychologist to work on-site with Alunga staff to strengthen educators’ knowledge and understanding of the social and emotional needs of young children, build their capacity and skills in effectively responding to a child’s individual needs, and recognise when a child and family may need additional psychological support and a referral to the Kids Count Program psychologist.

        The psychologist was able to support children and their families by working with them directly, and by upskilling educators and demonstrating ways to effectively respond to the needs of individual children at the service. 

        “This was the bit that I was quite inspired to talk to you about”, said Angela Robertson, an educator at Alunga. “I have seen some very dramatic changes in quite a few of our children who have connected with the Kids Count Program.”

        Clinical psychologist, Susan Lozenkovski, from IS Medicare Local agreed.  “The feedback that we got was quite dramatic for the families; what they noticed in the children’s behaviour but also shifts that they made themselves.” Specifically, they stopped viewing their child’s behaviour in terms of needing to be controlled but, rather, they began to understand it as a way of communicating how they were feeling. Susan went on to say “making a child feel safe, filling their emotional cup, will mean that they are better able to function in the world when they go on to primary school, and then beyond that. This style of working with a child provides children with a greater capacity to learn because they feel safer and more comfortable in themselves.”

        Angela described a child who had been experiencing extreme separation anxiety and who would cry intensely for up to 40 minutes every morning after drop-off.  This put enormous strain on his mother, and also impacted on the child’s relationship with the other children at the service. The educators had, prior to the implementation of the Kids Count Program, initiated a range of strategies to assist the child and his family, however nothing they did alleviated the child’s distress. Angela noted that through working with the Kids Count Program “the child is happy to get dropped off in the morning.  The relationships that he’s built with the other children have just flourished because he’s feeling so safe and secure and confident in the environment now that he’s willing to go and explore and mum isn’t having any problems getting him here either.” 

        In this scenario, the Kids Count Program psychologist worked directly with the child’s mother.  The sessions focussed on providing her with the tools to offer her son reassurance and comfort.  The psychologist also worked with Centre educators, showing them ways of effectively responding to the child so that he felt safe and secure in the environment.

        “I think the partnership made us realise that you’ve got to look at different ways of engaging families,” said Alunga Director, Melissa Ward.  “I think we’ve encouraged parents and carers to realise as much as it is about the children, it’s also about them.”

        Angela explained further: “In the past, we would say to a child that we would keep them safe. Some parents initially laughed at us when they heard us say this to a child at drop-off. However, now we are hearing them say it to their child.”

        “Parents used to think that they shouldn’t approach us, that we were too busy. They would see educators at drop-off and it was all a bit rushed.  We now encourage them.  They do approach us now, and we are having more conversations with them and they are becoming more involved.”

        The model of the Kids Count Program provided a referral pathway for children and families who would benefit from psychological intervention and strategies for dealing with mental health difficulties in children.  This has meant that families, who might not have otherwise accessed support, are seeking and receiving help.

        Susan said “By having the psychologist work on site, it has provided an opportunity to work with families who would have otherwise not engaged in these services.”

        It has enhanced clinical outcomes for Alunga’s children by putting into practice many of the components of the KidsMatter framework.  For example, Kids Count helps to create a sense of community by utilising concepts from the Circle of Security to help facilitate a sense of belonging and connectedness through relationships. 

        Psychologists working with educators is a collaborative model that aims to support children who may be experiencing mental health difficulties and this way of working compliments the principles embedded in KidsMatter.  A psychologist working on site also provides the opportunity for families to raise any concerns they may have, and access help and support, when they are dropping off their children at the Centre.

        Alunga was looking to the future to build on their solid foundation. Melissa explained: “That’s where we are heading next.  We have the knowledge and the language.  We want to impart that knowledge to them.  We will be facilitating an evening with families next month to impart some of the knowledge.”

        Read more about the Alunga partnership

         

      • Child Aware is a Brisbane-based practice that provides counselling and psychology services for children and families, and has developed a partnership with KidsMatter through health and community work in Queensland. Through the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) Child Mental Health program and the support of KidsMatter, Child Aware was able to provide free in-school counselling to children in selected Brisbane schools.

        A total of three schools within the Greater Metro South Brisbane Medicare Local region participated in the project, one of which is a KidsMatter school.  Child Aware psychologists provided a total of 74 counselling sessions to 19 children, either before school, after school or during school hours.

        The initiative has been very successful at supporting parents and families.  One school principal reported that, previously, there were a number of families who had been encouraged to attend external counselling but hadn’t, preferring to access the service regularly when it was offered at the school.

        “I think it’s much more user friendly for the kids and the families. It allows us to have consistency in treatment and intervention”, said Susie Upton, a psychologist at Child Aware, as psychologists attended the school at the same time of the week and the same time. “Having consistency really impacts on the quality of outcome , so that was probably the biggest benefit of the program.”

        Child Aware has received positive feedback from parents in relation to the school project, in particular, thanking them for providing accessible sessions.

        Child Aware offered office sessions after hours, and school sessions were offered during school time. “We received feedback from parents and GPs and the principals and School Guidance Officers… all really positive”, said Susie.

        School Guidance Officers have provided feedback to Child Aware outlining the positive impact on the children and their families who have had the opportunity to access the project. Guidance Officers have reported that the school-based therapy sessions have assisted them in their role to reduce the demand for counselling which otherwise would not have been met.

        “We have been working with Child Aware for approximately three months at the school”, said a Guidance Officer at a KidsMatter School. “Child Aware is currently working with three students. The parents of these children have reported that they are happy with the service and I have observed that the children readily attend their sessions with their psychologist. One of the teachers of one of these students has observed an improvement in the child’s ability to self-regulate in class and this child is now accessing the curriculum more successfully”.

        Read more about the Child Aware partnership

        Tools for schools:

      • Dubbo and District Preschool participated in the pilot of KidsMatter Early Childhood from 2010. As they implemented Component 2: Children’s Social and Emotional Development, educators began to notice some children appeared to be more shy and anxious than their peers. This led to an interest in learning more about children’s social and emotional development – particularly focusing on resilience, anxiety and separation anxiety, and a desire to partner with parents to support the mental health and wellbeing of the children at the centre.

        Centre Director, Louise Simpson, contacted her local Dubbo Community Health Centre to arrange a session for educators to help recognise when children may be at risk or showing early signs of experiencing mental health difficulties. Once educators were able to identify children in their centre who were more anxious, shy or inhibited, the centre engaged with the children’s parents and offered a free workshop run by Senior Psychologist Ann-Maree Hartley. 

        Ann-Maree taught parents valuable skills and exercises to reduce excessive anxiety and increase confidence in children.  The workshop was held during the day and the preschool provided childcare for siblings from TAFE students studying Certificate 3 – Children’s Services. Afterwards, centre educators reinforced these strategies and ideas, and provided positive feedback to parents about the children’s development and improvement over time.

        The workshop was very successful at supporting parents, and has subsequently been offered each year to new parents at Dubbo and District Preschool. In addition to the core purpose of reducing anxious behaviours, it has enabled parents to form support networks and has helped educators to track the positive progress of the children in their care.

        Read more about the Dubbo and District Preschool partnership

        Tools for early childhood services:

         

      • KidsMatter and ANU Research School of Psychology sought to find ways of partnering to support early childhood services and primary schools.  Previously, postgraduate students from the Psychology Clinic had undertaken placements in schools. As an alternative, group work in schools was considered as a useful placement opportunity for students, as well as a valuable service to schools.

        Consequently, a ten-week KidsMatter social and emotional learning program called Playing and Learning to Socialise (PALS) was facilitated in a KidsMatter School over two terms by students from the ANU Psychology Department under the supervision of Joan Webb, Clinical supervisor from the Department.

        Additionally, over 8 weeks, 3 clinical trainees from ANU delivered the PALS program to two individual kindergarten classes.

        Within each session, the children were engaged in small group practice with the trainees, who were supported by executive teacher, Erin Jordon-Divorty.

        Information for families about the content of each session was sent home following each session so that family members could continue discussions and learning at home.

        The partnership reported many successes. Students learned more appropriate ways to communicate with each other through PALS and a common, supportive language was established between students and adults. Additionally, potential ‘at risk’ students were identified by the ANU Psychology trainees, as the Psychology students were able to notice behaviours not always picked up by school staff.

        Read more about the ANU partnership

        Tools for universities:

      • Flinders University and Uni SA took the radical step of being competitive collaborators in an effort to find meaningful field placements for their Social Work students. Prior to this collaboration, school placements were arranged individually. Social Workers in the Department of Education and Child Development (DECD) suggested that the universities target placements with schools that had signed up for the KidsMatter framework due to the close alignment between KidsMatter and Social Work values and principles.  

        Mary Duncan, Manager Field Education (School of Social and Policy Studies) at Flinders University said, “KidsMatter and Social Work is a perfect fit and this had made it easier to plan and develop solid placements that have positive outcomes for students and school communities".

        Through conversations with the DECD, KidsMatter schools were identified as a great opportunity for social work student placements for a number of reasons:

        • The KidsMatter framework, underpinning values and principles align closely with Social Work values
        • KidsMatter focus aligns with the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) core curriculum content areas
        • School settings provide a range of experiences that align with Social Work practice
        • KidsMatter enables a shared supervision model for students

        Mary said, “Social workers have a very broad continuum of practice areas (eg working with individuals and groups, doing community development, social policy and research) and there are opportunities in schools, in the KidsMatter program, to do all of those things.

        “I want students to think that schools are micro communities in a bigger community and what’s happening in that bigger community impacts on school and the students and families in that school.”

        Chris Champion from KidsMatter recognised symmetry between the KidsMatter framework and the social work competencies.  He said “There are four core components of the KidsMatter Program: creating a positive school community, social and emotional learning for students, working with parents and carers and helping children with mental health difficulties. These match perfectly the seven social work and human service work standards and competencies that the students must identify and meet as part of their assignment criteria.”

        The aim of these in-school placements for Social Work students was to ultimately benefit primary school children by targeting their mental health and social and emotional needs and showing the importance of a healthy mind and life.  However the Social Work students who had placements within the KidsMatter schools benefited immensely too as many had a desire to work with children, but were not often given the opportunity.

        Mary Duncan said, “Compared to a student teacher on placement, a social worker has a different and perhaps broader perspective on things.  They are taught to see relationships within a systems framework, which is in line with the KidsMatter framework.  So they are well placed to implement the principles of the framework.”

        As preparation for these placements, Uni SA and Flinders University ran a two-day induction for the Social Work students at which KidsMatter staff presented the framework, and went through the expectations on the Universities and the schools and what some of the challenges might be. Placement was not like a student teacher placement as it would be managed by a social worker in the field. The induction also covered appropriate conduct in their placements, as they were still students and needed to ensure they operated in a legally safe manner.

        Additionally, as part of the placement program, group supervision was provided and these sessions incorporated theories and frameworks aligned to early childhood education.

        Mary Duncan saw the placement program as very successful.  “There have been great outcomes at all levels. At the partnership level we have a group of organisations committed to the ongoing development of a placement program in schools. For the universities, we have increased placement numbers and been able to focus efforts and resources on placement development. For students they have reported that their presence in schools has contributed to KidsMatter outcomes and their own Social Work learning outcomes.”

