Wednesday, 26 October 2016

M – is for Moment of panic and Mum’s sleeping on the floor

Moment of panic

A brown blob appeared momentarily in my peripheral vision and disappeared, I stopped. Continuing on, the motion of my swinging hair caused the reappearance of the brown blob. Standing still, I sensed a slight weight, something was there… and it was starting to move.

A moment of panic ensued and with a hasty flick, the small huntsman spider dropped to the floor, scuttling across tiles, sinking low into a groove, not daring to move. This young Huntsman with brown translucent legs, had been taken from familiar surroundings and catapulted into a strange environment – my bathroom. 

Mum’s sleeping on the floor

This reminded me of a different kind of fear, not of spiders but of fear and children in hospital. I’d just read an article written in 1982 about one parent’s experience* with her seven-year old in hospital. Her sick boy, Sam, was in a ward with other children also taken to hospital in an emergency. If I were to give her article a title I might call it, “Why I chose to camp on the hospital floor”.

Not long ago the expectation was that parents didn’t stay with their children in hospital and visiting hours were restricted (a paediatric nurse at a Sydney children's hospital recalls many tears as visiting time on Sunday afternoons finished). The impact on many children, especially young children was large. Following AWCH's recommendations, Australian hospitals began promoting family centered policies, parents were encouraged to stay. 

This parent’s experience is worth reading because she challenged expectations in a leading children’s hospital, her story was firstly published in the Age newspaper, then AWCH magazine, Interface*.

Fear and separation

The mum, Janet, gave a moving account of five nights with her son in hospital. She knew staying would be best. This was reinforced when on the first night, another child awoke screaming, a nurse rushed in and this panicked child grabbed her crying “Mummy come quick”. 

The child in a bed nearby had been taken from home, was sick and separated from his family. Hospital was a strange and frightening place. He had an intravenous drip and splint attached to his arm. Later, a two year old was screaming and inconsolable, her mother had gone home. The nurse had given sedation to stop crying. 

Poster was one of six from AWCH (SA)  issued by NAWCH, London, 1978

To go home or stay on the floor?

Sam’s mum, it had been suggested, should go home because her son was old enough that “he should be able to cope”. With an upright chair to sleep in, Janet stayed. At 3 am another nurse approached her with a strip of foam rubber and a towel, she “hit the floor with relief”. The next night she had a sleeping bag from home. Janet experienced some odd looks from hospital staff but she was pretty much ignored. This mum was courageous, doing what she thought was best for her child despite hospital protocol.

At home, Janet revisited scenes of children screaming for their parents. Her greatest affirmation came from Sam. Hugging her close, in a whispering voice he said: “thanks for staying with me in hospital mum”.

“thanks for staying with me in hospital mum”

AWCH helps children

AWCH “pioneers” were also courageous, working hard to change care for children and young people in hospital. They were part of a social movement, linking with international sister organisations. AWCH’s first benchmark policy, A recommended health care policy relating to children and their families, was published in Medical Journal of Australia, 1974. Your Child in Hospital (pamphlet),.a Joint effort of Division of Health Education and AWCH, was significant as the first Australian education of parents about sick children and hospital. Written between the lines was a reminder to health professionals of their role in caring for children. With great interest, ¼ million pamphlets were printed.

AWCH continues to produce policies, work with key stakeholders (CT scans - information for parents and carers), guide the provision and advocate for rights of children and young people in healthcare. 

AWCH Ward Grandparent scheme supports children and parents or carers in hospital. Volunteer grannies, recognise it isn't possible for parents or carers to always stay with their child. 

Your comments and impressions are welcome and can be added below.

Jillian Rattray
AWCH Librarian

October 2016

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Who's got a normal family?

By Belinda Nowell and illustrated by Miลกa Alexander
Little Steps Publishing, Glebe 2016.  ISBN 9781925117752.

“I read the book three times… it makes people feel okay about the type of family they have”, said one primary school reader

Who’s got a normal family?
‘Who’s got a normal family?’ a delegate at the recent ACWA* conference read out loud.  “Well whose family is normal?” she asked, laughing. It’s not hard to see why this recent Australian book caught the interest of many who came by our ACWA resource booth.

With two hats on, one friendly delegate working with children in out-of-home care, had also recently become a foster parent. She said how helpful this book would be for a sibling adjusting to a new family member.

Welcome to a new foster child
The story is about Alex, an easy going boy. It is news time at school, Alex is greeted with classroom cheers when he tells the children his new baby foster sister has arrived. That is all except one boy, Jimmy Martin, who has a “stomp in his step and upside-down smile”. He yells “babies are boring” and “she’s not your real sister”.

Alex is sad and asks his mum about “normal families” when he gets home from school. She pulls out his class photo and they talk about the families at school. Alex’s mum is a supportive adult presence who helps sort through Alex’s difficult emotions.

