Understanding the effects of early childhood trauma; a short guide


Young people can experience early childhood trauma when they seek out love and comfort from their primary caregivers, and this is not available as a result of maltreatment. Maltreatment can refer to physical, emotional or sexual abuse, or emotional and physical neglect.  When this happens, children experience chronic stress, which affects the development of the brain. Maltreatment also affects children’s attachment and can result in insecure or disorganised attachment.

Children whose needs are met by sensitive and available caregivers learn to trust and develop secure attachments. In contrast, children who experience abuse experience care-giving that is frightening. They seek proximity to the caregiver who is also a source of fear, inducing even more anxiety. Children who have been physically or emotionally neglected learn that their fears and needs are not tended to by their caregiver and they lack emotional attunement and regulation. They also tend to cry and remain distressed for longer periods of time than children who have not been neglected. Maltreated children might develop attachment patterns that are avoidant, ambivalent or disorganised. The child might shut down their feelings, or develop exaggerated and attention-seeking behaviours. Disorganised attachment behaviours take the form of controlling behaviours such as bossiness or compulsive care-giving, which can lead to sudden rage in stressful situations, and also swinging quickly between feelings of fear, aggression, rage, depression and helplessness.

The Wishing Well foundation

The Wishing Well was established in 2010 to offer children in out-of-home care, such as foster care and residential care, a range of healing and treatment options usually not accessible as a free therapy in mainstream health.

The Wishing Well raises funds to enable children and young people to access developmentally-appropriate and trauma-informed treatments shown to be highly effective in dealing with severe trauma and neglect. These therapies respond to the unique needs of each child and young person.

The Wishing Well is a not-for-profit incorporated charity organisation, established and managed by people seeking to improve outcomes for children and young people in out-of-home care and their families. The Wishing Well recognises the importance of the act of giving. We recognise the significance of the participation of community members and all donations are most appreciated.

The Wishing Well operates ethically, effectively and empathically with a view to achieving quality outcomes and a satisfying working environment.

Support the Wishing Well

The Wishing Well uses its funds to help children in need access all manners of developmentally-appropriate and trauma-informed treatments. The Wishing Well takes referrals for any child/young person in out-of-home care in NSW.  Applications are assessed by qualified personnel and on a case-by-case basis.  The decision to fund an application is affected by the following:

  • Funding availability
  • The support the child/young person has to access the proposed therapies
  • The capacity and willingness of the Carer Household to support the child/young person
  • Assessment, which recommends and supports the proposed therapy as relevant to meeting the particular needs of the child/young person

The Wishing Well gratefully receives donations, funding and resources through bequests, corporate partnerships, fundraising events, grants, online donations and other fund raising activities. Money donated to The Wishing Well enables traumatised children access to healing therapies. Please see our website for more information:



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