        She also made the point that this collaborative approach with KidsMatter schools has meant the placement program has been much more efficient and effective.  “One of the challenges of social work placements is, if you’ve got your staff resources spread over 10 very different agencies, the support you can provide is minimal. If you’ve got a focus like KidsMatter, it’s much easier; even though it’s multiple settings it’s systemically the same. So we can hold a comprehensive two day orientation for students going into KidsMatter schools.  If we had 10 students in one type of placement, 10 in KidsMatter and 10 in a third program we just couldn’t do it.”

        Patricia Muncey, KidsMatter Placement Program at Uni SA believes the collaboration with their traditional competitor, Flinders University, was very successful. “We both desperately needed more placements for Social Work students and for Social Science students.  It’s made a huge difference to both universities because we’ve been able to do combined training, share resources and give students a really good introduction to the whole program that we would have just been duplicating otherwise.”

        The benefit for the students has been substantial.  Robby Drake, from Uni SA said, “As far as our students were concerned they had the opportunity to have a placement which was very hands on.  They got direct practice and the extent of which they could stretch themselves depended on a lot of them and the school.  For example, some students ran “What’s the Buzz?”  a social and emotional skills-based program).  They could also do support work in social skills and develop their own programs which fit within the KidsMatter framework around student wellbeing. They can work autonomously and also as part of the school team.  In our supervision model, we also provide the opportunity for the students who are working in schools to come together during the course of their placement so that they can share ideas for how they are going in the schools, and share ideas in the programs.”

        Read more about the University of South Australia (Uni SA), Flinders University partnership

        Tools for universities:

         

      • Child Aware is a Brisbane-based practice that provides counselling and psychology services for children and families, and has developed a partnership with KidsMatter through health and community work in Queensland.   Through the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) Child Mental Health program and the support of KidsMatter, Child Aware was able to provide free in-school counselling to children in selected Brisbane schools.

        A total of three schools within the Greater Metro South Brisbane Medicare Local region participated in the project, one of which is a KidsMatter school.  Child Aware psychologists provided a total of 74 counselling sessions to 19 children, either before school, after school or during school hours.

        The initiative aimed to offer a flexible and collaborative approach to service delivery, and to assist families to access available rebates via Medicare, ATAPS and private health funding.

        Sessions were open to any parent who felt that their child needed assistance, and school staff were also able to identify children who might benefit from accessing the service.  Child Aware provided information about the referral process, and thus created a bridge between the school, the family and the GP.

        A demonstrated success of this project was the 95% attendance rate of children to sessions, compared to around 80% for standard in-office services.

        Parents were also committed to the project by attending office-based sessions with their children, if in-school sessions were missed.  In addition, families attended sessions in the office over the school holidays to ensure continuity of care. 

        Further success of the program is highlighted by the ongoing involvement of parents in their child’s sessions, with Child Aware psychologists ensuring that they made contact after each session to share goals, outcomes, homework tasks, or to discuss difficulties.

        Another noted success of the program was the liaison with school staff to ensure the best outcomes for children. Psychologists engaged with principals, learning support teachers, classroom teachers and School Guidance Officers to work collaboratively towards shared goals.

        Another success of the program was the willingness of parents to access services for themselves (under ATAPS or another suitable referral). Child Aware provided sessions to parents of children within the school program separately, further enhancing positive outcomes for children and families.

        Additionally, Child Aware has been able to utilise the success of the ATAPS for Kids project to enhance outcomes and accessibility to services for families.  “I think it’s much more user friendly for the kids and the families. It allows us to have consistency in treatment and intervention.  Having consistency really impacts on the quality of outcome, so that was probably the biggest benefit of the program”, said Susie Upton, psychologist at Child Aware.

        Susie also believed that delivering counselling session to children within their own school environment is a very supportive approach.  It has the advantage of seeking to address issues that arise within that environment rather than trying to address them in a counselling service when the issues may be school and at home.

        One teacher said that she’s found the program “easy… easy to liaise with and easy to have up in the school.  We have appreciated Child Aware’s readiness to work with and support the children and families of our school.”

        All the schools involved in the project have expressed interest in continuing with the partnerships so that Child Aware can offer their services to children at school in the following school year.  “We’ve had meetings with all the schools and they all expressed interest in being on board again”, said Susie.  Other schools that have not participated in the program have also expressed interest in becoming involved in the initiative.

        School Guidance Officers have provided feedback to Child Aware outlining the positive impact on the children and their families who have had the opportunity to access the project. Guidance Officers have reported that the school-based therapy sessions have assisted them in their role to reduce the demand for counselling which otherwise would not have been met.

        “We have been working with Child Aware for approximately three months at the school”, said a Guidance Officer at a KidsMatter School. “Child Aware is currently working with three students. The parents of these children have reported that they are happy with the service and I have observed that the children readily attend their sessions with their psychologist. One of the teachers of one of these students has observed an improvement in the child’s ability to self-regulate in class and this child is now accessing the curriculum more successfully”.

        Read more about the Child Aware partnership

        Tools for schools:

      • A partnership between KidsMatter and Mindful from the University of Melbourne has enabled the first facilitator training for Tuning in to Kids™ and Tuning in to Teens™ in the Northern Territory. Ann Harley, parenting educator and co-author of the Tuning in to Kids™ program, travelled to Darwin to facilitate the training with 18 delegates.

        Tuning in to KidsTM is an evidence-based parenting program that focuses on the emotional connection between parents and children. In particular the program teaches parents skills in emotion coaching; how to recognise, understand and respond to children’s emotions in an accepting, supportive way. This approach helps the child to understand and manage their emotions.

        Tuning in to KidsTM  was developed by Dr Sophie Havighurst and Ann Harley in Melbourne, and has been evaluated in multiple randomised controlled trials that have shown the program leads to positive outcomes including improving parenting, parent-child relationships and children’s emotional competence and behaviour. The program has been particularly effective with children with clinical-level emotional and behavioural difficulties.

        The KidsMatter and Mindful partnership aims to improve quality of life, mental health and the social and emotional wellbeing of children and families. This collaboration has led to better access to parenting interventions in the Northern Territory and more options available to families.

        There are many health and community professionals engaged with KidsMatter in the Top End. These professionals support schools to implement KidsMatter, help keep a focus on mental health and wellbeing in schools and assist to deliver mental health support to children and families in school settings. These professionals were supported to attend the Tuning in to Kids™ and Tuning in to Teens™ training with discounted registration.  

        Read more about the Mindful from the University of Melbourne partnership

        Tools for universities:

      • Flinders University and Uni SA took the radical step of being competitive collaborators in an effort to find meaningful field placements for their Social Work students. Prior to this collaboration, school placements were arranged individually. Social Workers in the Department of Education and Child Development (DECD) suggested that the universities target placements with schools that had signed up for the KidsMatter framework due to the close alignment between KidsMatter and Social Work values and principles.  

        Mary Duncan, Manager Field Education (School of Social and Policy Studies) at Flinders University said, “KidsMatter and Social Work is a perfect fit and this had made it easier to plan and develop solid placements that have positive outcomes for students and school communities".

        Through conversations with the DECD, KidsMatter schools were identified as a great opportunity for social work student placements for a number of reasons:

        • The KidsMatter framework, underpinning values and principles align closely with Social Work values
        • KidsMatter focus aligns with the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) core curriculum content areas
        • School settings provide a range of experiences that align with Social Work practice
        • KidsMatter enables a shared supervision model for students

        Chris Champion from KidsMatter recognised symmetry between the KidsMatter framework and the social work competencies.  He said “There are four core components of the KidsMatter Program: creating a positive school community, social and emotional learning for students, working with parents and carers and helping children with mental health difficulties. These match perfectly the seven social work and human service work standards and competencies that the students must identify and meet as part of their assignment criteria.”

        The aim of these in-school placements for Social Work students was to ultimately benefit primary school children by targeting their mental health and social and emotional needs and showing the importance of a healthy mind and life. 

        To underline the success of the partnership, Mary Duncan pointed to research conducted by two of her Social Work students on evaluating the placements program. The findings showed that the majority of social work student respondents believed that they contributed positively to the implementation of the KidsMatter program. Additionally, a principal who was surveyed commented that the Social Work students provided additional resources and a knowledge base that could be utilised.

        Robby Drake, from Uni SA also believed the partnership was successful.  He talked about the need at one school to develop a lunchtime program for the children around friendship skills and helping those children who are alone at lunchtime. “They came up with the idea of a ‘Harmony Room’ which is a room that is open at lunchtime, staffed by the Social Work students.  It expands a bit more on the ‘friendship bench’ idea that lots of schools have as a place for kids to go at lunchtime if they are feeling lonely and need a friend. In the Harmony Room, the children are invited in and they can bring other students too but it’s not about computers - it’s about social skills. The Social Work students will be there playing games with them – card games and board games with an underlying aim of creating friendships. 

        Read more about the University of South Australia (Uni SA), Flinders University partnership

        Tools for universities:

      • Alunga Children’s Centre forged a partnership with Illawarra-Shoalhaven (IS) Medicare Local to build children’s resilience through enhancing relationships at the Centre, reducing the risk of mental health difficulties, and supporting families in need at the Centre. 

        The main focus of the partnership was to implement the Kids Count Program, which allowed for a psychologist to work on-site with Alunga staff to strengthen educators’ knowledge and understanding of the social and emotional needs of young children, build their capacity and skills in effectively responding to a child’s individual needs, and recognise when a child and family may need additional psychological support and a referral to the Kids Count Program psychologist.

        The psychologist was able to support children and their families by working with them directly, and by upskilling educators and demonstrating ways to effectively respond to the needs of individual children at the service. 

        A key ingredient to this successful partnership was being a KidsMatter service.  It provided the Centre with the understanding that emotional learning and development is instrumental in promoting children’s mental health and wellbeing now and into the future. It provided staff at the Centre with the view that KidsMatter and Kids Count are complementary.  This foundational knowledge enabled staff to see the value in incorporating elements of the Kids Count Program into their practice.

        Collaboration between Centre staff, psychologists and parents was also key.  Clinical psychologist Susan Lozenkovski, from IS Medicare Local, described two young boys who were experiencing separation anxiety. “I worked with the families off site as well as talking with the educators on site. And the educators worked directly with the children.  So the way that it can be most successful is that we have the ability to influence all the contexts of the children.  That’s how we can achieve success rather quickly.”

        This collaboration allowed all parties to have a shared understanding of the research on attachment theory. Susan said “So we shine that lens on what the children need and we try to understand what their relationships and emotional needs are. We all have a similar language to talk about and understand what the child may need. The shared understanding between myself, the educator and the parent is critical… we are all working towards the same goal and we could understand what that stress for the child was and how to respond to that.” 

        Read more about the Alunga partnership

         

      • Child Aware is a Brisbane-based practice that provides counselling and psychology services for children and families, and has developed a partnership with KidsMatter through health and community work in Queensland.   Through the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) Child Mental Health program and the support of KidsMatter, Child Aware was able to provide free in-school counselling to children in selected Brisbane schools.

        A total of three schools within the Greater Metro South Brisbane Medicare Local region participated in the project, one of which is a KidsMatter school.  Child Aware psychologists provided a total of 74 counselling sessions to 19 children, either before school, after school or during school hours.

