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Toddlers & Children Program

Lighthouse’s Toddlers and Children Program (also known as Secure Base) is an early intervention program that cares for little ones under the age of 12 who have highly complex needs and require intensive 24-hr support. This program was developed in response to an urgent need for care via the DHS Child Protection Unit. These children have often experienced significant trauma with a profound negative impact on their psychosocial, cognitive, and physiological development and mental health. 


The carefully considered work of our carers and psychologists continues to produce powerful healing outcomes for these children and young people who have experienced horrific abuse, neglect, and rejection. In our care, these little ones receive constant physical and emotional support within our safe homes. Sadly, without our help, many of these children will likely experience homelessness, incarceration, and intergenerational trauma. 



How early childhood trauma is unique

Traumatic events have a profound sensory impact on young children. Their sense of safety may be shattered by frightening visual stimuli, loud noises, violent movements, and other sensations associated with an unpredictable, frightening event. The frightening images tend to recur in the form of nightmares, new fears, and actions or play that re-enact the event. Lacking an accurate understanding of the relationship between cause and effect, young children believe that their thoughts, wishes, and fears have the power to become real and can make things happen.


Young children are less able to anticipate danger or to know how to keep themselves safe, and so are particularly vulnerable to the effects of exposure to trauma. A 2-year-old who witnesses a traumatic event like his mother being battered may interpret it quite differently from the way a 5-year-old or an 11-year-old would. Children may blame themselves or their parents for not preventing a frightening event or for not being able to change its outcome. These misconceptions of reality compound the negative impact of traumatic effects on children's development.


Young children who experience trauma are at particular risk because their rapidly developing brains are very vulnerable. Early childhood trauma has been associated with reduced size of the brain cortex. This area is responsible for many complex functions including memory, attention, perceptual awareness, thinking, language, and consciousness. These changes may affect IQ and the ability to regulate emotions, and the child may become more fearful and may not feel as safe or as protected.