CHIPPS – Children’s Intervention and Prevention Pathways

CHIPPS is a specialist attachment-focussed, trauma-informed mental health service for children and young people in care.

Why was CHIPPS set up?

We know that traumatic early experiences, especially those involving maltreatment by primary caregivers, can impact negatively on children and young people’s emotional well-being and affect their physical, psychological and social development.

We know that when children and young people leave their birth families’ care, they may have neurobiological systems which have adapted to cope with neglectful or abusive environments.  The coping mechanisms and attachment strategies these children use sometimes do not work as well for them in their new environment and this can lead to difficulties with settling in, forming relationships and feeling safe.

Adverse early experiences and difficult transitions from birth family into care settings can lead to heightened risk for trauma- and attachment-related difficulties for these children and young people.  We know from research that children in care are more likely to experience mental health problems than their peers who live with birth parents.  These difficulties can persist long into adulthood if the appropriate help and support is not offered in a timely fashion.

What can we do to help?

At CHIPPS we believe that every child in care deserves the opportunity to maximise their emotional wellbeing and to develop and maintain healthy, nurturing relationships with their carers, peers, family members, and the professionals working with them.

We are a team of mental health professionals who offer children and young people support with exploring their journey into care with a view to integrating early adverse experiences into their story and sense of self.  We hope to assist children and young people in considering issues that often cause distress such as their identity and sense of belonging.  We also offer multiple interventions to treat mental health difficulties they may have due to their care status and the developmental trauma they have experienced.

We believe that relational trauma is most effectively repaired in relationships so our work often involves offering therapeutic input to carers and children together.  We also offer interventions for carers alone and, where appropriate, provide direct individual work for young people and children who need their own space to work through their difficulties.  We have developed a number of groups for young people and groups for foster carers – allocation to these will be based on presenting difficulties and meeting each child/carer’s needs in the most helpful way.  Through offering such interventions, we hope to improve placement stability and help children (and their carers) to develop skills and tools to navigate their journey together and hopefully feel equipped to deal with the challenges that may arise along the way.

CHIPPS is now taking referrals from social workers attached to South Lee, North Lee, North Cork and West Cork Social Work Departments.

If you are social worker in these areas who would like to refer a child to CHIPPS please call 021-4357730 to book a consultation with one of our clinicians to discuss current presentation and needs of child and carers.

Following consultation, if the referral is appropriate for CHIPPS a formal referral can be made through our website.

Meet the CHIPPS team:

Dr Emma Ronayne

CHIPPS Clinical Lead/Senior Clinical Psychologist

Dr Claire Barrett

Senior Clinical Psychologist

Dr Alasdair Ross

Clinical Psychologist

Laura McEvoy

Art Therapist/Social Worker

Banu Balaji

Occupational Therapist

Dr Eimear Ruane McAteer

Assistant Psychologist

Dr Emma Ronayne

Senior Clinical Psychologist/Clinical Team Lead

Emma is a Senior Clinical Psychologist and the Clinical Team Lead for CHIPPS.  Emma trained in the UK and worked 11 years in the National Health Service (NHS) before returning to Cork to set up this new service for children in care.  Since qualifying as a Clinical Psychologist, Emma has worked in CAMHS as well as a Parent-Infant Mental Health Service (PIMHS) before joining a specialist Child in Care (CIC) CAMHS team in Norfolk (UK).  During the 2.5 years working in this CIC service, Emma offered therapeutic input to many children and young people in care as well as their carers and residential support workers.  Emma also provided regular consultation to social workers in the local Child in Care and Fostering departments.

Banu Balaji

Senior Occupational Therapist

Banu Balaji is a Clinical Specialist Occupational Therapist who has been in practice in Ireland for the last 20 years. She began her career in Adult Mental Health and moved on to Child and Adolescent Mental Health. She has 16 years of experience in the Community Child and Adolescent Mental Health teams as Senior Occupational Therapist, including a brief period in the CAMHS inpatient unit in Cork.

Banu’s work involved the traditional OT approaches using Sensory Integration, Model of Human Occupation and Neuro-developmental approaches when she realized that these traditional approaches did not meet the needs of some of the families and young people, especially those in care and/or those who had a history developmental trauma. Subsequently Banu trained in the Sensory Attachment Intervention model and also completed Patricia Crittenden’s DMM training and Stephen Porges Polyvagal theory to inform her current practice. She has various certifications such as Sensory Integration, Therapeutic Listening, SOS approach to Feeding, and Circle of Security.

Her practice is trauma-informed and attachment-focused, working towards sensory self-regulation to improve emotional regulation and functional abilities. Her current special interests include infant mental health and the impact of culture, ethnicity and race on mental health.

Dr Alasdair Ross

Clinical Psychologist

Alasdair is a Clinical Psychologist who works with CHIPPS as well as the residential and community parental capacity assessment teams within Childhood Matters.  He has been based within the service since qualifying through UCC (Cork) two years ago.  During his training, Alasdair gained assessment and therapeutic experience with children, adolescents and families in a number of community-based services.  He has developed a strong interest in approaches that are relational and that consider the impact of an individual’s early life experiences on social, emotional, and cognitive development.

Laura McEvoy

Child Art Psychotherapist

Laura has qualifications in social work and child art psychotherapy. Laura worked as a social worker with children in care in the UK for 2.5 years.  Laura subsequently trained in child art psychotherapy for 4 years whilst working with a CAMHS team for 2 years and with Tusla for 2 years as well as working with adolescents in residential care for 4 years.  More recently Laura worked as Deputy Manager of a therapeutic service for children and families in Dublin for 3.5 years, which involved working therapeutically with children in care and children known to Tusla as well as their parents/ carers.  Laura has also worked within the field of adoption, offering therapeutic support to adopted people and birth family members.  Laura has worked in private practice for several years and lectures on some psychotherapy courses in UCD and The School of Psychotherapy in Dublin.

Dr Eimear Ruane-McAteer

Assistant Psychologist

Eimear is an Assistant Psychologist for CHIPPS where she supports clinicians in their therapeutic and assessment work, as well as managing the service evaluation of CHIPPS.  Eimear holds a BSc Psychology (2014) and PhD in health research (2018), both awarded by Queen’s University Belfast (QUB). Since 2014, Eimear has worked in various Associate Lecturer, Research Assistant, and Postdoctoral Researcher roles in the Open University, QUB, and University College Cork across a number of areas including: psycho-oncology, sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), and suicide and self-harm (including suicide bereavement).  Eimear has co-authored 14 peer-reviewed publications and presented at national and international conferences. Eimear has worked with various charities including Samaritans, Sólás (a special education needs charity in Belfast support children with additional learning needs through Irish), and Cancer Focus NI (lifestyle interventions for people living with and beyond cancer).