        The initiative has been very successful at supporting parents and families.  One school principal reported that, previously, there were a number of families who had been encouraged to attend external counselling but hadn’t, preferring to access the service regularly when it was offered at the school.

        “I think it’s much more user friendly for the kids and the families. It allows us to have consistency in treatment and intervention”, said Susie Upton, a psychologist at Child Aware, as psychologists attended the school at the same time of the week and the same time. “Having consistency really impacts on the quality of outcome , so that was probably the biggest benefit of the program.”

        Susie also noted that Child Aware really tried to support the school and the children: “We did a lot of the background running around, following up with referrals, speaking to GPs and all that sort of thing.  Our team members are really child friendly, flexible people who just were able to slip into the school environment and be able to work out of the clinic.  They were approachable; people who the kids really enjoy seeing.”

        “Part of a successful partnership is spreading the word, and being open to possibilities”, said Susie. “It’s really about being open to the possibility of having an external service within the school to support students or work collaboratively towards the same shared goals, rather than a school feeling like they have to do it all themselves.”

        Read more about the Child Aware partnership

        Tools for schools:

      • Dubbo and District Preschool participated in the pilot of KidsMatter Early Childhood from 2010. As they implemented Component 2: Children’s Social and Emotional Development, educators began to notice some children appeared to be more shy and anxious than their peers. This led to an interest in learning more about children’s social and emotional development – particularly focusing on resilience, anxiety and separation anxiety.

        Centre Director, Louise Simpson, contacted her local Dubbo Community Health Centre, seeking to arrange a session for the centre’s educators to help recognise when children may be at risk or showing early signs of experiencing mental health difficulties. Dubbo Community Health Centre was happy to assist, and so Senior Psychologist Ann-Maree Hartley gave a presentation to the centre’s educators on childhood anxiety that included when to seek professional advice, the referral process, and suggestions on how to approach parents of children who may be experiencing difficulties in this area.

        Once educators were able to identify children in their centre who were more anxious, shy or inhibited, the centre engaged with the children’s parents and offered a free workshop run by Ann-Maree. Ann-Maree taught parents valuable skills and exercises to reduce excessive anxiety and increase confidence in children. 

        The workshop was held during the day and the preschool provided childcare for siblings from TAFE students studying Certificate 3 – Children’s Services. Afterwards, centre educators reinforced these strategies and ideas, and provided positive feedback to parents about the children’s development and improvement over time.

        The workshop was very successful at supporting parents, and has subsequently been offered each year to new parents at Dubbo and District Preschool. In addition to the core purpose of reducing anxious behaviours, it has enabled parents to form support networks and has helped educators to track the positive progress of the children in their care.

        Read more about the Dubbo and District Preschool partnership

        Tools for early childhood services:

         

      • KidsMatter and Kids Helpline, through the KidsHelpline @ School initiative, share the goals of promoting wellness, increasing resilience in young people and improving the capacity of primary schools to support the mental health and wellbeing of students. These common goals are key to a successful partnership.

        KidsMatter is working in partnership with Kids Helpline to connect KidsMatter Primary schools with Kids Helpline counsellors. The Kids Helpline @ School program is a great example of how children’s mental health and wellbeing can be supported at school. Kids Helpline @ School can complement existing mental health and wellbeing programs already in place at a school, including the KidsMatter framework.

        Kids Helpline @ School is a free early intervention program that allows primary schools to invite a Kids Helpline counsellor into their classroom via a video or phone link. Teachers can specify the topic that they’d like their class to engage with or can choose from a range of previously developed topics, which have been created in response to the most common issues children and young people seek information about on the Kids Helpline website.

        Teachers book the session and play an important role in co-facilitating the session with the Kids Helpline counsellor. Topics currently available include:

        • bullying
        • staying safe online
        • feeling sad
        • family arguments
        • friendship
        • cyber-bullying
        • transition to high school
        • introduction to Kids Helpline
        • worry
        • coping with change at school
        • developing resilience

        Teachers can access activities and resources to help prepare for the sessions online. Each Kids Helpline @ School session has been developed to align with the general capabilities of the Australian Curriculum. The classroom-based sessions do not offer individual counselling; however, students are introduced to Kids Helpline services and invited to contact the service should they indicate the need for assistance during the session.

        Read more about the Kids Helpline partnership.

        Tools for schools:

      • At Manningham Community Health Service (MCHS), one of their health promotion priorities is to support the mental wellbeing of young children aged under six years. The service sought to become involved with local early childhood centres and support the educators and children. Consequently, Karen Lovell, a Dietitian and Health Promotion Worker from MCHS, joined the KidsMatter Early Childhood Leadership Team at Creative Play Early Learning Centre in Bulleen.

        MCHS has helped connect Creative Play with community health programs and services, including mental health first aid training and counselling supports, and has provided resources, such as specially designed mental health mapping tools to the early childhood service.  They have also supported Creative Play in participating in the Victorian government’s health eating program called 'Go for your life', ensuring the centre also embeds the values of healthy eating and physical activity.

        “MCHS see being involved in KidsMatter as highly valuable”, says Karen.  “The work they do with Creative Play is sustainable, and children and families will benefit into the future. At MCHS, we don’t have the capacity to undertake such work ourselves so to be able to support KidsMatter is a valuable and appropriate use of our resources.”

        This partnership approach strengthens the capacity of early childhood services and health and community organisations to collaborate in the best interests of children’s mental health and wellbeing.  

        Read more about the Manningham Community Health Service partnership

         

      • Smiling Mind is a free tool that aims to support the development of mindfulness and meditation in young people. Mindfulness and meditation is proven to help manage stress, increase awareness of emotions, improve attention and focus, and can reduce the risk of mental health difficulties getting worse.

        KidsMatter and Smiling Mind share the goal of promoting children’s mental health and wellbeing in schools.  KidsMatter addresses children’s mental health and wellbeing by looking at four key areas known as Components. Each KidsMatter Primary school works on the four components and complemented by the Smiling Mind smartphone App and Education Program, which can be used across all components.

        During the implementation of KidsMatter, schools make decisions about their goals, strategies and outcomes under each of the four KidsMatter components. How your school implements KidsMatter will depend on the needs of your school community. The Smiling Mind program helps to support children’s mental health at school and has been designed to complement existing mental health and wellbeing programs in a variety of ways.

        Smiling Mind has developed a free Education Program which includes Mindfulness Meditation sessions for individuals and groups of students. The program can be facilitated by teachers, educators and other wellbeing staff. Smiling Mind also offers Adult Programs that could be used by school staff and families in your community.

        KidsMatter and Smiling Mind jointly developed a resource for schools about how to help support the mental health and wellbeing of children within the four KidsMatter components.

        Tools for schools:

      • Flinders University and Uni SA took the radical step of being competitive collaborators in an effort to find meaningful field placements for their Social Work students.  Prior to this collaboration, school placements were arranged individually. Social Workers in the Department of Education and Child Development (DECD) suggested that the universities target placements with schools that had signed up for the KidsMatter framework due to the close alignment between KidsMatter and Social Work values and principles.  

        Mary Duncan, Manager Field Education (School of Social and Policy Studies) at Flinders University said, “KidsMatter and Social Work is a perfect fit and this had made it easier to plan and develop solid placements that have positive outcomes for students and school communities".

        Through conversations with the DECD, KidsMatter schools were identified as a great opportunity for social work student placements for a number of reasons:

        • The KidsMatter framework, underpinning values and principles align closely with Social Work values
        • KidsMatter focus aligns with the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) core curriculum content areas
        • School settings provide a range of experiences that align with Social Work practice
        • KidsMatter enables a shared supervision model for students

        Mary said, “Social workers have a very broad continuum of practice areas (eg working with individuals and groups, doing community development, social policy and research) and there are opportunities in schools, in the KidsMatter program, to do all of those things.

        “I want students to think that schools are micro communities in a bigger community and what’s happening in that bigger community impacts on school and the students and families in that school.”

        Chris Champion from KidsMatter recognised symmetry between the KidsMatter framework and the social work competencies.  He said “There are four core components of the KidsMatter Program: creating a positive school community, social and emotional learning for students, working with parents and carers and helping children with mental health difficulties. These match perfectly the seven social work and human service work standards and competencies that the students must identify and meet as part of their assignment criteria.”

        The shared vision of these in-school placements for Social Work students was to ultimately benefit primary school children by targeting their mental health and social and emotional needs and showing the importance of a healthy mind and life. 

        Mary sees the benefit to the partnership too, “When dealing with scarce resources and constant change, you have to work in a culture of partnership to make it sustainable – you have to have a shared vison and commitment.”

        Robby Drake, from Uni SA agrees. “Getting everyone on side and co-ordinating the meetings together has just been fantastic. We’re able to share ideas and we’re all looking in the same direction.  This is really valuable, especially when we’re ironing out what may or may not be appropriate.  It’s been really helpful to have representatives present from Catholic Education and the Department for Education and Child Development so we know the boundaries very clearly and we can discuss any of those issues proactively.”

        Read more about the University of South Australia (Uni SA), Flinders University partnership

        Tools for universities:

      • Alunga Children’s Centre forged a partnership with Illawarra-Shoalhaven (IS) Medicare Local to build children’s resilience through enhancing relationships at the Centre, reducing the risk of mental health difficulties, and supporting families in need at the Centre. 

        The main focus of the partnership was to implement the Kids Count Program, which allowed for a psychologist to work on-site with Alunga staff to strengthen educators’ knowledge and understanding of the social and emotional needs of young children, build their capacity and skills in effectively responding to a child’s individual needs, and recognise when a child and family may need additional psychological support and a referral to the Kids Count Program psychologist.

        The psychologist was able to support children and their families by working with them directly, and by upskilling educators and demonstrating ways to effectively respond to the needs of individual children at the service. 

        “This was the bit that I was quite inspired to talk to you about”, said Angela Robertson, an educator at Alunga. “I have seen some very dramatic changes in quite a few of our children who have connected with the Kids Count Program.”

        Clinical psychologist, Susan Lozenkovski, from IS Medicare Local agreed.  “The feedback that we got was quite dramatic for the families; what they noticed in the children’s behaviour but also shifts that they made themselves.” Specifically, they stopped viewing their child’s behaviour in terms of needing to be controlled but, rather, they began to understand it as a way of communicating how they were feeling. Susan went on to say “making a child feel safe, filling their emotional cup, will mean that they are better able to function in the world when they go on to primary school, and then beyond that. This style of working with a child provides children with a greater capacity to learn because they feel safer and more comfortable in themselves.”

        In implementing the partnership, Angela observed, “It’s been a lot of little changes over the past twelve months that have made bigger changes.” Angela Robertson, Educator. “If we’ve done it, anybody can do it.”

