The Temasek Cares Kids in Tough Situations (KITS) pilot programme plans to build up a capable pool of school counsellors and community-based social workers.
Left to right: Community-based TF-CBT-trained therapists, Ms Audrey Rajalingam, Senior Social Worker, Tampines Family Service Centre; Ms Ng Kwai Sim, Senior Social Worker, Fei Yue Child Protection Specialist Centre; Ms Natalie Lim, Senior Social Worker, AMKFSC Community Services Ltd, in a simulated clinical group supervision session led by Ms Lynn Soh, Senior Psychologist, KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital. Events such as accidents, hospitalisation, death or the experience of witnessing violence can cause trauma. In the aftermath of traumatic situations, families and communities can experience emotional and psychological difficulties.
The Temasek Cares Kids in Tough Situations (KITS) pilot programme aims to help vulnerable children in such situations. Initiated by Temasek Cares, and led by KKH, the KITS programme was officially announced on 16 April 2014. The programme plans to build up a capable pool of school counsellors and community-based social workers to help identify and provide trauma-focused therapy and intervention for children who face emotional and psychological difficulties arising from trauma, in schools and the community. Concurrently, the programme aims to develop a ‘proof-of- concept” approach to establishing a Singapore-centric trauma-support model for children within the Singapore community.
To start, a trainer from the United States was flown in for a four-day course to teach therapists Trauma-Focused Cognitive- Behavioural Therapy (TF-CBT). The course was held in February 2014 to train the first batch of 34 school counsellors, community based social workers and therapists.
“Having completed their basic training in TF-CBT, these therapists are now receiving clinical group supervision from KKH’s psychologists and medical social workers. Thereafter, these therapists will attend an advanced course next year,” said Ms Lim Xin Yi, a Clinical Psychologist and Deputy Head of KKH’s Psychosocial Trauma Support Service.
To provide long-term stability for the initiative, five local TF-CBT trainers will be eventually trained to in turn prepare more school counsellors, community-based social workers and therapists to support children in the community.
“Studies have shown that children who have been exposed to trauma are nearly two times more likely to develop psychiatric disorders compared with those who have not,” said Associate Professor Ng Kee Chong, Chairman of KKH’s Division of Medicine and Head of the hospital’s Department of Emergency Medicine as well as the Psychosocial Trauma Support Service.
Prof Ng, who is also Director of the KITS Programme, added, “Left unaddressed, the impact of trauma raises a child’s risk of developing post-traumatic stress symptoms, behavioural and emotional difficulties, academic-related problems, depression and anxiety, among other potential emotional and psychological issues.”
“While some children with severe symptoms are identified and referred for tertiary interventions, there are many other children with mild to severe trauma-related symptoms who remain undetected and unsupported in the community setting. These vulnerable children need timely therapy to develop resilience and recover.”
The pilot programme is expected to benefit 1,920 children and their caregivers. To raise awareness of childhood trauma, plans are in the pipeline to organise talks and other events to reach out to about 7,000 parents, caregivers and teachers.
The KITS Programme is funded by Temasek Cares, a non-profit philanthropic organisation. It is the first programme under Temasek Cares’ Stay Prepared initiative, which aims to build the capability of the Singapore community to better deal with emergencies such as environmental disasters and health-related crises.