The Duchess was welcomed by Chief Executive, Peter Fonagy.
Kate visited the centre's Early Years Parenting Unit to learn more about their work with families who have children under five years old. Kensington Palace said the visit marks the "Duchess' continued desire to draw attention to child mental health issues and the importance early intervention, and working with the whole family, can make to those in vulnerable situations". Of course, not only is Anna Freud Centre one of Kate's patronages, it's also one of the eight partner charities of Heads Together, led by William, Kate and Harry.
The Early Years Parenting Unit opened in April 2011 (the month of the royal wedding) and offers an assessment and treatment programme for groups of parents with personality disorders, and their children under five years, who are at risk of being taken into care. The treatment seeks to address the parents’ personality disorders, the children's developmental needs, and the parent-child relationship. The ultimate aim is to keep families together.
How does the unit work? How are services provided? After an initial assessment period, families attend the day unit for two full days a week for up to eighteen months. Using a Mentalization Based Treatment (MBT) approach, parents are helped to begin the process of reflecting on their and their children’s mental states. Parent-child work helps parents to become more aware of and responsive to their children’s needs which leads to more emotionally attuned parenting, more secure attachment relationships, and an associated decrease in child protection concerns. The service is completely integrated with Children’s Social Care and Adult Mental Health, with frequent liaison and regular reviews of progress.
Kate met families who have availed of the treatment programme and discussed what brought them to the unit and their experiences since then. The Duchess joined families participating in a 'Theraplay' discussion - an exercise promoting the relationship between parents and their children.
It was very much a visit centred on meeting families and discussing their journeys and the results of participation in the highly specialised programmes. Another service Kate learned more about was Parent Infant Psychotherapy (PIP), which aims to support new parents and place the relationship between parents and their babies in a position of utmost importance.
More from the Mail Online:
'Parenting is tough,' she said. 'And with the history and all the things and the experiences you've all witnessed, to do that on top of your own anxieties, and the lack of support you also received as mothers...I find it extraordinary how you've managed actually. So really well done.'
Kate was asked if she was braced to spend the morning with a group of children under five at a centre that helps parents with personality disorders bond more closely with their offspring. I did just leave a room of six under threes,' she said, smiling.
The Duchess appeared to very much enjoy meeting the adorable little ones.
Chief executive of the organisation, Peter Fonagy, spoke ahead of Kate's arrival:
"We are very proud of our history of developing and evaluating ways of helping families with infants and small children and are delighted that Her Royal Highness shares our passion for offering support to parents, as early as possible in the child’s life. We are very happy that Her Royal Highness is meeting parents from two of our flagship early intervention services. Her visit is an inspiration to the staff and reinforces the commitment of the families to work to increase their babies’ chances of a resilient future. But more important, by bringing attention to the real difference that early years programmes can make, the Duchess is stimulating interest in similar services throughout the country and right across the world."
The royal visit marked the launch of the centre’s spotlight on childhood adversity and trauma. Throughout January, the Anna Freud Learning Network will be sharing new insights into the science of early adversity and highlighting the latest approaches to supporting children and families. The network posted an interesting video on YouTube, including statistics which reveal things such as "children in care are four times more likely than their peers to have a mental health difficulty" and "adversity during the first six years is associated with childhood internalising symptoms, such as depression and anxiety". It offers a window into the enormously complex area of children's mental health.
Next, William and Kate teamed up for their first joint engagement of the year - visiting a Child Bereavement UK centre in Stratford - to mark its one year anniversary.
Prince William has been patron of the charity since 2009 and the Palace noted "the Duke will continue to see the vital work undertaken by the charity, which makes such a positive difference to bereaved families across the country".
Child Bereavement UK supports families and educates professionals when a baby or child of any age dies or is dying, or when a child is facing bereavement. Every year they train more than 8000 professionals, helping them to better understand and meet the needs of grieving families. The organisation's mission is to ensure the accessibility of high quality child bereavement support and information to all families and professionals by increasing their reach and plugging the gaps that exist in bereavement support and training across the country and embedding standards in the sector.
The Duke and Duchess met local professionals, and volunteers who work at the service, before meeting families and children who have been supported by the charity. William and Kate attended one of the charity’s Family Support Group sessions where children, their parents, and carers can meet other families to explore themes of memories, feelings, support networks and resilience. These sessions can help to decrease their sense of being alone and feeling ‘different’ when someone important in their lives has died.
The couple found out how the memory jar exercise can help families dealing with bereavement.
Rebecca English described "moving scenes" as the royals asked youngsters about making jars for loved ones they've lost.
One particularly touching moment came when William was talking to a little girl whose father died from pancreatic cancer. William chatted with her and said: "I lost my mummy when I was very young too." We've seen a much more open William over the last year or so - drawing on his own very painful experiences to share and comfort others at organisations such as Child Bereavement. No doubt he was drawn to the organisation because he lost his mother at such a young age.
Video:Moving scenes as William speaks to a little girl whose father died from pancreatic cancer. 'I lost my mummy when I was very young too' pic.twitter.com/lIQWeKTbqR— Rebecca English (@RE_DailyMail) January 11, 2017
More from Richard Palmer's story:
One mother, Lorna Ireland, 36, told how he had spoken of his fragile emotional state to her son, Shinobi Irons, 12, as they filled their individual jars with bands of coloured salt, representing memories of the boy’s late grandmother and godmother. “He told my son that when his mum died he was 15 at the time and he was very angry and found it very difficult to talk about it,” Lorna said. “It was very personal and it was very special."
Prince William, 34, also comforted a little girl grieving for her father, telling her: "I lost my mummy when I was very young too." He asked Aoife, nine: "Do you know what happened to me? You know I lost my mummy when I was very young too. I was 15 and my brother was 12. So we lost our mummy when we were young as well. "Do you speak about your daddy? It's very important to talk about it, very, very important."
A video of Kate meeting children during 'theraplay'.
The Duke and Duchess join a @cbukhelp 'Memory Jar' activity in a Support Group session – which helps families dealing with bereavement pic.twitter.com/xg9zWPxfkD— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) January 11, 2017
To mark the one year anniversary William and Kate cut the cake!
Moving on to Kate's ensemble for the day...
Kate was elegant in a £1,650 blue belted coat dress by Eponine London today. From the 2016 Autumn/Winter collection it's a classic silhouette from a brand that specialises in bespoke womenswear inspired by the silhouettes of the fifties and sixties.
The double wool garment features a collar with notch cut outs, three-quarter length sleeves and a full skirt.
Readers will recall Kate wore an ensemble by the Kensington-based firm for an engagement in London last March. The red and white skirt suit was a gorgeous choice featuring a boat neck and three-quarter sleeves and the skirt was A-line. It's a beautiful outfit and I love the silhouette, the lines, and the gingham pattern. I had very much hoped Kate would choose other pieces from the label and today is another winning look.
The label was founded by designer Jet Shenkman. Eponine was born from her passion for clothes with a unique, relaxed silhouette. Jet’s years of styling experience have equipped her with an expert eye for precision and an innate understanding of the female form. Every garment is designed and made in London for women who seek out individuality and who desire to be both chic and contemporary. Below, three retro styles from the current collection. @KatieMidleton noted Jet used to work as a bereavement counsellor.
Kate teamed the piece with her navy suede Rupert Sanderson Malory pumps.
Below we see Kate carried her Stuart Weitzman Muse Clutch and wore her favourite Cartier Ballon Bleu watch.