        Read more about the Alunga partnership

         

      • KidsMatter and ANU Research School of Psychology sought to find ways of partnering to support early childhood services and primary schools.  Previously, postgraduate students from the Psychology Clinic had undertaken placements in schools. As an alternative, group work in schools was considered as a useful placement opportunity for students, as well as a valuable service to schools.
        Consequently, a ten-week KidsMatter social and emotional learning program called Playing and Learning to Socialise (PALS) was facilitated in a KidsMatter School over two terms by students from the ANU Psychology Department under the supervision of Joan Webb, Clinical supervisor from the Department.
        Additionally, over 8 weeks, 3 clinical trainees from ANU delivered the PALS program to two individual kindergarten classes.  Within each session, the children were engaged in small group practice with the trainees, who were supported by executive teacher, Erin Jordon-Divorty.
        Information for families about the content of each session was sent home following each session so that family members could continue discussions and learning at home. 
        The success of postgraduate students from the Psychology Clinic undertaking placements in schools was achieved in part because of some small steps that led to big changes.  Specifically, a supportive principal/leadership team who enabled the program to occur within the school meant that the placement was given legitimacy within the school environment and was more likely to succeed.  Additionally, staff who dedicated time to setting up and running the program were, in part, responsible for the program’s success.  There was also an inclusion of families, as a core part of the work, with the expectation that the skills needed to continue to be developed beyond the program itself.  This led to a reinforcement of the learnings from within PALS and a greater likelihood that it would have an impact on children’s social and emotional wellbeing.

         

      • Child Aware is a Brisbane-based practice that provides counselling and psychology services for children and families, and has developed a partnership with KidsMatter through health and community work in Queensland.   Through the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) Child Mental Health program and the support of KidsMatter, Child Aware was able to provide free in-school counselling to children in selected Brisbane schools.

        A total of three schools within the Greater Metro South Brisbane Medicare Local region participated in the project, one of which is a KidsMatter school.  Child Aware psychologists provided a total of 74 counselling sessions to 19 children, either before school, after school or during school hours.

        Whilst the initiative was very successful, barriers were faced initially in promoting the project and making connections with schools.  Child Aware found School Guidance Offers and principals hesitant to trust an external provider to offer quality services to their students and their families.  The parent and teacher information sessions were not as effective as they could have been, and it took time for the initiative to gain momentum.

        Engagement of parents by trusted school staff, and the resulting word-of-mouth were found to be the most successful means of informing families about the value of the project.

        Susie Upton, a psychologist at Child Aware, agreed and identified the need to overcome communication barriers for further success. “The dissemination of information is a big challenge – how to get the information across to families, that help is available.  There’s no kind of avenue to disseminate information across schools or GPS so it’s one GP at a time, one school at a time, one family at a time.”

        Read more about the Child Aware partnership

        Tools for schools:

      • At Manningham Community Health Service (MCHS), one of their health promotion priorities is to support the mental wellbeing of young children aged under six years. The service sought to become involved with local early childhood centres and support the educators and children. Consequently, Karen Lovell, a Dietitian and Health Promotion Worker from MCHS, joined the KidsMatter Early Childhood Leadership Team at Creative Play Early Learning Centre in Bulleen.

        MCHS has helped connect Creative Play with community health programs and services, including mental health first aid training and counselling supports, and has provided resources, such as specially designed mental health mapping tools to the early childhood service.  They have also supported Creative Play in participating in the Victorian government’s health eating program called 'Go for your life', ensuring the centre also embeds the values of healthy eating and physical activity.

        “MCHS see being involved in KidsMatter as highly valuable”, says Karen.  “The work they do with Creative Play is sustainable, and children and families will benefit into the future. At MCHS, we don’t have the capacity to undertake such work ourselves so to be able to support KidsMatter is a valuable and appropriate use of our resources.” 

        Staff from KidsMatter and Creative Play have taken part in MCHS initiatives, and have joined a steering committee for 'Healthy Start Bright Futures', which oversees health promotion work in mental wellbeing, healthy eating and physical activity for children, as well as offering invaluable support and advice for students working for MCHS around these issues.

        KidsMatter staff also consulted on ways to reorient MCHS's involvement with maternal and child health services to achieve more sustainable practice.  All of these activities support the wellbeing of children and their families in Manningham and this partnership approach strengthens the capacity of early childhood services and health and community organisations to collaborate in the best interests of children’s mental health and wellbeing.  

        Read more about the Manningham Community Health Service partnership

         

      • Alunga Children’s Centre forged a partnership with Illawarra-Shoalhaven (IS) Medicare Local to build children’s resilience through enhancing relationships at the Centre, reducing the risk of mental health difficulties, and supporting families in need at the Centre. 

        The main focus of the partnership was to implement the Kids Count Program, which allowed for a psychologist to work on-site with Alunga staff to strengthen educators’ knowledge and understanding of the social and emotional needs of young children, build their capacity and skills in effectively responding to a child’s individual needs, and recognise when a child and family may need additional psychological support and a referral to the Kids Count Program psychologist.

        The psychologist was able to support children and their families by working with them directly, and by upskilling educators and demonstrating ways to effectively respond to the needs of individual children at the service. 

        Being a KidsMatter service was a foundation stone to the sustainability of this partnership.  It provided the Centre with the understanding that emotional learning and development is instrumental in promoting children’s mental health and wellbeing now and into the future. It provided staff at the Centre with the view that KidsMatter and Kids Count are complementary.  This foundational knowledge enabled staff to see the value in incorporating elements of the Kids Count Program into their practice.

        Educators’ new way of working became embedded in their practice, and a cultural shift took place within the service. Previously, they needed to take time out with the psychologist and reflect on how they were responding to a child who was having difficulties.  But now educators don’t have to do this as much anymore.

        “I don’t think the educators really realised what they had done,” said Melissa Ward, Alunga Director.  “They took everything on board, they were so willing and dedicated.  These changes are now embedded in educators’ practice. It is all happening on the floor and they are doing it every day. They do it naturally and don’t have to think about it.”

        Read more about the Alunga partnership

         

      • KidsMatter and ANU Research School of Psychology sought to find ways of partnering to support early childhood services and primary schools.  Previously, postgraduate students from the Psychology Clinic had undertaken placements in schools. As an alternative, group work in schools was considered as a useful placement opportunity for students, as well as a valuable service to schools.
         
        Consequently, a ten-week KidsMatter social and emotional learning program called Playing and Learning to Socialise (PALS) was facilitated in a KidsMatter School over two terms by students from the ANU Psychology Department under the supervision of Joan Webb, Clinical supervisor from the Department.
         
        Additionally, over 8 weeks, 3 clinical trainees from ANU delivered the PALS program to two individual kindergarten classes.  Within each session, the children were engaged in small group practice with the trainees, who were supported by executive teacher, Erin Jordon-Divorty.
         
        Information for families about the content of each session was sent home following each session so that family members could continue discussions and learning at home. 
         
        A number of successes related to the sustainability of the partnership were reported.  The school executive teacher reported benefits for the children from participating in the small groups, noticing changes in some of the behaviours targeted by the Psychology students. 
         
        The length of the program was important – it was spread over two terms so that children and staff had time to get to know each other.
         
        Additionally, the families played an important role in sustainability as they could follow up at home.  This is consistent with the school’s approach of seeing families as a key part of the school community.   Reports from parents were positive, particularly around how they learned to explicitly prompt children in the development of their social and emotional skills. 
         
        The work of the Psychology trainees highlighted the need to support children beyond the program session itself. It should not just be ‘a lesson’ but a common supportive language should be used in the playground and outside the classroom as well.  This common language can help all staff deal with issues quickly and consistently. Staff reported parallel learning with the students around ways to communicate with each other to foster social and emotional wellbeing.
         
      • Child Aware is a Brisbane-based practice that provides counselling and psychology services for children and families, and has developed a partnership with KidsMatter through health and community work in Queensland.   Through the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) Child Mental Health program and the support of KidsMatter, Child Aware was able to provide free in-school counselling to children in selected Brisbane schools.

        A total of three schools within the Greater Metro South Brisbane Medicare Local region participated in the project, one of which is a KidsMatter school.  Child Aware psychologists provided a total of 74 counselling sessions to 19 children, either before school, after school or during school hours.

        The initiative aimed to offer a flexible and collaborative approach to service delivery, and to assist families to access available rebates via Medicare, ATAPS and private health funding.

        Sessions were open to any parent who felt that their child needed assistance, and school staff were also able to identify children who might benefit from accessing the service.  Child Aware provided information about the referral process, and thus created a bridge between the school, the family and the GP.

        A demonstrated success of this project was the 95% attendance rate of children to sessions, compared to around 80% for standard in-office services.

        Parents were also committed to the project by attending office-based sessions with their children, if in-school sessions were missed.  In addition, families attended sessions in the office over the school holidays to ensure continuity of care. 

        One teacher said that she’s found the program “easy… easy to liaise with and easy to have up in the school.  We have appreciated Child Aware’s readiness to work and support the children and families of our school.”

        All the schools involved in the project have expressed interest in continuing with the partnerships so that Child Aware can offer their services to children at school in the following school year.  “We’ve had meetings with all the schools and they all expressed interest in being on board again”, said Susie Upton, a psychologist at Child Aware.  Other schools who have not participated in the program have also expressed interest in becoming involved in the initiative.

        Read more about the Child Aware partnership

        Tools for schools:

      • Dubbo and District Preschool participated in the pilot of KidsMatter Early Childhood from 2010. As they implemented Component 2: Children’s Social and Emotional Development, educators began to notice some children appeared to be more shy and anxious than their peers. This led to an interest in learning more about children’s social and emotional development – particularly focusing on resilience, anxiety and separation anxiety, and a desire to partner with parents to support the mental health and wellbeing of the children at the centre.

        Centre Director, Louise Simpson, contacted her local Dubbo Community Health Centre to arrange a session for educators to help recognise when children may be at risk or showing early signs of experiencing mental health difficulties. Once educators were able to identify children in their centre who were more anxious, shy or inhibited, the centre engaged with the children’s parents and offered a free workshop run by Senior Psychologist Ann-Maree Hartley. 

        Ann-Maree taught parents valuable skills and exercises to reduce excessive anxiety and increase confidence in children.  The workshop was held during the day and the preschool provided childcare for siblings from TAFE students studying Certificate 3 – Children’s Services. Afterwards, centre educators reinforced these strategies and ideas, and provided positive feedback to parents about the children’s development and improvement over time.

        The workshop was very successful at supporting parents, and has subsequently been offered each year to new parents at Dubbo and District Preschool. In addition to the core purpose of reducing anxious behaviours, it has enabled parents to form support networks and has helped educators to track the positive progress of the children in their care.

        Read more about the Dubbo and District Preschool partnership

        Tools for early childhood services:

         

      • At Manningham Community Health Service (MCHS), one of their health promotion priorities is to support the mental wellbeing of young children aged under six years. The service sought to become involved with local early childhood centres and support the educators and children. Consequently, Karen Lovell, a Dietitian and Health Promotion Worker from MCHS, joined the KidsMatter Early Childhood Leadership Team at Creative Play Early Learning Centre in Bulleen.

        “MCHS see being involved in KidsMatter as highly valuable”, says Karen.  “The work they do with Creative Play is sustainable, and children and families will benefit into the future. At MCHS, we don’t have the capacity to undertake such work ourselves so to be able to support KidsMatter is a valuable and appropriate use of our resources.”

        Karen also said that, through the journey and partnership with Creative Play, she has learned that “collaboration and partnership works best when you are working with good people who care”. Her hope is that all early childhood services can embed these philosophies into their practice in the future.

