Children in care: how Britain is failing its most vulnerable
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- Mr Justice Munby
- Foster care lawsuit ends after 15 years
- The Lost Children
- Plan to fast-track social workers
- Family justice: the secret state that steals our children
- Adoption law couple leave country
- Exclusive: Barnado's calls for more gay couples to adopt children
In the first part of our series on the care system, Amelia Gentleman looks at how young people are let down by the state's inability to deliver social justice
By Amelia Gentleman
April 20, 2009 / The Guardian
Patricia Connor is quite clear that her exposure to the British care system has destroyed not only her life but also that of three of her four younger siblings.
"They took me off my mum to give me a better life. They gave me a worse life," she concludes at the end of a two-hour summary of the major events of the last 23 years, narrated from a plastic armchair in her hospital room where she has spent a week being treated for an HIV-related infection.
Articulate and cheerful, Patricia runs through her history in an obliging and jaunty tone. She says she plans to write a book about her experiences, and there is enough material here to outshine the best-selling misery tomes.
She starts with the moment she was taken away, aged nine, from her mother by social workers on suspicion of neglect, which she says was unjustified. She spent a relatively happy time in foster care with her three younger sisters and a brother. But then came the sudden, inexplicable decision of her foster carers to send her away after three years. "They told me I was going on holiday for two weeks. They tricked me."
She tempered her unhappiness at a new foster home by drinking a lot of White Lightning cider, ran away and spent time in a children's home. The situation was exacerbated by sexual abuse from a carer, her rape by an older man who liked to prey on vulnerable children's home girls, and dropping out of school without GCSEs.
She became pregnant at 16, was abandoned by her baby's father and entered a new relationship where her partner knowingly infected her with HIV. "When the doctor told me, I was like 'HIV positive? So what's HIV negative then?' I didn't have a clue. I'd left school before we learnt about it."
Her subsequent depression led to her becoming a crack addict, which in turn led to her one-year-old daughter being taken into care. She finishes with her ongoing campaign - now she's off drugs and studying again, she intends to win her child back.
Her siblings have fared equally badly, but what is particularly depressing, about their family history, beyond the sensational detail of each disaster toppling, domino-like, into the next, is the closeness with which their stories echo the statistical failures of the care system across the country.
More than half of all children in care (53%) leave school, like Patricia, with no formal qualifications, and only 13% get 5 A*- C grade GCSEs, compared with 47% of all children. Just 6% enter higher education. Twenty percent of women who leave care between the ages of 16 and 19 become mothers within a year, compared with just 5% of the total population. Parents who have been through the care system are twice as likely to lose the right to care for their own children.
The state's inability to provide adequate care for some of the country's neediest children is one of Britain's most acute social injustices. Despite the government's frequently repeated commitment to tackle social exclusion, the system still perpetuates an underclass of young adults with blighted life chances.
Prospects for care leavers here are worse than in countries such as Germany, Denmark and Norway, where care is not seen as a last-resort but as a positive alternative for struggling families.
Here, despite a barrage of well-intentioned, reforming legislation, there is a recognition among politicians and professionals that many things remain very wrong with the system: poorly trained workers in frontline positions, high staff turnover and a chronic shortage of foster parents, so that children are not carefully matched with suitable carers but placed wherever is available.
Social workers are so familiar with the dismal outcomes from care that they see taking children into the system as something to be avoided at all costs. It is this conviction, combined with a sense that struggling families can be mended, that is understood at some unspoken level to have motivated child protection workers in Haringey to defer removing Baby P from his family, with disastrous consequences.
No one can feel positive about taking a child into care when the official outcomes at the other end are so bleak.
"My family got destroyed by the care system," Patricia says. "They've all become institutionalised."
Her brother has followed the well-trodden route from care to prison, and at 21 has notched up more than 66 convictions. "He doesn't care what punishment they give him. He has had more stability in prison than he ever had when he was in care," she says. Twenty-three percent of the adult prison population has spent time in care, although care leavers account for less than 1% of the total population; 30% of children in custody have been in care.
