How accessing Innovative Solutions funding helped restore a centre’s confidence
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How accessing Innovative Solutions funding helped restore a centre’s confidence

by Freya Lucas

January 05, 2022

For many services around the country the previous two years have been a complex time of navigating restrictions, stress, and rapid changes. 


In the piece below, Community Child Care Association’s Letishia Cole outlines how Innovative Solutions Funding supported 44 place early childhood education and care (ECEC) service  Ivanhoe Co-op to assist children displaying challenging behaviours following Melbourne’s extensive lockdowns in 2020 and 2021. 


Ivanhoe Co-op educates and cares for children from 18 months of age through to school-age under the governance of a volunteer parent board of directors who oversee how the centre runs.


The service has a funded four-year-old kinder room that runs one kinder session per day, a three-year-old room and an 18 months to three-year-old room, running an indoor/outdoor program for most of the day with the three groups having the opportunity to family group throughout.

By September 2020 the team was burnt out and under pressure to support children displaying challenging behaviours. 


“We had noticed a big switch in our team and community after months of lockdown and fear of the unknown. We were all feeling burnt out and our children’s behaviour was starting to reflect what was happening in the world. No matter how hard we tried to put on a brave face, life for our community was getting hard,” a service spokesperson said. 


“We had some little people who were particularly struggling with their regular friends and educators not being at co-op due to lockdowns. They started to display out-of-character responses to things that wouldn’t have set them off in the past.”


The team began to feel helpless for the children, and out of their depths, with families feeling the same way. It was at this point that they reached out to Letishia for advice and support. Letishia mentioned that Innovative Solutions funding could be used to have professionals come out and support the team through ongoing training. This struck a chord with the service leader, who had always felt like there was a gap in the team’s knowledge around supporting children with their big feelings.


“For some of our parents we became the only avenue they felt comfortable openly communicating with. Consequently, we became a listening ear most mornings and evenings. The new pandemic situation left us all feeling a bit out of our depth with our own feelings, let alone our children’s and families’ feelings,” the spokesperson explained. 


“We pride ourselves on being approachable but we were often left with feelings of desperation for our families. We would offer what advice we felt appropriate, but trauma is not a commonly taught subject in education courses. We felt we needed to extend our skills and learn how best to support our whole community. We needed help.”


The team had also identified “pinch points” throughout the day where energies were running high, so the set up and routine of the service was also explored to ensure it was supporting and helpful. 

An occupational therapist (OT) and an accredited play therapist were brought on board to build educators’ understanding of trauma and attachment and help bring back a sense of calm. 


“We had a very clear schedule set out as part of our funding proposal,” service representatives explained. 


“We started with three sessions with our whole team at our monthly staff meetings. The professionals went over the basics of self-care during high-stress times, how to co-regulate with children, sensory needs and brain development. We then broke off into individual group meetings for the last four sessions, where we were able to talk about specific scenarios and have them give tailored advice for our rooms.” 


Because of ongoing lockdown measures, the team had to be flexible and use a mixture of in-person and online meetings. 


Despite the challenges, children and families have benefited from the changes and the team is feeling much more confident. The changes in the service have removed a lot of the frustration and confusion felt by educators. 


To build on the progress the team will continue to engage with Play Therapy Hub throughout the year. 


For Victorian services who are interested in accessing Innovative Solutions Funding, please click here to learn more. 


This piece was originally published in the current edition of the Victorian Inclusion Agency’s Embrace magazine and has been adapted to share here with permission.


To access the story in its original form see here

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