Different but unique 
This picture book entices readers with its character-filled illustrations. Each school child is introduced with their family. Alex is a foster child, Alir came to Australia for safety with his large family, Eva has a daddy but not a mummy, Henry has two dads, etc. With an upbeat tone, Alex chats about what makes each child and family unique. There’s a sense of fun and acceptance which makes this book enjoyable to read.

Something to share
Alex finds a way, with the help of his mum, to connect with Jimmy. He realises Jimmy is sad because his daddy doesn’t live with him anymore. Alex shares what he has just learned about “normal families” with Jimmy, as well as showing him his hidden blue-tongue lizard family and all ends well.
Who might like this book?

Families with infant school children, the book is aimed at children 5-7 years. Younger children and older independent readers may also find this book engaging and helpful.

More resources
  • Dhiiyaan is a beautiful reading App written and illustrated by Elaine Russell, for grandparent kinship carers to share with their kids.
  • Healthcare professionals may want to look at Out of homecare and healthcare pathways, by NSW Health.

You are like you and The Internet is like a puddle A Big Hug Book Series, recent Australian resources displayed at our ACWA* conference booth.

Have you found a children’s resource promoting child wellbeing to recommend? If so, please let us know.

 * Association of Children's Welfare Agencies (ACWA) is the NSW non-government peak body representing the voice of community organisations working with vulnerable children, young people and their families.

Jillian Rattray
AWCH librarian
September 2016

Monday, 15 February 2016

Our Stripy Baby

Written by Gillian Shields and illustrated by Paula Metcalf
Macmillan children’s books, 2006. ISBN 1405022108.

Our stripy baby, written for young children, is essentially a story about embracing differences.

Get ready for a splash of colour and an imaginative tale about a family of made-up creatures with spots - the Moon family. There’s daddy Moon, mummy Moon, Zara Moon and soon to be born, baby Moon. Young readers are taken on a journey with this endearing family and Zara can’t wait for the arrival of the new baby. She tells friend Molly, “our baby will be just like your brother Max”.

“One, two, three, four”, there are now four family members but there is something wrong. Zara faces strong feelings of disappointment, sadness and even anger. Zara wants to know why baby Zack has stripes not spots. She wants to take him back.

Mummy Moon is reassuring, “He’s our baby”, and Daddy Moon affirms, “He’s got a lovely smile”. Zara is sad and cuddles Mummy Moon. Why is her brother different? At the park Zara thinks people might stare and so she doesn’t even want to play. Attempts to change Zack by wrapping him in a long spotty scarf lead to frustration. Mummy Moon and Daddy Moon explain he is beautiful. They don’t want to change Zack. He is just different.

“One, two, three, four”, there are now four happy people in the Moon family. The story finishes with reassurance and a new beginning. Zara discovers more about Zack and finds a way to show she’s sorry. She draws something that looks like Zack’s beautiful stripes - a rainbow.

I recently read Our stripy baby to a group of young children at story time, they clearly enjoyed the warm illustrations and comforting family theme. This picture book features an engaging mix of single and two page illustrations filled with colour, humour and gentle expression. Children found it fun to count with repetition “one, two, three, four” and look for the Moon family. Among the group were two children who didn’t have long to wait for a new baby in their families and so the child care teacher had much to chat about with the children afterwards.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Parenting children with health issues and special needs: essentials for raising happy, healthier kids

Condensed version. 2009.
By Foster W. Cline, M.D. and Lisa C. Greene

Just in case you have read too many parenting books and your interest factor has plummeted, this little book might spark your imagination and hand over some useful parenting tools.

What makes the difference here? Children with health issues or special needs are the focus and parenting tools described, go with what is already working in families. The authors talk about “consultant parents” and before you wonder if this is just an idea floating around, this approach comes from many years of hands-on experience and research.

The book encourages parents who find it challenging to know how to motivate their children to take medication or make positive health choices, such as when to fit in physical therapy. The “consultant parent” is not a “helicopter parent” or a “drill sergeant”. Read about ways to inspire children to make healthy choices and look after themselves. This approach focuses on family, building healthy relationships with “love” as the underpinning ingredient.

About the authors: Foster Cline is a well-known North American psychiatrist, physician, author and international speaker. Lisa Greene is a mother of two children with cystic fibrosis and a parent educator. She is raising her children with Love and logic parenting tools.

Families of children with cancer were given the book through the American Childhood Cancer Organization, Inland Northwest. This book is the condensed version of award-winning Parenting children with health issues, link to the web page for families. Resources, include video, audio and articles from the Blog. Topics span from parenting children of different ages, including teens, transition, school life, couples relationships and community. Special feature articles may capture an interest, Caring and compassion: the do’s and don’ts for giving and receiving support during hard times.
AWCH Library has a copy available for loan for people within Australia, please email your interest.

Jillian Rattray
AWCH librarian (

October 2015