Patricia's next sister down was befriended at the age of 12 by a prostitute, who was scouting for defenceless girls near the gates of her London care home. "This woman said she would look after her. All my sister wanted was a mum. She got her addicted to heroin and crack when she was 12 and got her working on the streets near Paddington as a prostitute. She got pregnant that year," Patricia says. "She's in a mental institution now."
Charity Barnardo's is campaigning to make people aware of this widespread, predatory targeting of children.
Forty-five percent of children in care are assessed as having a mental health disorder, compared with 10% of the general population. Forty-two percent of prostitutes interviewed for a recent research paper had been in care.
A third sister is still in care. "She's a serial absconder and an arsonist," Patricia says.
There are 59,500 in care in England (0.5% of the total population of children). About 6,000 are looked after in children's homes, while the rest are with foster carers. The government freely admits standards remain unacceptable, and there has been no shortage of initiatives and legislation during Labour's administration aimed at improving the record. The amount spent has been increased from £1.3bn in 2000-01 to more than £2.1bn in 2006-07.
"We need to do an enormous amount more. We really need to see some very significant improvements before we even start to feel comfortable with how things are going," said Lady Morgan, the minister responsible for children in care.
Outside observers are more outspoken. "There is absolutely no doubt that the care system is failing if you look at the outcomes," said Natasha Finlayson, chief executive of the Who Cares? Trust, one of several charities set up to champion the needs of children in care.
Tim Laughton, the Conservative spokesman on care, agreed: "The problem is that the outcomes on every measure are appalling and the gap of achievement is widening."
Describing the outcomes as "startling" and "worrying", the children's commissioner for England, Al Aynsley Green, said that during his extensive conversations with children in care, the majority focused on their negative experiences.
But, in the wake of the Baby P scandal, a new debate is crystallising, with senior figures in the sector asking whether, counter-intuitively, the answer might actually be to take more children at an earlier age into a reformed, improved care system, rather than leaving them with inadequate parents.
The heads of two leading children's charities have gone on record in recent weeks, arguing that care should be seen in a more positive light.
Martin Narey, head of Barnardo's, said: "We are trying too hard to fix dysfunctional families. We should be concentrating on making care the decent and stable place it should be."
Andrew Flanagan, the newly appointed chief executive of the NSPCC, echoed his concerns, challenging the "presupposition that leaving a child in the home must be better".
Every aspect of this debate is inflammatory, but those who argue in favour of the care system stress that the outcome figures need to be treated with caution and understood in the context of the level of damage to the children before they are taken into care.
Mike Stein, an academic with the University of York, said the excessive focus on poor outcomes had helped to create a climate where social workers saw care as the worst possible option, and had contributed to vulnerable children being left too long with failing parents.
According to Stein, the startlingly bad outcomes can be partially explained by the fact that many of the children come from very deprived backgrounds, and may have been severely neglected before being removed into care. The fact that a child does badly is not always the fault of the care system, he concluded.
Lady Morgan agreed that expectations of outcomes needed to be tempered. "Looked after children in this country are some of the most troubled children in our society," she said. "They have some really significant hurdles to overcome in their lives. It is right that we should have very high aspirations for them, but they start from a very difficult starting point compared to other children."
Britain had a disastrous history of abuse and paedophilia scandals in its care homes from the 1960s until the early 1990s. As a result, there are no longer any large residential homes - and most homes are organised in units of no more than six children.
The abuse has cast a long shadow on the sector, discouraging many from taking up work in care homes, where staff turnover is high - an extra disruption to the children's lives. The failures of these homes have added weight to the sense that if the natural families can't be fixed, then the next best option is foster care - which is both closer to the family model, and considerably cheaper (on average, foster care costs £489 a week, while a place in a care home costs £2,428).
However, fostering also has its problems. There is a shortage (estimated at about 10,000) of good quality people willing to take on this responsibility, which means social workers struggle to place children in the most suitable families and are often forced to put them wherever is available.
