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RBUP Oslo - The Centre Holds

Day 13 - Thursday 17th November 2016

Marit Bergum Hansen is my host for the last two days in Norway. She is head of department at RBUP and is particularly concerned about children's development and mental health in the early years.

Center for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (RBUP) East and South

We (Kofi & me) meet Marit at the RBUP headquarters; an impressive building that looks and feels like a five star hotel. Established in 1998 by the Ministry of Health, RBUP runs educational programmes for professionals, conducts research, arranges international conferences and houses the National Network for Infant Mental Health. Marit gives us a tour of her department, introducing us to team members on the way, before settling down with us for about two hours of in depth sharing about RBUP and also about my work back in the UK.

Marit Bergum Hansen

In my travels around Sweden and Norway, most professionals and organizations made reference to the significance of the training provided by RBUP, which seems to me to be a 'Centre that holds' together the work of child mentaI health, dessiminating training and good practice throughout Scandinavia and further afield. As William Butler Yeats(1865-1939) reminds us... "Things fall apart; (when) the centre cannot hold" (italics mine). I was eager to learn how RBUP manages to be a centre that holds.

With energy and enthusiasm, Marit explains RBUP's work with 0 - 5s across 380 municipalities; training midwives, doctors, psychologists, etc. They aim to cover the 12 most important hospitals in Norway with research based training, using carefully selected programmes. However, they are not satisfied to just adapt universal programmes; they follow up each programme with their own research.

Marit explains training strategy

In a nutshell, the main focus of all trainings is to help professionals and parents to 'see the baby'; therefore all the programmes selected to be used in hospitals has this focus in mind; such as, Brazelton's Newborn Behavioural Observations training, Circle of Security (Virginia), Marte Meo (which makes professional knowledge accessible to parents through various media), Child Parent Psychotherapy (Alicia Lerberman's model focusing on trauma), Tuning Into Kids (soon to be added to programme of training), Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), Pre-Service Foster and Adoptive Parent Training (PRIDE) for potential foster carers, among others. Marit is committed to ensuring that there are enough therapists with sufficient knowledge to do the work with infants and families.

After two hours of stimulating conversation with Marit, followed by lunch, meeting five more team members on the way for a chat, Marit delivers us to the home of Gro Vatne Brean, who specialises in working with parents through pregnancy and childbirth as well as with infants and young children. Gro is a member of the RBUP team as well as a private practitioner, providing training around pregnancy issues and the implementation of DC 0-3 diagnostic system. Gro is committed to making knowledge of neurobiology, developmental psychology and attachment available to everyone.

With Gro Vatne Brean in her home

Gro takes us to our final stop of the day, the University of Oslo where we meet with Unni Tanum Johns and Vibeke Moe, who are members of the teaching faculty in the psychology department. Apart from specializing in taching and research Unni is also a Guildhall trained music therapist. Vibeke is a researcher and clinician with a particular interest in developmental psychology and psychopathology, as well as the earliest interaction and development in the first years of life.

Vibeke and Unni

Day 14 - Friday 18th November 2016

Marit has arranged two meetings for our final day. The first is with Mette Sund Sjøvold at the Aline Polyclinic, which works with children 0-5 years and their caregivers. Mette has worked for many years with the investigation of infants and young children at risk and their caregivers. She shows us an article in the day's paper of a recent case that went to court, demonstrating the increasing impact of their work. Of the children coming to the centre, 50% of families succeed in keeping their children and 50% of children go into foster care. There's an emphasis on supporting families throughout the process as the wish is to equip them to care for their child rather than to remove the child.

Our final appointment is with Tove Walstrom, General Secretary of the Norwegian Foster Care Association. The Association aims to be a driving force to improve quality at all levels within foster care. It is a national and independent organization in relation to political parties and religious communities.

Tove Wahlstrom - General Secretary, the Norwegian Fostering Association

Tove told us of current campaigns in which the association is challenging the media about their negative portrayal of foster carers, including the airing a current TV series. Kofi and I were particularly inspired by Tove's relentless, pioneering spirit and campaigning on behalf of foster families, having been long term carers until just recently. I hope to develop further links with Tove and the association. More details of our conversation will be included in my final report.

Goodbye to Norway

We approach the end of our final day with mixed feelings; enriched with so much new knowledge, grateful for the generosity of our hosts and looking forward to seeing our family and friends again in London. The support and kindness from all our hosts has been overwhelming; each going the extra mile to ensure the success of our trip.

We meet again with Marit at the end of the day at the City Hall and she gives us a pit stop tour of Oslo, pointing out significant state buildings and places of interest before heading up into the hills for supper, and a magnificant view over Oslo. As we say goodbye I feel that somehow this will not be my last visit to Norway.

Thank You

I can not end without saying thank you to the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust for making this learning hourney possible. Thanks also to my hosts for their generosity of spirit and willingness to share their knowledge with me and arranging appointments for me with significant people. I'm aware that each host holds a senior position and your time is very precious. Please accept my heart felt thanks. Finally, thank you to my husband, Kofi-Williamm, for coming along to support me, bringing a systemic perspective to many of the conversations, capturing photos and generally making sure I'm safe.

Next stop...the USA in April/May 2017

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