        Read more about the Manningham Community Health Service partnership

         

      • A partnership between KidsMatter and Mindful from the University of Melbourne has enabled the first facilitator training for Tuning in to Kids™ and Tuning in to Teens™ in the Northern Territory. Ann Harley, parenting educator and co-author of the Tuning in to Kids™ program, travelled to Darwin to facilitate the training with 18 delegates.

        Tuning in to KidsTM is an evidence-based parenting program that focuses on the emotional connection between parents and children. In particular the program teaches parents skills in emotion coaching; how to recognise, understand and respond to children’s emotions in an accepting, supportive way. This approach helps the child to understand and manage their emotions.

        Tuning in to KidsTM  was developed by Dr Sophie Havighurst and Ann Harley in Melbourne, and has been evaluated in multiple randomised controlled trials that have shown the program leads to positive outcomes including improving parenting, parent-child relationships and children’s emotional competence and behaviour. The program has been particularly effective with children with clinical-level emotional and behavioural difficulties.

        The KidsMatter and Mindful partnership aims to improve quality of life, mental health and the social and emotional wellbeing of children and families. This collaboration has led to better access to parenting interventions in the Northern Territory and more options available to families.

        There are many health and community professionals engaged with KidsMatter in the Top End. These professionals support schools to implement KidsMatter, help keep a focus on mental health and wellbeing in schools and assist to deliver mental health support to children and families in school settings. These professionals were supported to attend the Tuning in to Kids™ and Tuning in to Teens™ training with discounted registration.  

        Read more about the Mindful from the University of Melbourne partnership

        Tools for universities:

      • Flinders University and Uni SA took the radical step of being competitive collaborators in an effort to find meaningful field placements for their Social Work students. Prior to this collaboration, school placements were arranged individually. Social Workers in the Department of Education and Child Development (DECD) suggested that the universities target placements with schools that had signed up for the KidsMatter framework due to the close alignment between KidsMatter and Social Work values and principles.  

        Mary Duncan, Manager Field Education (School of Social and Policy Studies) at Flinders University said, “KidsMatter and Social Work is a perfect fit and this had made it easier to plan and develop solid placements that have positive outcomes for students and school communities".

        Through conversations with the DECD, KidsMatter schools were identified as a great opportunity for social work student placements for a number of reasons:

        • The KidsMatter framework, underpinning values and principles align closely with Social Work values
        • KidsMatter focus aligns with the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) core curriculum content areas
        • School settings provide a range of experiences that align with Social Work practice
        • KidsMatter enables a shared supervision model for students

        Mary said, “Social workers have a very broad continuum of practice areas (eg working with individuals and groups, doing community development, social policy and research) and there are opportunities in schools, in the KidsMatter program, to do all of those things.

        “I want students to think that schools are micro communities in a bigger community and what’s happening in that bigger community impacts on school and the students and families in that school.”

        The sustainability of this partnership has comes from the value it gives to the school, the children and the Social Work students. The feedback from schools has been positive, and participating schools are asking for more students to do placements in their schools.  “It’s like an extra set of hands you’ve got.  They come from a broader perspective than education students on placement.  There’s more flexibility in how a social work student could support the KidsMatter program because the social work program looks at an individual as well as who’s in their immediate community, who’s in their family, what are the relationships between those important communities, what’s that outer layer of legislation policy and how does that contribute to or mitigate against KidsMatter outcomes. That would be my idea of a highly functioning social work student.”

        To underline the success of the partnership, Mary Duncan pointed to research conducted by two of her Social Work students on evaluating the placements program.  The findings showed that the majority of social work student respondents believed that they contributed positively to the implementation of the KidsMatter program.   Additionally, a principal who was surveyed commented that the Social Work students provided additional resources and a knowledge base that could be utilised.

        Another key to sustainability has been the strength of the partnership between the universities, KidsMatter schools and government representatives.  Mary said, “If you are going to have something sustainable, you have to have a partnership because, from that, you get not only a shared vision but a commitment to sharing a load and a responsibility.

         “When dealing with scarce resources and constant change, you have to work in a culture of partnership to make it sustainable – you have to have a shared vison and commitment.”

        “It takes a strategic approach to underpin sustainability.  These placements and this model should be replicated and, as part of expanding these partnerships, the University is hoping to place their Victorian interstate students in KidsMatter schools too.”

        Read more about the University of South Australia (Uni SA), Flinders University partnership

        Tools for universities:

      • Alunga Children’s Centre forged a partnership with Illawarra-Shoalhaven (IS) Medicare Local to build children’s resilience through enhancing relationships at the Centre, reducing the risk of mental health difficulties, and supporting families in need at the Centre. 

        The main focus of the partnership was to implement the Kids Count Program, which allowed for a psychologist to work on-site with Alunga staff to strengthen educators’ knowledge and understanding of the social and emotional needs of young children, build their capacity and skills in effectively responding to a child’s individual needs, and recognise when a child and family may need additional psychological support and a referral to the Kids Count Program psychologist.

        The psychologist was able to support children and their families by working with them directly, and by upskilling educators and demonstrating ways to effectively respond to the needs of individual children at the service. 

        Being a KidsMatter service was a foundation stone to the sustainability of this partnership.  It provided the Centre with the understanding that emotional learning and development is instrumental in promoting children’s mental health and wellbeing now and into the future. It provided staff at the Centre with the view that KidsMatter and Kids Count are complementary.  This foundational knowledge enabled staff to see the value in incorporating elements of the Kids Count Program into their practice.

        Educators’ new way of working became embedded in their practice, and a cultural shift took place within the service. Previously, they needed to take time out with the psychologist and reflect on how they were responding to a child who was having difficulties.  But now educators don’t have to do this as much anymore.

        “I don’t think the educators really realised what they had done,” said Melissa Ward, Alunga Director.  “They took everything on board, they were so willing and dedicated.  These changes are now embedded in educators’ practice. It is all happening on the floor and they are doing it every day. They do it naturally and don’t have to think about it.”

        Alunga educator, Angela Robertson agreed. “You’ve got to be passionate and inspired and willing to reflect on what you do.”

        Clinical psychologist, Susan Lozenkovski, from IS Medicare Local, noted “A partnership between two or more organisations needs to be led by management, but is also enabled by staff working on the floor. Establishing the appropriate processes and systems from the top down may take time, but commitment at this level top level is crucial to help keep the partnership on track during difficult times.”

        Susan made the point that the partnership was successful because “it was strategic, planned and thought through as a good fit. Partnerships are not all rosy. You need to be considerate of the other party’s goals, their agendas, and their governance structures. And with more players involved, there are more things you can’t control.

        Read more about the Alunga partnership

         

      • KidsMatter and ANU Research School of Psychology sought to find ways of partnering to support early childhood services and primary schools.  Previously, postgraduate students from the Psychology Clinic had undertaken placements in schools. As an alternative, group work in schools was considered as a useful placement opportunity for students, as well as a valuable service to schools.
        Consequently, a ten-week KidsMatter social and emotional learning program called Playing and Learning to Socialise (PALS) was facilitated in a KidsMatter School over two terms by students from the ANU Psychology Department under the supervision of Joan Webb, Clinical supervisor from the Department.
        Additionally, over 8 weeks, 3 clinical trainees from ANU delivered the PALS program to two individual kindergarten classes.  Within each session, the children were engaged in small group practice with the trainees, who were supported by executive teacher, Erin Jordon-Divorty.
        Information for families about the content of each session was sent home following each session so that family members could continue discussions and learning at home. 
        Planning was key to the success of this partnership. Classroom teachers needed to be released from class to be involved in the small group work with the Psychology students and school children.  This allowed further follow up beyond the Program with those University students and further development of teachers’ own understandings and skills, such as reading of cues when children enter the classroom and ‘knock on’ effects throughout the school.
        ANU spent time understanding where the Program fitted within a whole school approach under KidsMatter, and identified opportunities to extend it to the whole school community. Importantly, planning in advance was critical so that ANU Psychology Clinic timelines could be taken into account when planning activities in schools.

         

      • Child Aware is a Brisbane-based practice that provides counselling and psychology services for children and families, and has developed a partnership with KidsMatter through health and community work in Queensland. Through the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) Child Mental Health program and the support of KidsMatter, Child Aware was able to provide free in-school counselling to children in selected Brisbane schools.

        A total of three schools within the Greater Metro South Brisbane Medicare Local region participated in the project, one of which is a KidsMatter school. Child Aware psychologists provided a total of 74 counselling sessions to 19 children, either before school, after school or during school hours.

        Susie Upton, a psychologist at Child Aware, agreed and identified the need to overcome communication barriers for further success. “The dissemination of information is a big challenge – how to get the information across to families, that help is available. There’s no kind of avenue to disseminate information across schools or GPS so it’s one GP at a time, one school at a time, one family at a time.

        Susie also noted that Child Aware really tried to support the school and the children: “We did a lot of the background running around, following up with referrals, speaking to GPs and all that sort of thing. Our team members are really child friendly, flexible people who just were able to slip into the school environment and be able to work out of the clinic.  They were approachable; people who the kids really enjoy seeing.” 

        Read more about the Child Aware partnership

        Tools for schools:

      • Flinders University and Uni SA took the radical step of being competitive collaborators in an effort to find meaningful field placements for their Social Work students.  Prior to this collaboration, school placements were arranged individually. Social Workers in the Department of Education and Child Development (DECD) suggested that the universities target placements with schools that had signed up for the KidsMatter framework due to the close alignment between KidsMatter and Social Work values and principles.  

        Mary Duncan, Manager Field Education (School of Social and Policy Studies) at Flinders University said, “KidsMatter and Social Work is a perfect fit and this had made it easier to plan and develop solid placements that have positive outcomes for students and school communities".

        Through conversations with the DECD, KidsMatter schools were identified as a great opportunity for social work student placements for a number of reasons:

        • The KidsMatter framework, underpinning values and principles align closely with Social Work values
        • KidsMatter focus aligns with the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) core curriculum content areas
        • School settings provide a range of experiences that align with Social Work practice
        • KidsMatter enables a shared supervision model for students

        Mary said, “Social workers have a very broad continuum of practice areas (eg working with individuals and groups, doing community development, social policy and research) and there are opportunities in schools, in the KidsMatter program, to do all of those things.

        “I want students to think that schools are micro communities in a bigger community and what’s happening in that bigger community impacts on school and the students and families in that school.”

        Chris Champion from KidsMatter recognised symmetry between the KidsMatter framework and the social work competencies.  He said “There are four core components of the KidsMatter Program: creating a positive school community, social and emotional learning for students, working with parents and carers and helping children with mental health difficulties. These match perfectly the seven social work and human service work standards and competencies that the students must identify and meet as part of their assignment criteria.”

        The aim of these in-school placements for Social Work students was to ultimately benefit primary school children by targeting their mental health and social and emotional needs and showing the importance of a healthy mind and life. 

        As preparation for these placements, Uni SA and Flinders University ran a two-day induction for the Social Work students at which KidsMatter staff presented the framework, and went through the expectations on the Universities and the schools and what some of the challenges might be. Placement was not like a student teacher placement as it would be managed by a social worker in the field. The induction also covered appropriate conduct in their placements, as they were still students and needed to ensure they operated in a legally safe manner.

