My Journey: Residential child care, from sessional to full time – a workers reflection of transitioning under the most challenging circumstances
Hey guys, Kenny here. Let me share with you my journey in RCC.
I am 33 years old and a proud member of the Nether Johnstone House team; working full time night shift. My experience in residential childcare is limited but ever growing. Let me explain; I started my residential child care journey in 2017 when I took on the role as a sessional pool lifeguard in kibbles safe centre. The role here was to promote healthy physical activity through aquatics. I loved this job and was able to build relationships with loads of young people, however I felt I could not make a large enough contribution to young people’s lives watching from the side of a swimming pool. This role gave me the confidence to apply for a sessional role as a child and youth care worker within kibble. Here I went onto work in a variety of different residential houses within kibbles campus before making the move to work sessional in Nether Johnstone House (NJH). Prior to this move I had a meeting with the NJH management team who made me feel very welcome and understood that the reason I wanted to leave kibble was to gain more experience working in a different residential setting. The supportive and warm attitude I felt throughout this meeting along with really believing in the core values of the service sealed the deal for me.
“Love, Live, Laugh, Learn, Nurture and bring Joy and Hope”
Post Lock Down
Being a sessional member of the team at NJH, I have gained a wealth of experience and have been supported exceptionally well by those who work at NJH. I had the opportunity to support young people to spend time with their family and I was able to use the qualifications I have achieved such as a degree in sports studies and a diploma in sports coaching to promote healthy lifestyles through physical activity. Post lockdown, I was able to support our enthusiastic young people to take part in boxing, cycling, swimming and circuit training. I also had the opportunity to plan an outing for two of our young people to go on a day trip to an inflatable water park in Dundee and then out for a meal afterwards. What an excellent time we had.
Covid-19 – Lockdown
When this horrible virus known as Covid-19 took the world by storm it affected people worldwide and this was no different for the young people and team in NJH. Before we knew it business’s and non-essential services where closing and people from all professions where being furloughed from their jobs after following instruction for government. However, as NJH is absolutely and understandably essential to our young people, the service managers where working intensely to prepare a work force for working in the covid-19 era as well ensuring our young people’s home, was safe as possible.
Anyone who has ever worked in residential childcare will know it is not a walk-in park due to the adverse childhood experiences our young people have encountered in their life. However, for me helping a young person face adversity and overcome it to have a brighter future fills me with a real sense of pride. During lockdown I can’t express how proud I’ve felt of our young people because I believe they handled it exceptionally well.
Why you ask?
Well, first of all, the government lockdown guidelines made it impossible for our young people to see their families. This was a harsh reality. However, when we explained this to them, they showed a real maturity and understood that this was a safety measure put in place to protect everyone. Secondly, for a long period of time they where isolated from the outside world with restricted movement and instead of being angry they pulled together and started spending a lot more time with each other and the team. Furthermore, what I found amazing was we all found a new way to bond together and keep physically and mentally active. This was essential for looking after our mental health under such difficult and strange circumstances. We did in-house fitness workouts, home schooling, arts and crafts, social distancing walks, cycling, boxing and many more pursuits. Most importantly for me was the sense of the togetherness the entire house showed in such a scary time. Relationships where strengthened. This is a key element of working in residential childcare. Every Thursday at 8pm our young people showed what it is to be part of a community and clapped alongside the world for our real-life superhero’s working on the front line, battling Covid -19 and saving people lives.
Taking a Leap
Although lockdown posed many obstacles in terms of safety and was causing a sense of fear and anxiety within myself and throughout the world, I felt it was a chance to learn and grow. When the opportunity presented itself and after working sessional for one year at NJH, I took “the leap” and started working full time at the house. This was not a difficult decision to make for a few reasons. First of all, I felt extremely supported by those at NJH. This is essential when working with young people. I felt so supported, I was confident, that any difficult situations we as a team encountered could be resolved. Furthermore, I wanted to be fully committed to our young people during this period to help support them and keep as much stability in their lives as possible in such an unsettling time. Ultimately, as lockdown eases my experience working in NJH remains very positive and in such a testing time watching everyone pull together to support each other in the house allowed me to make a firm, informed decision and take on the full-time role.
Words of Wisdom
My advice to anyone who is considering a job in residential childcare is; if you have a genuine passion to help young people better their lives then this is the job for you. Although it can be very challenging at times the pros far outweigh the cons. However, if you are unsure and “sitting on the fence” but think you might like the job then apply to work sessional first like I did, be honest with yourself and take it from there. I say this because when working with vulnerable young people you need to be fully committed to there complex needs so take your time on a decision. You will probably know very quickly if it is for you or not but please give it time and allow your confidence to grow with experience.
A Special Mention
In writing this blog it has given me time to reflect on some of the experiences I have gained during lockdown and I would like to say a special thank you to all of our young people & the team for their support. I also want to take the time to appreciate the sacrifice that all key workers have made to ensure essential services run in these uncertain times. It has been a true act of strength and professionalism and needs to be recognised.