Kathy Warwick from Alannah and Madeline talks trauma
The Sector > Research > Allied Fields > For Kathy Warwick working with children and families dealing with trauma is a privellege

For Kathy Warwick working with children and families dealing with trauma is a privellege

by Freya Lucas

March 31, 2023
Kathy Warwick, Alannah and Madeline

Kathy Warwick has the privilege of working with early childhood education and care (ECEC) professionals to educate them about the unique vulnerabilities that children in the early years space who are experiencing trauma face. 


Before the unique TraCS program she heads up on behalf of the Alannah and Madeline Foundation was created, children in this age bracket were falling through the gaps, she said, “and you had educators who were burning out and desperate for help. And there was absolutely nothing for them.”


It was from this challenging situation that the idea for TraCS emerged; a Trauma Consultancy Service targeted to meet the needs of early childhood educators navigating trauma that was emerging in the young people who were coming into their care each day. 


Ms Warwick, who has been working with the Foundation since 2019, is proud of the unique program, which was created based on the concerns shared by experienced practitioners. 


Since the program began in 2019 the incredible service has grown to include a team of more than 17 staff, 11 of whom work on the ground engaging directly with educators and children.


TraCS, she explained, is “a program that has demonstrated potential to really support early years educators in the amazing work that they do by equipping them with a better understanding about trauma and about the impact of trauma on children, families and on themselves as professionals.”


There’s no doubt that this is challenging work. During her time working with the program, Ms Warwick and her team have listened to incredibly vulnerable stories from educators who are sometimes navigating their own trauma and mental health challenges, all while holding space for the children and families that access their services.


As a social worker with more than 29 years of experience, she has “an incredible wealth of knowledge” that enables her to bring valuable insights to her role at the foundation.


“I came to the foundation looking to bring those years of experience and understanding of trauma and the impact it can have on other professionals working in this space,” she said. 


“I wanted to support the people doing the hard work in kinders and early childhood settings and share my knowledge, passion, and commitment to being able to make a difference earlier rather than waiting for a crisis to happen down the track.”


“Trauma is a topic that can often be misunderstood, but if ignored at an early age, the trauma we experience when we are young can have a significant impact on our lives and how we develop. TraCS workers across Victoria are doing all they can to prevent this, and to build a better understanding of trauma across the early years sector.”


Trauma which goes unresolved, she continued, is particularly significant, and the definition of trauma is narrower than people may typically think. 


“Trauma can be any adverse or significant experience that overwhelms our coping system and ability to feel safe. For small children, if they’re overwhelmed by grief and loss, abandonment from a parent, impacted by a parent’s poor mental health or addiction or exposure to family violence, these experiences can overwhelm a child’s capacity to cope and become traumatic events. Other traumatic events for children and their families can be moving or migrating countries,” Ms Warwick explained.


The work that Kathy and her team do is to dispel the notion that only vulnerable cohorts and those experiencing disadvantage are impacted by trauma. Trauma is not the event, but it’s how it impacts the person.


“TraCS gives a voice to children and focuses on the importance of understanding trauma and all the ways it can impact on children, families and those working with them. It’s an area that needs to be constantly shone a light on,” she explained, describing her work as “a privilege”.


“Even when people are at or in their most dire circumstances, it’s a privilege to step into that space with people. It’s not about fixing. It’s not about taking over control. It really is about being able to see people. As Social Workers, the greatest tool in our toolkit is our capacity to be able to see and hear and be with people.”


“You can learn 100 things as a social worker, but learning your own capacity to embody empathy and understanding are the greatest tools we have.”


To learn more about TraCS, please see here

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