MRU prof emerita help develop online course with Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters
Mikaela Delos Santos, News Editor
Dr. Dawne Clark PhD, a Mount Royal University (MRU) professor emerita, has been an essential part of the Alberta Council of Women’s Shelters’ (ACWS) online course, the Healing Brain. The course gives participants the opportunity to better understand early childhood brain development, the impacts of trauma on children and how to build resilience in children exposed to domestic abuse and violence.
The previous MRU professor has helped with the digitalization and updating of the module-based course. Originally a course for frontline workers who support children in domestic violence shelters, the expansion of the course’s digitization is open for anyone who works with children. This includes teachers, daycare and healthcare workers, coaches and caregivers. The course is free for the first two months to the general public. ACWS members can access the course free of charge.
The ACWS first launched the program in the fall as a part of its new learning management system which enabled shelter workers from across Alberta to access various training opportunities. This also meant that the platform was accessible for those in remote locations in the province.
According to ACWS, 2,389 children were admitted to ACWS member shelters across Alberta in the last fiscal year of 2022. The organization says that the creation of this curriculum was driven by the fact that children represent the largest percentage of residents that are served at shelters around the province.
MRU Child Studies associate professor and associate dean, Dr. Gaye Warthe PhD, says that domestic violence has always been identified as a silent pandemic. Because of this, the COVID-19 pandemic has increased the risk for domestic abuse victims.
“The Healing Brain contributes to helping shelter professionals understand the impacts of trauma on brain development and the importance of focusing on practices that promote wellness and resilience,” says Warthe.
Clark says that the societal belief that children are naturally resilient has been proven wrong by neuroscience over the past 30 years.
Rather, children are impacted by trauma in their early years.
“If those who work with young children understand the impact of trauma on those in their care, they are able to provide meaningful experiences and relationships to help the children heal,” Clark adds.
Clark has been working with the ACWS since 2010. While Clark was a full-time faculty member at MRU, she took part in Early Brain and Biological Development (EBBD), a five-year project by the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative which is directly linked to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. EBBD was adapted for Alberta into what is called the Core Story, which was developed at Harvard’s Center on the Developing Brain.
The Communications Coordinator at ACWS, Olivia Street, says that they are thankful for the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire (IODE) Alberta for their donation that made the Healing Brain into what it is today.
“…because of [IODE’s] generous donation we are able to offer this course to the public for free for a limited time. We are currently working on other course programs to be made available soon, and we are always looking for sponsors to support this work. We would encourage anyone interested in sponsoring a course to please contact ACWS,” says Street.