This case study demonstrates how the Sanctuary model helps MacKillop Family Services create trauma-informed communities. Within these environments, people are supported to cope effectively with stress and trauma and promote their emotional and behavioural health.

A trauma-informed model drives MacKillop's organisational culture in recognising that trauma has an impact, not only on the person who has experienced it, but also on staff and the organisation as a whole. Sanctuary guides the organisation to create a safe environment for all, that is sensitive to the impact of stress upon individuals and groups. It teaches everyone to cope effectively with stress and to recover. Sanctuary also guides MacKillop in supporting staff and carers to form communities that are supportive and caring and to maintain a culture that reflects these qualities at every level within the organisation.

The Sanctuary Model enables MacKillop staff to support their clients more sustainably. With a deeper understanding of the impact of stress on everyone, MacKillop staff are better equipped to respond resiliently to the needs of children, young people, families and colleagues.

The MacKillop Institute welcomes any requests to speak with key leaders within this case study, who offer real-life insights in to how this whole of organisation approach to trauma is created and maintained within MacKillop Family Services.

It is approaching 4pm when 16-year-old Ethan enters the office to collect his vouchers to purchase groceries for the evening.

Admin officer Bec has met Ethan previously and found him to be reasonably polite, if a little quiet. Bec listens as Ethan informs her that his case manager instructed him to collect the vouchers from the front counter but Bec soon realises an error has occurred. Bec calls the case manager who confirms that in rushing out he forgot to leave the vouchers and could not get them to Ethan until tomorrow morning.

When Bec relays this information, Ethan grows noticeably angry as he listens to the explanation, swearing under his breath. Bec suddenly becomes aware of the size difference between them and considers stepping out the back to consult with her colleague and to avoid any escalation.

Before she can do so, Ethan explodes in anger, yelling abuse at Bec and blaming her for the mistake. Feeling her palms go sweaty, Bec recalls her de-escalation training and moves toward space. Bec also calls to mind her personal safety plan and focusses on taking slower, more deliberate breaths. In a matter of seconds, Ethan heads toward the row of waiting room chairs, throwing one with force at the window, shattering it, before kicking a hole in the plaster wall.

Scared, but appearing calm, Bec removes herself, telling Ethan she will see what can be done, and together they will fix the problem. Bec resists pushing the duress alarm, and as she looks back over her shoulder, Ethan appears to be slumping to the ground in defeat. Two of Bec's colleagues arrive and usher Ethan outside and arrange for vouchers to be secured before 5pm, cautioning him that violence has put his and everyone's safety at risk.

With Ethan removed, Bec's colleagues take her to an office to offer support as the impact of the event starts to cause Bec to shake. They remind Bec to breath, utilise visualisation strategies and call her manager who debriefs Bec, sending her home with a commitment to call her again that evening. Bec agrees to implement one element of her Self-Care Plan and organises to meet a friend for dinner.

Bec's manager then calls Tom in the Property Team to inform them of the need for after-hours trades. It is the 2nd time in a month the reception has experienced damage. Tom enquires after everyone's safety and then asks what was going on for Ethan to explode in this way.
The manager shares a brief overview of Ethan's trauma history with Tom, as relayed to her by the Clinical support team who have worked to understand Ethan's triggers and the impact his trauma history has had on his brain development.

Tom listens intently as her hears about Ethan's childhood in which food was removed as a punishment, and his parents left him unattended for large parts of the evening. Tom thinks back to his induction training and is again reminded that you can make sense of behaviour when you know enough about what has occurred in the past.

The following morning, Lisa from HR meets with Bec, debriefing the incident and reminding her of the warning signs of vicarious trauma. Bec completes a quick diagnostic questionnaire which helps them both keep track of accumulated experiences and prioritise early intervention for Bec who notes that things at home are also challenging, and she really wants to have a doona-day.

Bec revisits her self-care plan and identifies that working out the back for the next two days will help her reconnect socially with the team and avoid the visual reminders as repairs are made. Aware of the event, Bec's team rally around Bec, acknowledging the challenges they face in working with clients who have experienced trauma and adversity, and discreetly encourage activities that will enable Bec to feel safe once again.

Later that day, Ethan's child protection worker, along with his teacher and his case manager meet to review the incident using the S.E.L.F tool that focusses on ensuring ongoing safety, Ethan's emotional regulation, losses that have occurred as a result of the event and clear, future focused goals. Ethan's teacher undertakes to unpack Ethans' response with him, and in doing so undertake informal psychoeducation to help him identify why and how he was triggered in the moment, the impact on those around him, a plan for when this occurs again, and to establish a restorative process with Bec.