SIRCC conference celebrated its 20th year anniversary in June 2019. Our Service Manager Elaine Hamilton contributed to the celebration edition of the SIRCC Journal by writing an article about Life story work & the role of relationships in residential child care. The article features direct practice examples and links these with a social pedagogical approach to developing residential child care in Scotland.
Read the article here ›
A recently published article written by our Service Manager capturing the importance of everyday relationships in residential childcare.
Hamilton, E (2019), Life story approaches and relationships within residential childcare: A practice reflection. Scottish Journal of Residential Childcare Volume 18.2
“Hi there, my name’s Becca and I’ve been at Nether Johnstone House for nearly a year. I love working with young people and definitely love to dance, even in the rain!”
Read Becca’s full story below:
Becca Ward on "Becoming a Keyworker"
Becca—The Key Worker 😉
Who is this kid and why is she talking at me? – believe it or not I am a residential childcare worker (yeah worker…) and have been for nearly a year now! I have even had jobs before this – I was a support worker for 2 years whilst at university and got my big girl job when I graduated last year. I loved every minute of being a support worker for children with additional support needs – mainly because I got to act like the big kid that I am inside (and look like). In many ways this did prepare me for working in residential – having to build relationships, engaging with children with complex needs and general care. What I quickly learned is nothing can prepare you for your first experience of residential care. From the minute I started working in Nether Johnstone it has been a roller coaster ride – from my first tea time with the children, my first time taking a child on an activity, all leading up to the day my boss asked me to be a key worker for a new young person.
A key worker- who me? Are you sure? What’s involved? Can I do this? What if the young person doesn’t like me? What are my responsibilities?
Then I read her background information (chronology) provided by social work – Wow! Here we go! This looks like a lot of work! There is a lot of complex issues to deal with (self-harm, absconding, history of allegations). There is a lot of risk involved here. This is going to require a lot of planning and preparation. CAN I DO THIS???!
What do I do now? – HELP! (Don’t panic Becca you’ve got this!!!!)
So, I asked my manager for help. Bombarded her with all my questions and told her my initial fears. Having a clearer image of what the role entailed itself was extremely helpful. We chatted about the young person’s move to the house and began to put together a transition plan to help make their move into Nether Johnstone House as smooth as possible. Okay, so we have agreed to make a transition plan, what do I need to think about putting it together? – Initial risks (what kind of activities we agreed to, how Milly would cope within the house) partially based on the background information and partly due to verbal anxieties expressed by agencies involved.
The plan included an initial meeting with the young person (always a good start) and built up to visits at the house to meet the other young people and staff team as well as activities away from the house for a more relaxed way to get to know each other.
How am I going to build a relationship with her? How will we use this transition to get to know her as much as possible before moving in? How can we make this as smooth a transition as possible for everyone involved? Who does this transition involve?
Okay, so, how did I go about this – PLAN PLAN PLAN! Based on the information from her paperwork and through discussions with agencies, I began to plan how to approach a range of scenarios/events should they occur. For example, due to extreme risk when Milly displays behaviour’s that cause concern it was agreed she should be prevented from leaving the house. Coming up with a structured approach to deal with these scenarios helped me personally feel more at ease but I feel as a staff team this was also beneficial.
Ultimately the majority of crazy scenarios I had made up in my head did not happen, but it did make me feel better knowing I was prepared. This was also helpful as it allowed me to focus on actually working with and getting to know Milly, rather than just managing risk.
Meeting with her initially and composing a letter afterwards to send to her about our time together helped not only Milly realize I was listening but helped me gather everything I had actually found out about her and use this to begin making plans and ultimately build relationships.
Creating an initial Behavior Support Plan (I’ll explain that later) and Risk Assessment was daunting at first but with help from the key team on the basics of what is included I began gradually adding information – again initially based on the chronology but also through the interactions I was having with Milly.
I needed to make sure that the care plan was best suited to her – one of the hardest parts of compiling Milly’s care plan was feeling like I did not know her well enough to make decisions on how to support her or worrying she would not engage with the care plan. The best way I have found to solve this was to get her involved (who knows Milly better than Milly, right?). I have been lucky in a sense as Milly is really keen to get involved and help to do things. What better work to get her involved in, right? Not only did this help in motivating her to achieve her goals but getting her involved in developing her BSP is partially in my opinion why we have managed to avoid some of these crazy scenarios.
She’s here, she’s doing well, we’ve got this! After overcoming the initial scary thought of being a key worker to a new young person transition from secure care, the role of Milly’s key worker is without a doubt challenging, constant and extremely rewarding. Especially considering everyone’s initial ‘fear’ surrounding Milly’s move to Nether Johnstone, I think, (on the whole) she has settled really well! Although drowning in paperwork at times can be soul destroying, I think being able to look back on previous reports, summaries and care plans can highlight just how well Milly is doing in the house and how far she has come.
So, what have I learned? Do not be intimidated by a lengthy chronology with a lot of scary incidents – that is only a fraction of the picture. Never be scared to ask for help – teamwork makes the dream work! When working in residential childcare, you will get out of it what you put in. Right from the beginning I have been working and spending a lot of time with Milly (A LOT, basically living at the house for a month…). In return however I have gained an extremely positive bond with Milly which is not only super important for her development and well-being, but for my own as a person. Working with Milly is an experience that has challenged me professionally, mentally and emotionally for many reasons but knowing the positive relationship we have can help support her and help her feel loved is worth the grey hairs at 23! Oh and… Never leave your phone lying around near a young person – you’ll end up with 1000 images of yourself at awful angles ☹️
Our most recent report:
‘Every kid needs a champion’ – Rita Pierson tells us why every child need’s someone to believe in them, the power of relationships.
Understanding key concepts of social pedagogy – The link below offers valuable insight and knowledge into the key principles of a social pedagogical approach, such as those underpinning the key values of NJH.
The following link is for the Professional Home of Social Pedagogy in the United Kingdom – Access to resources, social pedagogy standards & membership of the professional association.
CYC Net – International network for child and youth practice – This link gives access to reading materials, online CYC Net International Journal, network discussion forums & resources
SSSC – The Regulatory Body for all Residential childcare workers in the United Kingdom – All the latest info regarding registration, qualifications, training & fitness to practice
Refer A Child
Follow My Journey
Our series of blogs are kicked off with stories from Leanne and Charlotte
Read more ›