Emergency services and first responders have a responsibility to keep the child in sight in the context of their work. There are opportunities in their interactions with children and families to identify a need, and/or provide basic information and support.

For example, first responders play an invaluable role in supporting children immediately following a natural disaster or community trauma event. They can provide children with a sense of calm and safety and reassure them that while their feelings are normal, things will be OK. This is particularly important for children who’ve been separated from their loved ones.

Some first responders avoid interacting with children as much as possible following a disaster, because they’re afraid of doing the wrong thing or making things worse. But children’s chances of recovery significantly improve if they receive support, comfort and reassurance from the adults around them at the earliest possible stage.

Equipping staff to ‘see’ and respond to the child, identify immediate needs and provide basic information and support is an important focus for these services. Strategies such as Psychological First Aid are easy to adopt but can make all the difference for infant and child mental health outcomes.

The Emerging Minds Community Trauma Toolkit offers resources specifically designed to help first responders and emergency service workers support infant and child mental health in their work.

To do this, organisation supports need to be put in place to embed child-aware and parent-sensitive ways. For more information on engaging child and family partners in service development to support practice, visit our Child and Family Partnerships toolkit.

The Emerging Minds: National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health supports organisation leaders to promote and strengthen the mental health of children through the work of their organisation and their role in the community.

Changing structures to support children and families within an organisation is an iterative and ongoing journey. While this may require big policy and cultural shifts, you can make a difference by starting small and creating incremental change, building on what already exists within your organisation.

The following resources will show you how to approach the journey and what to consider when creating change.

  • How to create organisational change – A process driven by organisation leaders is needed to embed change at all levels of an organisation. In this resource, the change process is divided into three repeating phases:
    1. Gather information.
    2. Make plans.
    3. Take action.
  • What to consider – This resource explores the three core areas that are foundational to create long-lasting change:
    • Organisational ownership.
    • Supportive operational environment.
    • Staff equipped with skills, knowledge and support to practice.

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