If you could point a finger at someone to blame for the cuts that we are starting to shoulder and feel the bite of who would you point it at. I would imagine that it would be like a game of spin the bottle but no one wanting to get in the cupboard with Local Authority’s.
Its been a funny week this week, my Manager who had been on leave, has returned to work. And with this appears to have a new eagerness to make sudden changes in the teams practises! it seems at any cost. It appears as a result of this, the team had made a concious decision to be working from home all this week.
Perhaps this eagerness is due to the important changes in Children’s Social Care; as new Guidances comes into force on the 1st of April 2011. With these changes comes a new framework for Care planning.
|Department of Education|
This diagram shows how all of the sections of the legal framework fits together, in order to keep the theme of the Child at the centre. And maybe it is me, but this is not a new concept? and all services should link together to provide answers to met the individual Child’s needs.
It felt like we were almost preparing for this change for the first time by inviting in an external trainer to explain the changes to Children Act 1989 Guidance and Regulations Volume 3: Planning Transitions to Adulthood for Care Leavers. However, this soon changed as after the lunch it seemed like everyone had starting to flag with the dry delivery, and copious amounts of handouts that would need to be read!
This Guidance sets out the contents of the “Pathway Plan” and explains how and with whom this plan should be created with. However, this is not as easy as it always may seem. For many Young People, and including myself at 16, leaving home and starting on your own seems daunting. At least I was able to have a choice as to when I moved out!
The Guidance is supposed to aim to give Care Leavers the same level of support that their peers would receive when leaving home from a reasonable parent. “Reasonable” being the key term for tailoring a plan that meets the individual needs of the Young Person in preparing and support to Leave Care.
Have you ever wondered when you become an Adult and when your Childhood finishes. Is there a date? a time? maybe a place. I still struggle to work out whether I have succeed in growing up? But for the young people we work with that are in Care, this decision is made for them. The choice made by law. For many an age that is counted down from the day the Care Order is granted, and often for the wrong reasons.
This week I have supported one such Young Person as her 18th Birthday draws closer. A likeable young woman who has been diagnosed with a borderline personality disorder. Who as a child was sexually abused by a family friend, and neglected by her parents. And as she grew older, developed an attention seeking personality for the emergency services.
This Young Person frequently self harms through cutting, and tying ligatures or taking an overdose. All of which would always be done out of hours in order to be seen by the Police or Ambulance service. A misunderstanding of the Care that they provided, and a care that she feels that she is not receiving and craves from her parents.
With such little time left to her 18th Birthday, and a lack of engagement with the local CAMH’s Service was not leaving a lot of options for this Young Person to receive help and address her concerns, preventing her to live safely. The reason why this is important is that at 18 she will be in a twilight age to old for Child Services and to young for Adult Services.
In order to make these last few months in care work, I asked for a multi professional meeting to be arranged with the Young Person to be involved. The aim of the meeting was to encourage the Young Person to develop her own Pathway Plan. A plan of how she will successfully Leave Care.
In arranging this meeting it gave an opportunity for the Young Person to share with her parents her feelings, about what she has been doing. A chance for them to hear the pain she suffers and why. An opportunity for this to be done in a safe manner, to offer support to both parents and the young person. The advantage being that the Professionals could then add the support that they could offer to the young person and her parents. Similar to a Family Group Conference but with less family and friends.
The meeting was fraught, and there was a lot of anger and tension from both the young person and her parents. However, I was proud of the Young Person and noticed the confidence that I had seen develop over the months; as she spoke in front of everyone. I also acknowledged that she remained present through out the whole meeting often listening to difficult comments about herself. When I reminded her of this I could see a smile on her face and her confidence grow as a result.
For many young people 18 will always be too soon to leave Care, especially when support is needed. But the level of support required is not enough for Adult Mental Health Services. And with a shaky agreement to try group work therapy to help address issues and coping mechanism. There was a positive outcome to this meeting and there is still time to help prepare her for what might be available post 18. More importantly rebuild and re establish relationships with her family, that the young person holds important to her.
I know for myself at 18 I had left home, and I was looking after myself. However, this was my choice and I had my family. Further more my mental health was good. For this young person it may not be as easy but she has been given the choice, and an opportunity to take the help one last time before she turns 18. So far it has been 5 days since she has last self harmed………
Have you ever wondered why you chose to work in Social Work? the long hours, mountains of paperwork and constant criticism from Family’s, the Media, Managers and just about anyone else who can speak. It’s also not often that you can see the effect of any change that you may have instigated. And more often then not you see family’s come back to your attention. The reality being that these family’s need our help and support beyond what is offered.
Despite this Social Work is still about working with people, parents, brothers, sisters, cousins and strangers. Social Work is about bringing down barriers, and empowering the people we work with to engage with Society. Developing with them a plan they know so that they will not need a high level of intervention. Social Work is also about Safeguarding, and protecting the vulnerable and supporting them to remain within their family, or home.
As a Children’s Social Worker it is not about removing Children to place just for adoption just because we can. Unlike what is printed in the Telegraph claiming that Social Workers are Child Snatchers and adoptions are forced. I think it is important to remember that there is a Court process that is followed and that the Judges have to balance the basic principles of the Children Act 1989 and the Welfare of the Child. Plus CAFCASS offer their own independent view.
Often our most challenging cases are our most rewarding. And this week I bumped into a Foster Carer, who was caring for a baby boy I removed 18 months ago. The mother was a drug user unable to break the cycle of her substance misuse. A few months earlier I had removed her two year old daughter, and I can still remember her face as she sobbed realising she could not put her daughters needs before her own need for a hit.
Her family all offered support giving her false hope at the Child Protection conference, but in reality they offered her none. Having spent hours trying to try arrange support within the family I felt frustrated when they walked away. Seeing the rejection in the young mothers face and attitude to the safeguarding process. I then discovered that the mother was pregnant again. A one night stand with her drug dealer. The baby boy was born three months early, and with withdrawal symptoms and required oxygen for the first three months after discharge from hospital.
I can still remember coming into work and answering the phone at 9am to hear the Foster Carer tell me what had happened during the evening. The oxygen alarms had gone off, meaning the baby had stopped breathing and only had minutes to live. A quick 999 call and basic first aid was the only thing keeping the baby boy alive. Showing how serious this case was, and the level of risk involved returning the baby boy home.
Despite this I wanted the Mum to be involved to maintain their relationship and attachment. I called the Mum and made the arrangements for her to get to the hospital. What touched me the most was remembering the Foster Carer telling me that, the young Mum had introduced her to the nurses as her own Mum. Craving the care and emotional support herself that she asked the Foster Carer to support her with this.
I had worked hard for her daughter to return to her care, but the pressure from the dealers had her hooked back onto the drugs completely. The lack of support from her family and the new baby made the escape she received from the drugs more attractive. And the drug rehabilitation programme broke down completely and she disappeared from the area leaving her Daughter and Son behind.
So when I bumped into the Foster Carer this week, I was sad to hear that the Mum had refused contact since. But pleased to see the baby was still alive and reaching its developmental milestones and going to meet his new family. His older sister living with her Dad and half siblings.
So although Social Work is hard and the rewards are small, it is important to remember that there is satisfaction at times. When there is happy endings for the children we work with.