Although many fosterers are motivated by altruism, some see it as a way of generating income, and there are concerns about the amateur nature of the service.
"There are not many ways of making money if you don't have any qualifications and fostering is one thing you can do," said one charity head, who asked not to be named.
Reform is under way, a process Lady Morgan described as a "hard slog". Most in this sector are positive about the Care Matters legislation passed by the government, and upbeat about a number of changes already in place - the decision to support children in care beyond their 16th birthdays and an initiative to help them get into the best schools.
But care leavers (to whom the government has promised to listen more attentively) highlight a more fundamental flaw: a chronic instability in the system that allows children to be bounced around between foster carers and residential homes. Instead of matching children with appropriate carers first time around, the shortage of options combined with over-stretched social workers, makes the process very hit and miss.
Patricia pinpoints the start of her decline to the moment when she was moved from her first foster carers.
No one knows more about this problem than Kelly Martin (not her real name), a 14-year-old who had more than 40 foster placements before the age of 12. Her case is becoming a quiet cause celebre among campaigners for change, but her position is not unique. Newly released figures show that more than 1,200 looked-after children have had 10 or more foster placements since they went into care, while 10 children had been through more than 50 placements.
It was not possible to talk to Kelly about her experiences - Barnardo's officials, who have organised an apparently stable new placement, said she had been through enough without having to discuss it with someone new. But her social worker and new foster carer set out what they think went wrong, requesting anonymity to avoid identifying the child.
Kelly was three when she was taken into care, shortly after her alcoholic mother was judged incapable of looking after her. Some of her foster carers were unable to cope with her behaviour, which grew worse the more she was shuffled around. Others had their own problems - marriage breakdowns, ill-health - which meant that looking after Kelly was no longer a priority. Many of the moves were short-term respite placements, allowing her foster carers to take a break.
"It was crisis intervention all the time," said her social worker. "A lot of this is not well-planned. We are ringing people up and saying 'Who is available tonight?' Unfortunately it's almost the luck of the draw when the child comes in. We're not always able to sit down and work out who's right for which family. When you need to move a child, you need to act fast. There's no cherry picking," she says.
Initially she was placed with inexperienced foster carers who could not cope. "A lot of foster carers don't realise that these are damaged children. The reality doesn't hit them until the children are with them," the social worker said.
The placements flung her from one side of the country to another, from a rural backwater to a busy city, putting her through four primary and, to date, two secondary schools. Medical attention was constantly interrupted by the moves. "Each time she moved more damage was created," said the new foster carer, whose patience and kindness is gradually winning the girl over. "She didn't have the language to express the anger she felt."
Today's select committee report recommends that social workers try harder to prevent the breakdown of foster care relationships. "The prospect of a broken placement should be treated with as much concern as the prospect of a child being removed from their birth family," it says.
Jonathan Stanley, manager of the National Centre for Excellence in Residential Child Care at the National Children's Bureau, says standards are gradually improving here, but he stresses that the staff need better training. In Denmark, most workers in care homes have degrees. In the UK they only need an NVQ3 - a different league of qualification. "We've not valued our residential workers, yet they are working with the most needy in the country," he said.
For really improved outcomes, residential care and foster care need to be transformed. "Residential care needs to be top notch and that's expensive," said Wes Cuell, director of children's services at the NSPCC.
Patricia responds cautiously to the idea that it is simply a question of better training for staff and more resources. She says things went wrong for her because she never had a parent substitute - she feels no one ever cared about her enough to tell her not to go out drinking, not to hang out with boys, to get back to her school books.
"You've got one carer and then the next carer comes along. You never know who loves you and who is sincere. All I wanted was security and love," she says.
She pauses as a nurse comes in with a plastic bag full of drugs to take home to keep her healthy over the next few weeks. "I'm not bitter. I'm optimistic," she adds. "My experiences in care have made me strong."
