From Kerri Chard, Child Protection Specialist and TBRI Practitioner
To Whom It May Concern,
This is a letter of support for Little Star Kids, a charitable organisation that is dedicated to improving the lives of children in the foster care system. I am a Child Protection Specialist with over 20 years working with children and families and have a background in psychology, specialising in attachment and trauma. I have also had the honour of working with the organisation to assist in the development of their Little Star Learner’s Program, training their dedicated tutors.
I have also worked for the Queensland Education Department as a Child Protection Advisor, consulting to over 300 state schools on how to support Queensland’s most vulnerable learners and have firsthand experience in the hardship this cohort of Queensland’s children experience with education. Early childhood adversity, which disrupts neurobiological and social development, developmental delays, multiple placement moves, and separation from family often means children in the foster care system do not succeed in their education. This not only sets them up with a negative view of themselves as learners but has deleterious impacts for their future as adults and contributors to society.
Unfortunately, the trajectory for many children in the out-of-home care system is poor. In my experience, two of the greatest challenges in educating children in the foster care system are building a trusting relationship when they know anything but trust and shifting their belief system that they can be learners. Education and tutoring in the traditional sense are often a huge challenge for these children, with professionals running out of ideas, time, and energy to successfully engage and educate them.
What the research informs in this area is that trauma is relational harm and is healed through relationships. The Little Star Learners Program understands this and has taken on the research to develop a program that works on first establishing a sense of safety with the child and engaging them in learning through play, which disarms fear-based behaviours, builds trust, and ultimately rearranges the child’s belief in themselves. This has the knock-on effect of improving resilience, self-esteem, and self-efficacy.
Being trauma-sensitive and responsive, Little Star Learners is the first of its kind to meet this complex educational challenge head-on.
To date, the Little Star Learners program has been significantly invaluable to these highly vulnerable children with very promising results in academic improvement, stronger relationships with a safe and trusted adult, as well as improved confidence and belief in themselves. All in less than a year. It is exciting to consider what is possible for these children into the future as they continue to be supported by the organisation.
Child Protection Specialist & TBRI Practitioner