Dandelion Time

Dandelion Time works with very troubled children and their wider families.  Under the guidance of supportive and skilled therapeutic staff, the families take part in practical farm and craft activities on the charity’s smallholding near Maidstone. 

Funding through Kent Community Foundation has helped the centre deliver a programme of activities and further funding has since been donated to this on-going project. 

Dandelion Time

The Need:

Children are often referred to Dandelion Time because of their behaviour, often mistakenly identified as ‘the problem’, but these young people have often been traumatised by experiences including physical or sexual abuse, domestic violence, or neglect.  Over 70% of young people referred have been exposed to domestic abuse, 31% had faced school exclusion, 43% were at risk of exclusion and 46% were in foster care.

The Difference Made:

The grant has made a significant difference to the children who have completed the programme. The programme brought about very positive outcomes for children affected by domestic violence, helping them overcome emotional/behavioural issues, giving them increased confidence, self-esteem, gaining a sense of purpose, improving carer-child relationships and better engagement with school. 

Each child attended the project for weekly half-day sessions with their carer/s for up to 10 weeks. They took part in calming, practical activities like; growing crops, gardening, animal care, woodworking, pottery and wool-work. Individual care was provided for every family, including home visits, counselling, telephone support and regular liaison with agencies involved the child’s care. 

Of those who have completed the project: 

96% have improved overall emotional wellbeing 

88% experiencing significant reductions in symptoms such as anxiety or aggression presented at the time of referral. 

83% of children have improved behaviour at school 

88% have formed better relationships with their carer/s. 

65% have gained new interests and hobbies or become more involved in their communities as a result of the project. 

91% have increased in confidence as a result of the project. 

Jack’s Story 

When Jack was referred to Dandelion Time earlier this year, his Mum was desperate. Unbelievably, at just 6, Jack had been permanently excluded from two schools and his Mum was at a complete loss as to how best to help him and cope with his extreme behaviour. 

Jack’s exclusions were the result of highly violent and aggressive behaviour, which regularly led to classrooms being cleared of all children, as teachers felt unable to control his outbursts and simply had to make him and those around him as safe as possible. 

When he was referred to Dandelion Time, it became apparent that Jack’s behaviour was a result of severe trauma in his early life. His father was a drug user who would attack his Mum during regular drug-fuelled violent outbursts. Jack’s response was simple and instinctive. He had to look after his Mum, and was continuing to do so despite this threat no longer being present. He saw his Mum being on his side, and everyone else as being the enemy. 

Jack had developed behaviours common in those affected by severe trauma, in which the ‘fight, flight or freeze’ survival response takes over in situations of perceived threat, a process which for Jack seemed constant. At such a young age, he had been unable to develop the ability to calm himself or self-regulate his behaviour when this ‘fight’ response took hold. He needed help to overcome this emotional trauma and form new ways of coping with his feelings. 

Dandelion Time was able to help Jack feel less threatened. As the therapeutic team worked with him and his Mum together, he was gently helped to see that his mum could be safe, as he saw examples of caring, patient adults who wanted to help. The experiential activities he took part in – working on the farm, caring for the animals, woodwork and pottery – helped Jack to grow in self-esteem and confidence, as he gained a sense of empathy and care for those around him. Gradually, Dandelion Time had helped Jack develop the capacities to heal. 

In time, Jack was able to return to school full-time, and is now able to cope well without losing his temper. His story shows how, with the right kind of help, a child’s can find the resources to recover from extreme trauma and a new sense of safety and trust in others.