Have you ever wondered what happened to being able to understand teenagers? We have all gone through this stage unless you are reading this and you still are a teenager. In which case help!! who are you and how can social workers meet your needs?
Is it really that bad? can social workers really not understand teenagers of today? is the assessment of need that is started at 15 and a half a poor assessment of adolescent needs? As a social worker who has worked with adolescent young people for over ten years it does worry me that such bold statements have been made, especially in the ‘Rochdale‘ incident.
However, does this not go deeper than just social workers not understanding teenagers and Residential homes that can not keep teenagers safe? Yes it does, this can not be about another story where social workers can not keep children safe! if this statement was true then what is the point.
However, better matching of young people who are going to be placed and living together is needed rather than a ‘take as many as we can to raise our profit’ attitude is definitely needed then maybe this could be a start.
But what is it that teenagers want, and why is it that they remain one of the most vulnerable groups in society? is perhaps a more meaningful question. The issue of young girls and boys being groomed by stronger and more unsavoury characters is not just confined to children living in residential care, in fact if Local Authority’s are struggling to keep them safe when they are already in residential care how are they also keeping the teenagers living at home safe. Where moody grunts, doors slamming and late nights may all be part of what could be classified as human development and teenagers learning about themselves.
The teenage years are the most important years after your ‘early years’ for social, physical and emotional development. This is particularly significant for children in care that have suffered early childhood neglect and abuse. Where early messages of hate, distrust and self worth have already been preprogrammed into the identity of the young person. Where emotional warmth and knowledge of who you are become confused between torn and inconsistent messages from families and social care. Where older younger people start to develop their own relationships and start to make and take risks of their own.
All acceptable human development so far, but why then is it that more and more young girls and boys rush for relationships that are or may be abusive. Moreover, why is it so hard for workers to have these conversations in a meaningful way challenging already learnt behaviour and making positive challenges to these types of attachments.
Perhaps the biggest question is why are local authority’s are not trying harder to engage these vulnerable young people. Maybe this is to harsh as I know that especially where I work that there is already a lot of support offered to young people. However, what is lacking is the time and ability for social workers and residential workers to identify and promote participation and answer questions that young people have about their own families, themselves and life. Rather than ticking boxes, and offering meaningless services as a way of approaching this subject.
But what is clear is that social workers should be checking out placements before they are being made, ensuring their levels of visits are maintained and that the level of engagement with the young person is being maintained between the home, family and social worker and the reviews of the looked after children’s plan should be perhaps more frequent where the placements are made outside of the local authority.