        Additionally, as part of the placement program, group supervision was provided and these sessions incorporated theories and frameworks aligned to early childhood education.

        Mary Duncan saw the placement program as very successful.  “There have been great outcomes at all levels. At the partnership level we have a group of organisations committed to the ongoing development of a placement program in schools. For the universities, we have increased placement numbers and been able to focus efforts and resources on placement development. For students they have reported that their presence in schools has contributed to KidsMatter outcomes and their own Social Work learning outcomes.”

        She also made the point that this collaborative approach with KidsMatter schools has meant the placement program has been much more efficient and effective.  “One of the challenges of social work placements is, if you’ve got your staff resources spread over 10 very different agencies, the support you can provide is minimal. If you’ve got a focus like KidsMatter, it’s much easier; even though it’s multiple settings it’s systemically the same. So we can hold a comprehensive two day orientation for students going into KidsMatter schools.  If we had 10 students in another placement 10 in KidsMatter and 10 in another program we just couldn’t do it.”

        Planning, commitment and leadership were critical to the success of the partnership.  Mary’s advice to others planning something similar is “they need to put in the time, effort and resources that a successful partnerships demands.  Spending time planning the engagement is critical. The lead in time for us was twelve months.

        “Partnering with KidsMatter meant that our approach was planned and strategic, and that it was a win-win situation; schools could see how they would benefit. We had multiple strategies around placements in schools, collaboration with other universities, marketing and communications as well as research and funding required to underpin the work.”

        For example, typically the university would seek placements for students by simply emailing the schools directly.  However, as the placements were often not valued by the schools, the take-up was low.  By partnering with KidsMatter and Principals Australia Institute (PAI) to deliver the message through training, workshops and newsletter, a much greater level of take-up resulted. 

        Additionally, there was personal follow up by managers of the Flinders University and the University of South Australia Field Education Managers, and the Universities funded a full time position for a semester to develop the concept.

        Mary adds: “We would not have had the interest from schools in offering Social Work placements without the partnership. Working with KidsMatter, the Department for Education and Childhood Development and Catholic Education enabled us to take a more planned and strategic approach that connected to the needs and timelines of schools. Importantly we were able to provide an orientation to students and to participating schools to join the dots between school and social work placements and to underpin a win-win approach where all parties’ needs were understood and met.”

        Patricia Muncey, KidsMatter Placement Program Co-ordinator (Uni SA) agrees.  “It did take time. We made phone calls to schools and explained the process. We had a student orientation and a teacher orientation, held separately.  We put extra social work supervision on site in schools so we would be able to address any concerns very quickly and also provide the students with some help.  It certainly took a lot of time but we think it’s been well worth it.”

        Read more about the University of South Australia (Uni SA), Flinders University partnership

        Tools for universities:

      • Alunga Children’s Centre forged a partnership with Illawarra-Shoalhaven (IS) Medicare Local to build children’s resilience through enhancing relationships at the Centre, reducing the risk of mental health difficulties, and supporting families in need at the Centre. 

        The main focus of the partnership was to implement the Kids Count Program, which allowed for a psychologist to work on-site with Alunga staff to strengthen educators’ knowledge and understanding of the social and emotional needs of young children, build their capacity and skills in effectively responding to a child’s individual needs, and recognise when a child and family may need additional psychological support and a referral to the Kids Count Program psychologist.

        The psychologist was able to support children and their families by working with them directly, and by upskilling educators and demonstrating ways to effectively respond to the needs of individual children at the service. 

        Collaboration between Centre staff, psychologists and parents was critical.  Clinical psychologist Susan Lozenkovski, from IS Medicare Local, described two young boys who were experiencing separation anxiety. “I worked with the families off site as well as talking with the educators on site. And the educators worked directly with the children.  So the way that it can be most successful is that we have the ability to influence all the contexts of the children.  That’s how we can achieve success rather quickly.”

        This collaboration allowed all parties to have a shared understanding of the research on attachment theory. Susan said “So we shine that lens on what the children need and we try to understand what their relationships and emotional needs are. We all have a similar language to talk about and understand what the child may need. The shared understanding between myself, the educator and the parent is critical… we are all working towards the same goal and we could understand what that stress for the child was and how to respond to that.”

        Developing a culture of collaboration may require the merging of worldviews. Susan noted that such partnerships require “patience, trust and clear and honest communication. It’s important to maintain an atmosphere of genuine respect for what each partner brings to the collaboration, and a willingness on everyone’s part to learn how to do things differently. Only then will all the partners involved be truly complementing each other’s efforts.”

        Rachel Bridges, another psychologist at IS Medicare Local, noted that having the psychologist on site meant that families had easy access to support and the psychologist became part of the team.

        Using Circle of Security, based on the work of Robyn Dolby, play spaces were set up differently to ensure a space was available where parents and educators could work together to ensure that children start their day feeling safe and connected.  Susan explained: “When children come into the Centre, they want to know that they are on the staff member’s radar, that one of the educators is ready and available to look after them. Both the child and the parent want to make sure that the child feels safe and well cared for. There is a spot set up where educators can work with children, giving them time to check in on the child’s emotional needs and how they might be feeling. It’s a place where the two of them can connect in with each other. Added to this is the intentional use of language where an educator might say, “I’m here to keep you safe,” and “It’s okay to feel that way.”

        Read more about the Alunga partnership

         

      • KidsMatter and ANU Research School of Psychology sought to find ways of partnering to support early childhood services and primary schools.  Previously, postgraduate students from the Psychology Clinic had undertaken placements in schools. As an alternative, group work in schools was considered as a useful placement opportunity for students, as well as a valuable service to schools.

        Consequently, a ten-week KidsMatter social and emotional learning program called Playing and Learning to Socialise (PALS) was facilitated in a KidsMatter School over two terms by students from the ANU Psychology Department under the supervision of Joan Webb, Clinical supervisor from the Department.

        Additionally, over 8 weeks, 3 clinical trainees from ANU delivered the PALS program to two individual kindergarten classes.

        Within each session, the children were engaged in small group practice with the trainees, who were supported by executive teacher, Erin Jordon-Divorty.

        Information for families about the content of each session was sent home following each session so that family members could continue discussions and learning at home.

        The partnership reported many successes. Students learned more appropriate ways to communicate with each other through PALS and a common, supportive language was established between students and adults. Additionally, potential ‘at risk’ students were identified by the ANU Psychology trainees, as the Psychology students were able to notice behaviours not always picked up by school staff.

        Read more about the ANU partnership

        Tools for universities:

      • Child Aware is a Brisbane-based practice that provides counselling and psychology services for children and families, and has developed a partnership with KidsMatter through health and community work in Queensland.   Through the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) Child Mental Health program and the support of KidsMatter, Child Aware was able to provide free in-school counselling to children in selected Brisbane schools.

        A total of three schools within the Greater Metro South Brisbane Medicare Local region participated in the project, one of which is a KidsMatter school.  Child Aware psychologists provided a total of 74 counselling sessions to 19 children, either before school, after school or during school hours.

        The initiative aimed to offer a flexible and collaborative approach to service delivery, and to assist families to access available rebates via Medicare, ATAPS and private health funding.

        Sessions were open to any parent who felt that their child needed assistance, and school staff were also able to identify children who might benefit from accessing the service.  Child Aware provided information about the referral process, and thus created a bridge between the school, the family and the GP.

        A demonstrated success of this project was the 95% attendance rate of children to sessions, compared to around 80% for standard in-office services.

        Parents were also committed to the project by attending office-based sessions with their children, if in-school sessions were missed.  In addition, families attended sessions in the office over the school holidays to ensure continuity of care. 

        The collaborative nature of the program is highlighted by the ongoing involvement of parents in their child’s sessions, with Child Aware psychologists ensuring that they make contact after each session to share goals, outcomes, homework tasks, or to discuss difficulties.

        Read more about the Child Aware partnership

        Tools for schools:

      • At Manningham Community Health Service (MCHS), one of their health promotion priorities is to support the mental wellbeing of young children aged under six years. The service sought to become involved with local early childhood centres and support the educators and children. Consequently, Karen Lovell, a Dietitian and Health Promotion Worker from MCHS, joined the KidsMatter Early Childhood Leadership Team at Creative Play Early Learning Centre in Bulleen.

        MCHS has helped connect Creative Play with community health programs and services, including mental health first aid training and counselling supports, and has provided resources, such as specially designed mental health mapping tools to the early childhood service.  They have also supported Creative Play in participating in the Victorian government’s health eating program called 'Go for your life', ensuring the centre also embeds the values of healthy eating and physical activity.

        “MCHS see being involved in KidsMatter as highly valuable”, says Karen.  “The work they do with Creative Play is sustainable, and children and families will benefit into the future. At MCHS, we don’t have the capacity to undertake such work ourselves so to be able to support KidsMatter is a valuable and appropriate use of our resources.”

        This partnership approach strengthens the capacity of early childhood services and health and community organisations to collaborate in the best interests of children’s mental health and wellbeing.

        Read more about the Manningham Community Health Service partnership

         

      • Alunga Children’s Centre forged a partnership with Illawarra-Shoalhaven (IS) Medicare Local to build children’s resilience through enhancing relationships at the Centre, reducing the risk of mental health difficulties, and supporting families in need at the Centre. 

        The main focus of the partnership was to implement the Kids Count Program, which allowed for a psychologist to work on-site with Alunga staff to strengthen educators’ knowledge and understanding of the social and emotional needs of young children, build their capacity and skills in effectively responding to a child’s individual needs, and recognise when a child and family may need additional psychological support and a referral to the Kids Count Program psychologist.

        The psychologist was able to support children and their families by working with them directly, and by upskilling educators and demonstrating ways to effectively respond to the needs of individual children at the service. 

        “This was the bit that I was quite inspired to talk to you about”, said Angela Robertson, an educator at Alunga. “I have seen some very dramatic changes in quite a few of our children who have connected with the Kids Count Program.”

        Angela described a child who had been experiencing extreme separation anxiety and who would cry intensely for up to 40 minutes every morning after drop-off.  This put enormous strain on his mother, and also impacted on the child’s relationship with the other children at the service. The educators had, prior to the implementation of the Kids Count Program, initiated a range of strategies to assist the child and his family, however nothing they did alleviated the child’s distress. Angela noted that through working with the Kids Count Program “the child is happy to get dropped off in the morning.  The relationships that he’s built with the other children have just flourished because he’s feeling so safe and secure and confident in the environment now that he’s willing to go and explore and mum isn’t having any problems getting him here either.” 

        In this scenario, the Kids Count Program psychologist worked directly with the child’s mother.  The sessions focussed on providing her with the tools to offer her son reassurance and comfort.  The psychologist also worked with Centre educators, showing them ways of effectively responding to the child so that he felt safe and secure in the environment.

        Melissa Ward, Alunga Director , also provided another example of how the Kids Count psychologist assisted educators in their efforts to form a secure and respectful relationship with the children at their service. “The educators began to tell the children that they are having a break before leaving the room”.  Angela agreed: “It’s about understanding that the children do need to be told because they do have a strong relationship with us and maybe we never realised how important that was.”

