Alannah & Madeline Foundation TraCS program helps educators
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Alannah & Madeline Foundation TraCS program supporting ECEC educators

by Freya Lucas

October 18, 2023
Alannah & Madeline Foundation TraCS program

The Alannah & Madeline Foundation TraCS (Trauma-informed Care and Support) program is an innovative initiative which is aiming to support early childhood educators who are exposed to vicarious trauma in the course of their work. 


Vicarious trauma refers to the emotional and psychological impact experienced by individuals who are regularly exposed to the trauma experiences of others, this can include exposure to abuse, neglect or maltreatment, family violence, living with a parent with mental illness etc. 


Early childhood educators, who work closely with young children who may have experienced various forms of trauma, are particularly vulnerable to experiencing vicarious trauma.


Being exposed to vicarious trauma has the potential to contribute to the emotional stress of educators who are often unsure how to manage the needs of the children in their care, whilst also managing their own needs and wellbeing.


How does the program work?


The Alannah & Madeline Foundation TraCS program aims to support early childhood educators and prevent vicarious trauma by providing them with the necessary tools and strategies to understand and respond to trauma effectively.


The program was launched in 2019 and was primarily funded through the Victorian Department of Education School Readiness Funding. Specialist family practitioners and trauma consultants work directly with early childhood educators in their services, as well as working with staff to support vulnerable families with referrals and access to services, including family violence, mental health, crisis housing and material aid. 


How long does the program run for?


Rather than being a fixed time program, the professionals involved in the program understand that creating safe and predictable adult relationships is key to providing an opportunity for children to heal from trauma and make the most of their opportunity to learn.


“Working to support vulnerable children who have experienced trauma through the capacity building of educator’s is a journey rather than a destination,” Kathy Warwick, Head of TraCS for the Foundation explained. 


“It needs repetition and consistency over time to embed learning into practice. Our recent Program evaluation, undertaken by Monash University Health and Social Care unit highlighted the positive outcomes that can be achieved when working with TraCS over an extended period of time. We are able to deliver a minimum service across a six month period of time, but prefer to tailor our packages to meet the necessary needs of services we work with.”


Why ECEC? How does the program help?


“The most recent child maltreatment study showed that one in four adults have experienced trauma themselves as children, and then a lot of people who work in the early years space are working in that space because they want to protect children and want to prevent trauma happening to them. This lived experience can be a real advantage, but it can also mean that they’re sometimes inadvertently having triggers around them when other children’s experiences might mirror their own,” Melissa, a TraCS consultant with the Foundation explained.


There are multiple ways in which the TraCS program helps with preventing and managing vicarious trauma for the educators in the program including:


  • Training and education: The TraCS program offers comprehensive training and education to educators on trauma-informed practices. This includes understanding the impact of trauma, recognising trauma symptoms and behaviours, and implementing appropriate strategies to support children as well as themselves.


  • Self-awareness and self-care: The program emphasises the importance of self-awareness and self-care for educators. It helps educators recognise their own emotional responses and triggers, providing them with strategies to manage stress, practice self-care, and seek support when needed. By prioritising their well-being, educators can reduce the risk of vicarious trauma.


  • Building resilience: The TraCS program equips educators with strategies to foster resilience in both themselves and the children they work with. This includes promoting positive relationships, creating a safe and supportive environment, and implementing trauma-informed strategies that focus on strengths and protective factors.


  • Collaborative support: The program encourages educators to engage in collaborative support networks. This involves fostering a sense of community among educators, providing opportunities for peer support, and facilitating ongoing professional development and supervision to address the challenges of working with traumatised children.


What does vicarious trauma look like?


“Vicarious trauma can look so different in different people,” Melissa explained, “and it’s because we have developed these relationships with educators that we get some insight into that, because you can just refer someone to speak to a counsellor and a lot of people won’t do that because there’s no relationship there, whereas we are in the service and often educators will, once we build up a relationship with them, they’ll seek us out to talk to us about what’s going on for them. We’ve really lucky because most of our work happens inside our relationship with these educators.”


By providing educators with knowledge, skills, and support, the TraCS program helps prevent vicarious trauma by promoting self-awareness, self-care, resilience, and collaborative support. It empowers educators to create trauma-informed environments that prioritise the well-being and healing of both themselves and the children in their care.


“The educators are performing 1000 little miracles a day. Every single day they’re turning up to face whatever comes into the room and in the TraCS program we recognise and acknowledge that,” Melissa said.


Learn more about how the TraCS team works with early learning educators to support children affected by trauma using the links provided. To get an understanding of the program, you can read about a case study here and further detail here.

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