Best Practice Forum July 8th 2015

Lord Francis Listowel opened the event by welcoming us to the event at the House of Lords. 

Dr Sean Cameron spoke on ‘The emotional warmth dimension of childcare; Empowering the carers of children who have been rejected, neglected and abused.’

 He started his presentation by quoting Alice Millar, US Psychologist and author;

‘It is possible to love a child passionately but not in the way that he (she)needs’.

Dr Cameron spoke about the adverse childhood experiences pyramid where he  explained that the worst thing that can happen to a child is childhood rejection. He said they need parent’s acceptance as much as the air they breathe and the food they eat. Acceptance is culturally based but recognised immediately. He spoke about the resulting behaviour from experiencing parents rejection such as over clinginess, superficial charm, inability to share destructiveness, cruelty and teasing, persistent lying.

Dr Cameron has looked at the following areas to develop his model ‘The emotional warmth approach’: parenting style, attachment theory, CBT, PTSD and positive psychology and trauma informed theory.

He has created the 8 pillars of parenting:

1. Primary care and protection

2. Secure/ close relationships

3. Positive self perception

4. Emotional competence

5. Self management/ self efficacy skills

6. Resilience

7 A sense of belonging

8. Personal and social responsibility.

He ended with a quote from William Hodding-Carter (1907-1972)

There are two lasting bequests that we can leave our children, one is roots and one is wings.

The Pillars of Parenting is a social enterprise which offers psychological consultation and professional training to residential carers and foster or adoptive parents of older children who have been neglected and abused.

The second presentation was entitled:

The Mulberry Bush Scale: A collaborative project between practitioners and researchers to assess social and emotional development in traumatised children’. 

Robin Banjeree, Professor of Developmental Psychology in the school of psychology at the University of Sussex began by pointing out how important peer relationships are vital for emotional healthy lives.  

Psychologists looking at social behaviour in peer groups look at being kind, peaceful conflict resolution, supporting others, leadership or aggression, withdrawal, or disruptive behaviour.

He points out that there is a strong link between mentalising and social behaviour. When a child has emotional recognition and labelling at 2-3 years they are able to have interactive play and build healthy peer relationships.

Theory of mind at age 5 leads to more co-operative behaviour at age 6 which leads to more peer acceptance and less peer rejection at age 7. Peer acceptance leads to increased academic achievement.

He explained a research project which evidences the children who have theory of mind at age 5 leading to less rejection from peers at age 7 and therefore better academic achievement at age 8.

Ray Burrows, an Art Therapist and teacher from Mulberry bush School followed with a presentation about a specific way that they have used to look at children’s emotional development. He spoke about how they work psycho-dynamically where they look at each individual child’s behaviour as the way they are communicating their needs. This is primarily done with reflecting and working together. 

Each child has a treatment team of family practitioner, teacher, therapist, house manager, keyworker.

He explained that there were 11 key elements that they used to assess the development of the children, which include:

  1. Be able to play

  2. Build healthy and mutually trusting relationships

  3. Keep themselves and themselves safe

  4. Ask for help and make use of it

  5. Reflect on and communicate feelings rather than act them out

  6. Function app in a group

Ray Burrows handed over to Jasmine who is a researcher from the University of Sussex who has been looking at these elements and how to ensure validity of the Mulberry Bush Scale. Three schools were used for the research, 2 mainstream schools as comparison settings and the Mulberry Bush School. Three factors that were found to be key were social regulation, emotional competence and the response to adults. 

John Diamond, CEO Mulberry Bush Organisation then facilitated the plenary and the large group then reflected on the content and discussed their responses.  

Stephen Bell, Chair of IRCT closed the forum and thanked those who attended and contributed.