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'We lost the focus on emotional warmth'
In the second part of her investigation, Amelia Gentleman looks at the European approach that some believe could fix Britain's failing children's homes
By Amelia Gentleman
April 21, 2009 / The Guardian
Over the past four months, staff and children at a residential care unit in Essex have been working together to transform the building from an institution into something resembling a home.
The changes are subtle. In the kitchen Louis, 11, who has been living here for three years, said he hated the A4 spreadsheets distributed by the council with a list of the week's menus, which staff taped to the walls. These have been replaced with a pine-edged blackboard and a daily announcement of what's on offer written in chalk.
In the garden, the six children, aged between seven and 12, have dug flowerbeds and made a vegetable patch. Inside, there are new beanbags and a more relaxed regime about bedtimes and tidying bedrooms.
But the more substantial changes are less visible. Staff have been instructed in the theory of social pedagogy, a European educational model widely used on the continent, to guide how the state should look after children. Under this approach they are made responsible not just for the child's immediate needs, but for their rounded development.
This pilot project is just one of a series of exercises launched by the government recently as it casts around for ways to transform a care system which has consigned so many young people to educational failure and thwarted life chances, with over half of all looked-after children leaving school with no qualifications, just 6% getting a place at university and the rest disproportionately prone to ending up in prison, unemployed or homeless.
Comparative studies in Denmark, Germany and Norway, where social pedagogy is well established, show children who go through the care system are more likely to stay on at school and get better qualifications.
Claire Cameron of the Thomas Coram Research Unit, which is organising the government's three-year social pedagogy pilot programme, said she was impressed by how much better outcomes were in a number of European countries which she and her colleagues studied. "We saw that the children in Denmark, for example, were less likely to have teenage pregnancies, were more likely to be in employment, there was less staff turnover, there were fewer difficulties," she said.
At least one minister and several officials have been to Germany to try to understand the philosophy. Impressed with what they saw, the government announced a £1.5m pilot programme in 30 care homes across the country, to determine whether this approach could improve the dismal prospects for England's looked-after children. It is an experiment that could lead to a revolution for children in care in the UK.
Because social workers here do not have the relevant training, the research unit in charge of introducing the pilot is in the process recruiting about 60 social workers from Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. Aware the current system is failing so many children in care, the government is simultaneously assessing the benefits of paying for some children to attend boarding schools (where fees are low relative to the cost of fulltime care), and experimenting with an American scheme designed to support foster carers.
But the reform of children's homes is seen as an urgent priority. Although 71% of the 59,500 children in care are looked after by foster carers, the most troubled children tend to end up in residential care and professionals are alarmed that they are getting patchy services. Because care homes are seen as a last, and worst, resort, children tend to be sent there when they are older, and already damaged by years of difficult experiences. Campaigners for reform argue that if children were to be moved more swiftly into a transformed system, carers would have longer to work with them and better chances of success.
Part of the success of the European approach lies in a more positive attitude towards care in the abstract, said Mike Stein, of the University of York. "There is a desire in the UK to keep children out of care at all costs. Care is seen as something that you turn to when all else fails," he said. "In Europe, they take more children into care, at a younger age, and do more with them."
Much rests on the success of these initiatives, and officials in Essex are ahead of the curve. They were already so persuaded by social pedagogy that they decided last December to launch a reform of their care services, and introduce the philosophy to all their residential homes without waiting for the results of the pilot programme.
Awkward to pronounce and little understood in England, pedagogy is a well-developed academic discipline in Scandinavia, studying ways to nurture the development of others.
Lady Morgan, the minister responsible for the care system, defines it as "a system that is more geared around the individual needs of each child". It focuses on building self-esteem and moulding emotional wellbeing and appears, at first glance, too vague to provide a coherent strategy for change. But its supporters stress that, were it to be combined with better training for staff and generous funding, its impact could be dramatic.
By late afternoon in the care home, staff are encouraging the children to help get supper ready. This is met with some door slamming and vocal resistance. "Come on then, lovely. Let's go and lay the table," a female carer says gently. "I'll do it on Saturday. I don't want to. I've already done something for you today," a nine-year-old girl replies, rolling over on her beanbag and refusing to get up.
