Back in the world’s most liveable city

I’m back in Melbourne! After two wonderful years in Switzerland and Europe, I have returned to Melbourne for part 2 of my NHMRC fellowship. It has been surprisingly easy to settle back in: it’s lovely to catch up with everyone here and the world’s most liveable city is still a buzzing creature.*

The fellowship is all about how parents and professionals support children after trauma, and in the past two years we’ve made quite a bit of progress. So, while I have been thinking about the blog but not writing on it, here is a quick overview of where we are at and what is next.

Where we are at

1. In the Ear for Recovery project we look at how parents support their children after a serious injury: we audio-sample families’ daily life for two days after discharge from the hospital (with the ingenious EAR device). With enormous thanks to the whole team, we now have fully transcribed and coded data for 71 families: close to 20,000 audio snippets. My first impression: families differ even more from each other than I thought. In some sound samples, we hear lots of rich interactions while in others we hear mostly television or gaming. We also hear some creative swearing, suggesting that this is naturalistic indeed 🙂 . Overall, the children interacted about half of the day with other people. Is that more or less than you expected?

2. Our project regarding emergency professionals’ support for children and families is a collection of surveys among paramedics, emergency doctors and nurses around the world. We’ve surveyed more than 3000 staff from over 80 countries now, and are wrapping up this part. In general, staff see psychosocial aspects of their work with children as important but have not received much training in trauma-informed care. Perhaps not surprisingly then, they didn’t score too well on knowledge questions about child traumatic stress. They were very interested in getting more training though, which is our next step.

3. With the care for children after intimate partner homicide project we aim to improve support for children and young people for whom the world has really turned upside down. At once, they loose both their parents and often their home. We have collected data in the Netherlands regarding all children who were bereaved by domestic violence between 2003 and 2012. After the initial government report we produced (based on which the Dutch Senate has just approved changes to law to regulate contact between a child and the perpetrating parent), we are now doing deeper analyses and planning for collaborations with international colleagues. There must be substantial country differences, which means that we can learn from best practices to improve them elsewhere.

What’s next (apart from continued work on the above)

About a year ago, the weather changed and I had a big tornado in my head: I should focus much more on the most disadvantaged children. I was in particular thinking about refugee youth, but also about young people in other low-resource communities. In the past year, I’ve talked with about 30 experts, started to learn Arabic, and visited NGOs in Jordan and the occupied Palestinian territories. A fantasy I had regarding capturing the ‘sounds of refugee life’ might come true if my bright colleagues in the Netherlands get a promising grant. It would help us better understand daily challenges for young refugees and hopefully also foster public engagement. With colleagues at the Global Young Academy, we’re developing an interdisciplinary project regarding integration of new citizens, as well as an initiative to support young academics who have a refugee background.

And therefore… back to work!

* Zurich could certainly compete for that title 🙂

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