        Based on the work of Robyn Dolby, play spaces have been set up differently. There is a space where parents  and educators work together to ensure that children start their day feeling safe and connected. 

        Clinical psychologist, Susan Lozenkovski, from IS Medicare Local, explained. “When children come into the Centre, they want to know that they are on the staff member’s radar, that one of the educators is ready and available to look after them. Both the child and the parent want to make sure that the child feels safe and well cared for. There is a space set up for them where educators can work with children, giving them space to check in on the child’s emotional needs and how they might be feeling. The space is set up for this to occur so that it actually offers an internal space where the two of them can connect in with each other.  Added to this is the intentional use of language where an educator might say, “I’m here to keep you safe,” and “It’s okay to feel that way.”

        Susan also highlighted how their work assisted children in their relationships with their peers.  She described a young boy who displayed aggressive behaviour and who was unable to connect with others.  Once the staff had worked with him, and once he felt safe, he was better able to connect with his peers and make friends. “These kinds of interventions and changes can have lifelong implications”, said Susan.

        It has enhanced clinical outcomes for Alunga’s children by putting into practice many of the components of the KidsMatter framework.  For example, Kids Count helps to create a sense of community by utilising concepts from the Circle of Security to help facilitate a sense of belonging and connectedness through relationships. 

        Psychologists working with educators is a collaborative model that aims to support children who may be experiencing mental health difficulties and this way of working compliments the principles embedded in KidsMatter.  A psychologist working on site also provides the opportunity for families to raise any concerns they may have, and access help and support, when they are dropping off their children at the Centre.

        Susan said, “A highlight is seeing how when parents and carers feel connected to the educators, they transmit this security and trust to their children.”

        Susan added that a further highlight is how focusing on having emotionally responsive relationships impacts positively on the mental health and wellbeing of all the children at the Centre, even those not referred for psychological intervention. “The feedback that we got was quite dramatic for the families; what they noticed in the children’s behaviour but also shifts that they made themselves.”

        Specifically, they stopped viewing their child’s behaviour in terms of needing to be controlled but rather, began to understand it as a way of communicating how they were feeling. Susan went on to say “Making a child feel safe, filling their emotional cup, will mean that they are better able to function in the world when they go on to primary school, and then beyond that. This style of working with a child provides children with a greater capacity to learn because they feel safer and more comfortable in themselves.”

        Angela Robertson observed the change in the day-to-day behaviour of the children. “Now I feel that the children are so much more settled and I feel more settled in my role here because you’re taking on that different point of view.”

        Read more about the Alunga partnership

         

      • KidsMatter and ANU Research School of Psychology sought to find ways of partnering to support early childhood services and primary schools.  Previously, postgraduate students from the Psychology Clinic had undertaken placements in schools. As an alternative, group work in schools was considered as a useful placement opportunity for students, as well as a valuable service to schools.
         
        Consequently, a ten-week KidsMatter social and emotional learning program called Playing and Learning to Socialise (PALS) was facilitated in a KidsMatter School over two terms by students from the ANU Psychology Department under the supervision of Joan Webb, Clinical supervisor from the Department.
         
        Additionally, over 8 weeks, 3 clinical trainees from ANU delivered the PALS program to two individual kindergarten classes.  Within each session, the children were engaged in small group practice with the trainees, who were supported by executive teacher, Erin Jordon-Divorty.
         
        Information for families about the content of each session was sent home following each session so that family members could continue discussions and learning at home. 
         
        A number of successes related to the sustainability of the partnership were reported.  The school executive teacher reported benefits for the children from participating in the small groups, noticing changes in some of the behaviours targeted by the Psychology students. 
         
        The length of the program was important – it was spread over two terms so that children and staff had time to get to know each other.
         
        Additionally, the families played an important role in sustainability as they could follow up at home.  This is consistent with the school’s approach of seeing families as a key part of the school community.   Reports from parents were positive, particularly around how they learned to explicitly prompt children in the development of their social and emotional skills. 
         
        The work of the Psychology trainees highlighted the need to support children beyond the program session itself. It should not just be ‘a lesson’ but a common supportive language should be used in the playground and outside the classroom as well.  This common language can help all staff deal with issues quickly and consistently. Staff reported parallel learning with the students around ways to communicate with each other to foster social and emotional wellbeing.
         
      • Child Aware is a Brisbane-based practice that provides counselling and psychology services for children and families, and has developed a partnership with KidsMatter through health and community work in Queensland.   Through the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) Child Mental Health program and the support of KidsMatter, Child Aware was able to provide free in-school counselling to children in selected Brisbane schools.

        A total of three schools within the Greater Metro South Brisbane Medicare Local region participated in the project, one of which is a KidsMatter school. Child Aware psychologists provided a total of 74 counselling sessions to 19 children, either before school, after school or during school hours.

        The initiative aimed to offer a flexible and collaborative approach to service delivery, and to assist families to access available rebates via Medicare, ATAPS and private health funding.

        Sessions were open to any parent who felt that their child needed assistance, and school staff were also able to identify children who might benefit from accessing the service. Child Aware provided information about the referral process, and thus created a bridge between the school, the family and the GP.

        “I think it’s just the beginning because we love the KidsMatter program and having multi-faceted layers to schools.  I’ve been part of the school community and that has been really helpful”, said Susie Upton, a psychologist at Child Aware. “I think it was a really successful program – our service and the school working towards the best interest of kids.  That was really lovely.”

        Having Child Aware in-school has also led to a reduction in the stigma attached to mental health difficulties.  Susie said, “I think the reduction of the barriers to engaging with a psychologist makes it less of a big deal. It’s less scary than going to an external service, especially public systems which are often based in hospitals or in the clinical environment.  The school is an environment that children are familiar with.” 

        Read more about the Child Aware partnership

        Tools for schools:

         

      • Dubbo and District Preschool participated in the pilot of KidsMatter Early Childhood from 2010. As they implemented Component 2: Children’s Social and Emotional Development, educators began to notice some children appeared to be more shy and anxious than their peers. This led to an interest in learning more about children’s social and emotional development – particularly focusing on resilience, anxiety and separation anxiety, and a desire to partner with parents to support the mental health and wellbeing of the children at the centre.

        Centre Director, Louise Simpson, contacted her local Dubbo Community Health Centre to arrange a session for educators to help recognise when children may be at risk or showing early signs of experiencing mental health difficulties. Once educators were able to identify children in their centre who were more anxious, shy or inhibited, the centre engaged with the children’s parents and offered a free workshop run by Senior Psychologist Ann-Maree Hartley. 

        Ann-Maree taught parents valuable skills and exercises to reduce excessive anxiety and increase confidence in children.  The workshop was held during the day and the preschool provided childcare for siblings from TAFE students studying Certificate 3 – Children’s Services. Afterwards, centre educators reinforced these strategies and ideas, and provided positive feedback to parents about the children’s development and improvement over time.

        The workshop was very successful at supporting parents, and has subsequently been offered each year to new parents at Dubbo and District Preschool. In addition to the core purpose of reducing anxious behaviours, it has enabled parents to form support networks and has helped educators to track the positive progress of the children in their care.

        Read more about the Dubbo and District Preschool partnership

        Tools for early childhood services:

         

      • Alunga Children’s Centre forged a partnership with Illawarra-Shoalhaven (IS) Medicare Local to build children’s resilience through enhancing relationships at the Centre, reducing the risk of mental health difficulties, and supporting families in need at the Centre. 

        The main focus of the partnership was to implement the Kids Count Program, which allowed for a psychologist to work on-site with Alunga staff to strengthen educators’ knowledge and understanding of the social and emotional needs of young children, build their capacity and skills in effectively responding to a child’s individual needs, and recognise when a child and family may need additional psychological support and a referral to the Kids Count Program psychologist.

        The psychologist was able to support children and their families by working with them directly, and by upskilling educators and demonstrating ways to effectively respond to the needs of individual children at the service. 

        “This was the bit that I was quite inspired to talk to you about”, said Angela Robertson, an educator at Alunga. “I have seen some very dramatic changes in quite a few of our children who have connected with the Kids Count Program.”

        Angela described a child who had been experiencing extreme separation anxiety and who would cry intensely for up to 40 minutes every morning after drop-off.  This put enormous strain on his mother, and also impacted on the child’s relationship with the other children at the service. The educators had, prior to the implementation of the Kids Count Program, initiated a range of strategies to assist the child and his family, however nothing they did alleviated the child’s distress. Angela noted that through working with the Kids Count Program “the child is happy to get dropped off in the morning.  The relationships that he’s built with the other children have just flourished because he’s feeling so safe and secure and confident in the environment now that he’s willing to go and explore and mum isn’t having any problems getting him here either.” 

        In this scenario, the Kids Count Program psychologist worked directly with the child’s mother.  The sessions focussed on providing her with the tools to offer her son reassurance and comfort.  The psychologist also worked with Centre educators, showing them ways of effectively responding to the child so that he felt safe and secure in the environment.

        Melissa Ward, Alunga Director , also provided another example of how the Kids Count psychologist assisted educators in their efforts to form a secure and respectful relationship with the children at their service. “The educators began to tell the children that they are having a break before leaving the room”.  Angela agreed: “It’s about understanding that the children do need to be told because they do have a strong relationship with us and maybe we never realised how important that was.”

        The psychologist facilitated training sessions for educators (sometimes after hours) on specific topics like the Circle of Security or reflective practice. “When the Centre was open, the psychologist  would be on the floor with staff providing them with support and opportunities for observing and reflecting on how they were interacting with the children”, said Rachel Bridge. “She would then hold reflective practice sessions with individual staff members to help them up-skill and come on board with this new way of working.”

        Armed with this knowledge, educators were then well placed to support and encourage families to access appropriate support services beyond the early childhood context.

        Educators’ new way of working is now embedded in their practice, and a cultural shift has taken place within the service. Whereas in the past, they used to take time out with the psychologist and reflect on how they were responding to a child who was having difficulties, now educators don’t have to do this as much anymore.

        “I don’t think the educators really realised the progress they’ve made,” said Melissa.  “It’s all happening on the floor and they are doing it every day now.”

        Alunga’s play spaces were also rearranged. Whilst educators already knew that play was important, there has been an increased appreciation for, and recognition of how the environment can support a child’s social and emotional wellbeing. “I’ve worked in the industry for nearly 12 years and I think when I look at an environment now, I look at how much more it can offer by how it is set up… and I’m inspired now to give the child every opportunity in terms of social and emotional learning, realising how much the environment can support that,” said Angela.

        “Having a psychologist here on the premises has opened our eyes as educators, to the responses that we can have with children and how to support those children individually. It’s about how we manage these individual children and how we can be supported with the help of a psychologist to recognise our own interactions as educators, and how we can reflect on those to improve.”

        Angela observed the change in the day-to-day behaviour of the children. “Now I feel that the children are so much more settled and I feel more settled in my role here because you’re taking on that different point of view”.

        Rachel Bridges, a psychologist at IS Medicare Local, stated that she received a lot of positive feedback about the program and model.  Many Alunga staff commented on how Rachel was very approachable and helped them build their skills to manage difficult issues that some of the children were experiencing. Alunga educators have said that they feel more confident working with the families and children in their Centre.

