Attending to Adversity and Connecting with Hope

On Friday 12th November, 37 frontline practitioners joined us on-line for our ‘Attending to Adversity and Connecting with Hope’ event.

This uplifting event marked three years since our first facilitated screening of ‘Resilience: The Biology of Stress and the Science of Hope’ in 2018. It provided a safe space to consolidate the knowledge gained from the documentary to date, hear first-hand accounts of the impact of the work and to reaffirm why relationships matter in frontline practice.

Throughout the morning, we heard heartfelt presentations from Katherine Harford, Manager of Let’s Grow Together! Infant and Childhood Partnerships CLG, Nickie Egan, Principal of North Presentation Primary School, Brendan Dennehy, Facilitator, Trainer and Founder of The Fatherhood Programme, and Dr Nicola O‘ Sullivan, Independent Social Care Consultant.

This event highlighted the importance of ACE awareness and of responsive relationships and their potential for buffering, prevention and protective influence.

Dr Margaret O’ Rourke, Clinical Director of Ag Eisteacht, presented the five main themes from an audit of our facilitated screenings to date. She also launched our document, ‘Adverse Childhood Experiences: 50 reasons to support relationships in practice’, which includes 50 evidence-based messages about ACEs.

Key Messages from Presenters Include:

“Working to destigmatise trauma begins with becoming trauma-informed and building awareness and understanding the detrimental effects of ACEs. Being trauma-informed helps us to refrain from minimising, denying or dismissing childhood trauma and abuse and focusing attention on prevention and interventions to support safe and supportive childhoods. Infants and children should not have to wait and cannot wait for the adults in their lives to get their act together. Feeling unsupported has been found to increase the risk of negative or dysfunctional stress, while feeling supported reduces the risk. Let’s attend to adversity – listen, protect and connect.”

Dr Margaret O’Rourke
Clinical Director, Ag Eisteacht

“Teaching children who have experienced adverse childhood experiences is a challenge. It is, firstly, a challenge to identify those children whose behaviour is a symptom of ACEs and then to incorporate a different way of assisting these children into your classroom teaching and your school life. The rewards, however, far far outweigh any challenges you encounter.”

Nickie Egan,
Principal, North Presentation Primary School

“I have come to understand structural inequalities that may have impact on people’s lives, their outcomes and quality of life and intergenerationally. Essentially, what I mean by this is the presence of multidimensional nature of poverty and exclusion in people’s lives. In ACEs language these appear as a pair of ACEs. I believe fundamentally that those wider structural challenges must be eliminated for society to truly get to grips and intercept childhood adversity and trauma. No matter how much we come to understand ACEs in our individual lives, we must not blame parents, or for that matter, children for the situation they find themselves in. We must address collective, cultural systems that can be present, cause stress, adversity and allow trauma to become embedded.”

Katherine Harford, Manager
Let’s Grow Together! Infant and Childhood Partnerships CLG

“My key message is simple: fathers and fatherhood matters. Time and again research has shown that when we look for evidence of the positive roles fathers play in family life and the wider society, we find it. I believe we need to embrace and nurture that paternal energy – most especially in these challenging times.”

Brendan Dennehy
Author, Speaker and Founder of The Fatherhood Programme.

“My hope is that today will help us all move forward in our understanding of our common humanity, its inherent fragility and how we all have a continued part to play in building communities and a society where, as a human family, nobody gets left behind.”

Dr Maeve Hurley
Relationships in Practice Trainer and Founder of Ag Eisteacht

“Discovering more about Adverse Childhood Experiences also involves discovering more about the contexts and environments in which children grow and develop. That means looking both within and outside the family. We must remember that trauma is also inextricably linked to systems of power and oppression, history tells us to pay attention to that. Our own history in Ireland particularly. Understanding childhood adversity is not about blame, it is about recognising the multiple interacting factors that impact families and childhood”.

Dr Nicola O’ Sullivan,
Independent Social Care Consultant