Some of the children have had more than 20 placements before being settled here, aged eight or nine. Many were neglected from an early age by parents who had drug and alcohol problems; most have had real difficulties forming attachments with adults, and staff describe them (with one of the polite euphemisms that social workers frequently use) as "challenging" - which really means extraordinarily difficult.
Once the children had been coaxed into helping, Maureen Caton, head of residential and placement provision at Essex county council, tried to explain how her staff have embraced the Danish model. Their approach begins by correcting some of the peculiarities which have entered the English system as a result of the decades of scandals and abuses in residential care.
First, carers are told to put back some of the emotional warmth which for many years they have been advised to withhold. "There was increased regulation in the wake of several years of abuse scandals related to children's homes," she said. "People were very concerned that allegations could be made about staff's conduct.
"Somehow that translated into ... keeping a distance between young people and their carers, as a way of keeping them safe. We lost the focus on emotional warmth. It went so far as to stop staff giving children hugs when they actually need them."
Nicola Boyce, a researcher for Essex council on the social pedagogy project, said this warmth was central to the parallel process of helping to educate the children. "One of the key concepts is that learning and development as a human being only ever happens in the context of a relationship," she said.
Staff are also encouraged to be more "authentic" in the way they deal with the children and to view the care home as their home while they are on duty, to help create an atmosphere of a community, rather than a workplace.
Tracy Kift, a senior carer, was still trying to digest all the changes, which represent the first systematic attempt to improve the way things are run since she began working here 17 years ago, but she was tentatively positive.
"If I am feeling happy or if I am feeling frustrated, the idea now is to share these feelings, to be more human, more authentic in our relationships with the children," she said. "Before, there was a clear shift away from the emotional. The adult needed to be seen to be in control. Now I can tell them 'I am feeling annoyed or cross, let's talk about it'."
A second change has been the decision to liberate carers from the risk-assessment culture which obliged them to fill out a form every time they went out anywhere with a child, even if it were just to the shops. "Before we'd have to go to the office and tick boxes: are they likely to abscond? Any other risks?" said Sam Sheppard, a residential worker at the home with five years' experience. "Now there is a recognition, both that as responsible adults carers can assess the risks without bothering to sit down and fill in the forms, but also that children need to be exposed to a degree of risk in order to thrive."
Thirdly, the carers are encouraged to do much more with the child, and to treat every activity as a valuable educational opportunity. The idea is to incorporate everyday tasks - such as cooking or housework - into the therapeutic and educational process.
Fourthly, there is a conscious effort to involve the children in decisions, big and small, about their lives - from weekly meetings about how the home should be made to feel more homely, to constant conversations about how they are doing at school and what their ambitions are for the future.
Caton pointed out that it would not be possible to adopt such a complex philosophy across the board in the space of a few months, not least because staff were initially getting just a week's training, rather than the degree-level immersion which Danish pedagogues get. But she was hopeful that it would help improve the children's prospects.
It is hard to draw a clear line on how the changes in the philosophy of caring for these children may lead to reductions in criminal offending and teenage pregnancies, and an increase in educational success, but Caton thought this would happen in Essex, as it has done in Germany and Denmark.
"I think how young people view the period that they were in the residential home - how they feel that they were nurtured, that they were respected, how they feel about themselves as they grow into adulthood - and that will all have an impact on how they take up future life chances," she said.
The council has invested £300,000 in the project to date and more money will be spent when it begins to spread some of the principles into the foster care sector, where the vast majority of children are looked after.
Caton believes ultimately it will result in savings for the council. "We have far more young people who offend. We have far more teenage pregnancies. That has a cost," she said. "If you look at the training costs, as opposed to the cost of fixing the poor outcomes, then you are actually saving money. You are investing in young people's lives and their adult lives as well. It is about giving them a thirst for education. Making sure that they do actually attend school. Making sure that they know you want them to do well, that you do have aspirations for them."