        Read more about the Alunga partnership

         

      • Child Aware is a Brisbane-based practice that provides counselling and psychology services for children and families, and has developed a partnership with KidsMatter through health and community work in Queensland.   Through the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) Child Mental Health program and the support of KidsMatter, Child Aware was able to provide free in-school counselling to children in selected Brisbane schools.

        A total of three schools within the Greater Metro South Brisbane Medicare Local region participated in the project, one of which is a KidsMatter school. Child Aware psychologists provided a total of 74 counselling sessions to 19 children, either before school, after school or during school hours.

        The initiative aimed to offer a flexible and collaborative approach to service delivery, and to assist families to access available rebates via Medicare, ATAPS and private health funding.

        Sessions were open to any parent who felt that their child needed assistance, and school staff were also able to identify children who might benefit from accessing the service. Child Aware provided information about the referral process, and thus created a bridge between the school, the family and the GP.

        A demonstrated success of this project was the 95% attendance rate of children to sessions, compared to around 80% for standard in-office services.

        The collaborative nature of the program is highlighted by the ongoing involvement of parents in their child’s sessions, with Child Aware psychologists ensuring that they make contact after each session to share goals, outcomes, homework tasks, or to discuss difficulties.

        Connecting children with mental health services in-school has also led to a reduction in the stigma attached to mental health difficulties. Susie Upton, a psychologist at Child Aware said, “I think the reduction of the barriers to engaging with a psychologist makes it less of a big deal. It’s less scary than going to an external service, especially public systems which are often based in hospitals or in the clinical environment.  The school is an environment that children are familiar with.”

        Read more about the Child Aware partnership

        Tools for schools:

      • At Manningham Community Health Service (MCHS), one of their health promotion priorities is to support the mental wellbeing of young children aged under six years. The service sought to become involved with local early childhood centres and support the educators and children. Consequently, Karen Lovell, a Dietitian and Health Promotion Worker from MCHS, joined the KidsMatter Early Childhood Leadership Team at Creative Play Early Learning Centre in Bulleen.

        MCHS has helped connect Creative Play with community health programs and services, including mental health first aid training and counselling supports, and has provided resources, such as specially designed mental health mapping tools to the early childhood service.  They have also supported Creative Play in participating in the Victorian government’s health eating program called 'Go for your life', ensuring the centre also embeds the values of healthy eating and physical activity.

        “MCHS see being involved in KidsMatter as highly valuable”, says Karen.  “The work they do with Creative Play is sustainable, and children and families will benefit into the future. At MCHS, we don’t have the capacity to undertake such work ourselves so to be able to support KidsMatter is a valuable and appropriate use of our resources.”

        This partnership approach strengthens the capacity of early childhood services and health and community organisations to collaborate in the best interests of children’s mental health and wellbeing.  

        Read more about the Manningham Community Health Service partnership

         

      • Alunga Children’s Centre forged a partnership with Illawarra-Shoalhaven (IS) Medicare Local to build children’s resilience through enhancing relationships at the Centre, reducing the risk of mental health difficulties, and supporting families in need at the Centre. 

        The main focus of the partnership was to implement the Kids Count Program, which allowed for a psychologist to work on-site with Alunga staff to strengthen educators’ knowledge and understanding of the social and emotional needs of young children, build their capacity and skills in effectively responding to a child’s individual needs, and recognise when a child and family may need additional psychological support and a referral to the Kids Count Program psychologist.

        The psychologist was able to support children and their families by working with them directly, and by upskilling educators and demonstrating ways to effectively respond to the needs of individual children at the service. 

        “This was the bit that I was quite inspired to talk to you about”, said Angela Robertson, an educator at Alunga. “I have seen some very dramatic changes in quite a few of our children who have connected with the Kids Count Program.”

        Angela described a child who had been experiencing extreme separation anxiety and who would cry intensely for up to 40 minutes every morning after drop-off.  This put enormous strain on his mother, and also impacted on the child’s relationship with the other children at the service. The educators had, prior to the implementation of the Kids Count Program, initiated a range of strategies to assist the child and his family, however nothing they did alleviated the child’s distress. Angela noted that through working with the Kids Count Program “the child is happy to get dropped off in the morning.  The relationships that he’s built with the other children have just flourished because he’s feeling so safe and secure and confident in the environment now that he’s willing to go and explore and mum isn’t having any problems getting him here either.” 

        In this scenario, the Kids Count Program psychologist worked directly with the child’s mother.  The sessions focussed on providing her with the tools to offer her son reassurance and comfort.  The psychologist also worked with Centre educators, showing them ways of effectively responding to the child so that he felt safe and secure in the environment.

        Melissa Ward, Alunga Director , also provided another example of how the Kids Count psychologist assisted educators in their efforts to form a secure and respectful relationship with the children at their service. “The educators began to tell the children that they are having a break before leaving the room”.  Angela agreed: “It’s about understanding that the children do need to be told because they do have a strong relationship with us and maybe we never realised how important that was.”

        The psychologist facilitated training sessions for educators (sometimes after hours) on specific topics like the Circle of Security or reflective practice. “When the Centre was open, the psychologist  would be on the floor with staff providing them with support and opportunities for observing and reflecting on how they were interacting with the children”, said Rachel Bridge. “She would then hold reflective practice sessions with individual staff members to help them up-skill and come on board with this new way of working.”

        Armed with this knowledge, educators were then well placed to support and encourage families to access appropriate support services beyond the early childhood context.

        Educators’ new way of working is now embedded in their practice, and a cultural shift has taken place within the service. Whereas in the past, they used to take time out with the psychologist and reflect on how they were responding to a child who was having difficulties, now educators don’t have to do this as much anymore.

        “I don’t think the educators really realised the progress they’ve made,” said Melissa.  “It’s all happening on the floor and they are doing it every day now.”

        Alunga’s play spaces were also rearranged. Whilst educators already knew that play was important, there has been an increased appreciation for, and recognition of how the environment can support a child’s social and emotional wellbeing. “I’ve worked in the industry for nearly 12 years and I think when I look at an environment now, I look at how much more it can offer by how it is set up… and I’m inspired now to give the child every opportunity in terms of social and emotional learning, realising how much the environment can support that,” said Angela.

        “Having a psychologist here on the premises has opened our eyes as educators, to the responses that we can have with children and how to support those children individually. It’s about how we manage these individual children and how we can be supported with the help of a psychologist to recognise our own interactions as educators, and how we can reflect on those to improve.”

        Angela observed the change in the day-to-day behaviour of the children. “Now I feel that the children are so much more settled and I feel more settled in my role here because you’re taking on that different point of view”.

        Rachel Bridges, a psychologist at IS Medicare Local, stated that she received a lot of positive feedback about the program and model.  Many Alunga staff commented on how Rachel was very approachable and helped them build their skills to manage difficult issues that some of the children were experiencing. Alunga educators have said that they feel more confident working with the families and children in their Centre.

        Read more about the Alunga partnership

         

      • Child Aware is a Brisbane-based practice that provides counselling and psychology services for children and families, and has developed a partnership with KidsMatter through health and community work in Queensland.   Through the Access to Allied Psychological Services (ATAPS) Child Mental Health program and the support of KidsMatter, Child Aware was able to provide free in-school counselling to children in selected Brisbane schools.

        A total of three schools within the Greater Metro South Brisbane Medicare Local region participated in the project, one of which is a KidsMatter school.  Child Aware psychologists provided a total of 74 counselling sessions to 19 children, either before school, after school or during school hours.

        “We received feedback from parents, GPs, principals and School Guidance Officers… all really positive”, said Susie Upton, a psychologist at Child Aware. “It’s been much easier for children and families to access mental health support.”

        One teacher said that she’s found the program “easy… easy to liaise with and easy to have up in the school.  We have appreciated Child Aware’s readiness to work and support the children and families of our school.”

        One of the school principals involved in the program said, “We are extremely happy with the service.  Our community has many needs, our families and students have many issues. Our School Guidance Officer works three days out of every 10, we have 500 students, and simply can’t provide such a service.  Without Child Aware, many of our students and families would not be receiving the help they need. The service is well organised and communication has been very effective between Child Aware and the school. The psychologists have a quiet space to work and are well aware of how to work amongst our school staff and in our school environment.”

        A Guidance Officer at a KidsMatter School said, “Personally, I have found all Child Aware staff extremely easy to liaise with and I appreciate their readiness to work with the school to support the children and their families.”

        Read more about the Child Aware partnership

        Tools for schools:

      • Flinders University and Uni SA took the radical step of being competitive collaborators in an effort to find meaningful field placements for their Social Work students.  Prior to this collaboration, school placements were arranged individually. Social Workers in the Department of Education and Child Development (DECD) suggested that the universities target placements with schools that had signed up for the KidsMatter framework due to the close alignment between KidsMatter and Social Work values and principles.  

        Mary Duncan, Manager Field Education (School of Social and Policy Studies) at Flinders University said, “KidsMatter and Social Work is a perfect fit and this had made it easier to plan and develop solid placements that have positive outcomes for students and school communities".

        Through conversations with the DECD, KidsMatter schools were identified as a great opportunity for social work student placements for a number of reasons:

        • The KidsMatter framework, underpinning values and principles align closely with Social Work values
        • KidsMatter focus aligns with the Australian Association of Social Workers (AASW) core curriculum content areas
        • School settings provide a range of experiences that align with Social Work practice
        • KidsMatter enables a shared supervision model for students

        Mary said, “Social workers have a very broad continuum of practice areas (eg working with individuals and groups, doing community development, social policy and research) and there are opportunities in schools, in the KidsMatter program, to do all of those things.

        The feedback from schools has been positive, and participating schools are asking for more students to do placements in their schools.  “It’s like an extra set of hands you’ve got.  They come from a broader perspective than education students on placement.  There’s more flexibility in how a social work student could support the KidsMatter program because the social work program looks at an individual as well as who’s in their immediate community, who’s in their family, what are the relationships between those important communities, what’s that outer layer of legislation policy and how does that contribute to or mitigate against KidsMatter outcomes. That would be my idea of a highly functioning social work student.”

        To underline the success of the partnership, Mary Duncan pointed to research conducted by two of her Social Work students on evaluating the placements program.  The findings showed that the majority of social work student respondents believed that they contributed positively to the implementation of the KidsMatter program.   Additionally, a principal who was surveyed commented that the Social Work students provided additional resources and a knowledge base that could be utilised.

        Robby Drake, from Uni SA also says the anecdotal feedback from schools has been very positive.  “I think that most of the schools we’re working with can really see the advantage.  They’re saying that they want Social Work students to come constantly, so every semester we have students there.  Teachers are talking very positively about it, are very willing to have our students in the school.  The second semester last year was the first time that we had been part of this KidsMatter partnership and all the schools that we had worked with all have been very willing to work with us again.  We see that as very positive feedback.”

        “There are some really small, practical, positive interactions.  For example, one of our students was working with a child who has epilepsy.  When they had the school swimming sports day, she was that child’s spotter (as that child had to be watched at all times around a swimming pool).  At the end of the day, the child thanked her and said that she really appreciated it, and the staff as well.  Successful school placements offer supportive opportunities that wouldn’t be there otherwise.”

        Read more about the University of South Australia (Uni SA), Flinders University partnership

        Tools for universities: