Since the global pandemic began – when there was no safe haven of childcare for unreported child victims of family violence – we’ve realised how serious our educators are in championing our youngest generation.
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During quarantine and beyond, we didn’t just experience isolation, job loss and economic regression. Women and children became collateral damage, as the added stressors to daily life skyrocketed reports of Domestic and Family Violence (DFV) in 2020.
A survey by the Australian Institute of Criminology found that 65% of women who experienced physical violence said it increased in frequency and severity during the first three months of the pandemic.
This is on top of an already distressing rate of 1 in 6 women experiencing physical or sexual violence pre-pandemic.
These victims in isolation could no longer access the help they needed, and that is just as true for the children in their care.
With childcare and schools in lockdown, those who weren’t documented as at-risk children were no longer given the reprieve of their safe place: one that has more influence and impact than we’d ever realised.
Children are ‘invisible’ victims of DFV
In the DFV support process, children are third tier priority. Essentially, the practise is to protect the adult victim, penalise the perpetrator, and then take care of the children. It’s a hierarchy of care that has labelled these children ‘invisible victims’.
The plethora of research gathered over several decades tells us that the long-term effects of experiencing DFV, socially and emotionally, can be severe in children.
It affects learning, behaviour, self-esteem and their ability to form trusting relationships. Child victims are also more likely to be involved in substance abuse and riskier behaviours when they’re older.
With 1 in 4 children being subject to DFV in Australia today, it’s likely that anyone working in an early childhood setting has a child in their care experiencing family violence.
For these victims, childcare, school, vacation care and OSHC is a respite – a time of peace and protection to be with familiar people in an environment they can trust.
That’s why it’s essential to recognise the importance of further equipping, inspiring and empowering childcare staff in their position as ‘safety net’ for the invisible victims.
Early Childhood Educators are part of the long-term solution
In addition, the early childhood setting is the gateway for all children to learn positive attitudes and behaviours that are part of the long-term solution to family violence.
“Early childhood services are an ideal setting to develop a foundation of gender equity and respectful relationships in children that helps to prevent violence in the next generation,” says Emily Maguire, CEO of the Domestic Violence Resource Centre Victoria.
It’s imperative we continue to strengthen our position as allies to vulnerable children, and enablers of change for the next generation.
Childcare staff are often in a first-to-know, first-to-act position
With priority care given to adults, educators are now in a critical position of diagnosing and championing the needs of child victims. This is because:
DFV support for Early Childhood Educators
Educators have a frontline role in protecting the next generation
Our educators are not only an ally to child victims, they have the power of wide-spread influence on the success and quality of life for child victims.
It’s a role in our society that should not be underestimated, or underequipped. We need more support for staff, so they can make the difference we desperately need in keeping our families safe.