Expectations of change, both in Essex and from the nationwide pilot project, should be tempered, because the trials are just scraping at the surface of a big problem. No one expects this approach to produce miraculous results, just to edge forward chances for children in care. Besides, everyone understands that a nationwide introduction of this ambitious approach requires a huge investment of resources at a time when local authorities are struggling with their budgets.
There is concern that the government is parading its readiness to test alternatives when many professionals in the sector argue that more wholesale and instantaneous changes are vital. "We need highly qualified people to look after these children to help them overcome whatever has happened to them in their life before care - neglect, abuse. There is a need to ringfence the sorts of resources you need to get it right," said John Kemmis, chief executive of Voice, an advocacy organisation for looked-after children. "We have to invest more money in the system."
But on a micro-level, small-scale results are being felt in Essex.
In the hall someone shouted: "I'm off swimming." "All right darling," came the reply. From the garden there was angry shouting over whose turn it was on the swings and inside there were tears over a game of Monopoly - the familiar hubbub of family life. In the bright, open-plan kitchen, children relaxed, resting their elbows on the counters, helping themselves to bowls of strawberry ice cream, which they ate as they wandered about the house.
Sam, one of the carers, thought things were one notch calmer. "If you have six children in a house there will be arguments," he said. "Previously the slightest outbreak of argument, we would be instantly stepping in to stop it; now we are trusting them to sort it out themselves."
Louis, the 11-year-old, thought that aside from the sudden arrival of the requested football goalposts there had been an improvement in the atmosphere within the unit. "It feels more homely when people are more calm and not shouting and abusing the adults," he said.
I find these articles quite interesting, especially when they are linked to other articles like, Time to bring back children's homes? , Take more children into care, says Barnardo's chief Martin Narey and UK lags behind most of Europe in child wellbeing league. [I should note, the USA rates only just above the UK, according to UNICEF's child wellbeing in rich countries "report card" .]
I'm not so sure how I feel about private companies taking over state-care. While some may prefer to have less governmental control over certain aspects of our lives, there are those who think social services should NOT go "private". [See: Anti-Privatization documentary by AUPE ]
Given the history of abuses known to have taken place in children's homes, can and should the public really trust the published interests private groups and charities are now showing "state children"?
they have a reason for taking over (most to make money) others to promote their beliefs or something...
the Shakers used to take in a bunch of foster kids too (or kids who didn't have anyone to live with)
I have seen really bad state run groups (like public school for example) and see private groups do much better (to make money)
I have seen private groups do far worse and cost far more (like in all private foster care organizations locally) than public foster care does... all of the private foster care groups are for profit around here (even if they say they are not)
my son went to a great city run theraputic day camp ran by parks and rec.... he went to special needs day care for teens ran by city MR services... they were fine... but the city run sheltered work shop really sucks... the city run day care at most sites really sucks (but so do most of the private ones around here)
there just are not enough safe guards for the kids.... it is harder for the kids to get adopted out of foster care or returned home it seems when they enter the private foster care world...
the public agencies could do the job if they really tried...
AH! You think?
I actually agree, but do the public agencies really WANT to try? [After all, it's easier to blame mistakes made by the private companies (not doing the jobs they promised to do), than it is to take full responsibility for the problems found in child-placement services . See: Private fostering safeguard worry .]
Does the government really want the sort of long-term responsibility that goes with children put-in-care? And do tax-payers really want to fund the sort of programs that could make a real long-term difference for these placed children? I can't help but think the average person prefers to save "now", and not really think or care just how much that "savings" will cost later. I believe this is where charities have the edge... it's easy to solicit money for "a good cause"... but the question is: how is that money really being spent? Is the non-profit money going towards the kids-in-need, or is it going towards certain select salaries? (Woops...there's that big crazy money issue, again!)
So here's a hypothetical question: If you took the private interest of adoption out of the child placement equation, would that help force change in public social services? [Think outside the US... think about places like Malawi, where there are now deciding how to treat and place children put in state-care.]
What would have to be done to get better public services so fewer children have to be moved over and over again, (increasing their risk of being hurt and abused over and over again)? What would have to be done to get family/child services RIGHT?
public - private cooperation
I think to get family/child services right you need the right mix of public and private participation. With private participation I don't necessarily mean large private organizations, but personal private initiative.
What we now see is either a public service, which is run by underpaid case workers with a high burn-out rate, or we see that same work done by a private organization which can even afford to pay their workers less than the public sector is allowed to. Next to those two forms there are private organizations that have a secondary, often religious, agenda. Then there are those private services that are only accessible to the rich and there are services (again often run on religious inspiration) that are completely amateurish, relying almost completely on volunteers.
I think what we need is a mix of volunteers and professionals that are paid through the public system. Children need people that care and that cannot always be found in people that work for the government. Personal motivation can do a lot of good, yet the care of children also needs professionalism.
I am not for privatization when it means replacing a public bureaucracy with a private one. That is not going to change anything and it's probably only going to line some pockets. I am not for privatization when religious motivation becomes the driving factor. All too often people's personal motivation to care for children becomes enmeshed with religious motivation, while one exists separate of the other. After all non-religious people care as much about children as religious people. Yet that personal motivation of many people can and should be utilized. Children need personal attention, personal care, something we cannot always expect from someone who keeps a professional distance. So somehow we have to find a way to let public sector cooperate with caring individuals.
Introducing 'Social ' Pedagogy
After reading all of this article I am somewhat frustrated at reading the same material. Whilst i do appriciate that their are a lot of genuine concerned people for the state of Residential Care in England all we seem to do is talk about it and then talk some more about it.
In light of all the recent cuts and the new ConDem party approach to place as much into the private sector I do fear we may be lead by the private sector in developing our childreen's residential services. Is this a good or bad thing? I beleive this could be a very good thing if we are able to get some genuine and honest private providers to make a real investment in the staff training and development, to also provide budgets that staff in the homes can feel they have the resources to provide do the work with children and young people through activities, events and having in-house resources without the fear of asking and then waiting for ever to get any new equipment or waiting for money to take the young people out on trips.
As a residential children's home manager for the past 20 years in verius setting and having come from being a basic child care worker I am very interested and excited at the thought of implementing a 'Social' Pedagogic approach to residential child care. For me its the first time i feel i have an identity, an approach to care and some real tools to help- staff and myself to develop our daily working practices with young people in the home .
Whilst the govenments pilot project is about to finnish (March 2011) my main concerns is what happen's next? Baring in mind it was a Labour govenment that has introduced Every Child Maters and the pilot Pedagogy proramme.
Having recently just left a London authority (children's home) to join a small independent organisation I am aiming to set up a number of small 5 bedded children's home in and around the Lodon area, however this is not just going to be a standard home the organisations has genuinely seen and appriciated the possibilities 'Pedagogy ' can bring to both the children and young people who are at the recieving end of care but to the staff who deliver the care.
I believe the way forward is for the Independent sector to take the lead by providing a much better qaulity care service that is able to address issues of funding and staff training and development in a much more meaningful way than any local authority has done in the past.
I have an opportunity to set a budget that will allow for the staff team to learn new skills have resources availbale to them in order to do their jobs well. and to create an environment (Living Space) in which the young people will have a real say as to the homes oporation.
We aim to create a specific Management style/ approach that takes into account budget, training/develpment, leadership style, infra-structure to allow for administration time as well as direct practice, reflection and evaluation and to consider a flexible rota that is child centred.
The staff training and development will be on-going that introduces staff to theories and approaches including Psychology, child development, attachment, seperation & loss and resiliance amongst other things. The young people will be actively involved in the day to day management of the home an example is for them to create amongs themselves a set of agreed group living rules that they all decide upon (with some support from staff) this will include areas around dealing with isues amongst themselves, week-end routines staff performance, (key-workers, managers whole team) attendance/invite to staff meetings and much more.
We aim to professionalise the staff team and to encourage their own creativity in the work they will do with young people.
I see this as the way forward and hope other will follow.