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Pillars of Parenting

Last week I called in to talk to staff at one of the local care homes in Kirklees, where I am the Director for Children and Young People Services.

This was a follow up visit to talk about the Pillars of Parenting approach which we are introducing into all children’s homes across the borough.

The approach offers the theoretical explanation that the often poor life outcomes of looked-after children and young people results from the impact of abuse, neglect and parental rejection, which has occurred before any contact with the care system. This is backed up by evidence from child psychology research.

Central to this way of working is the close guidance and support that staff receive in understanding the reasons why young people behave as they do. The approach considers the different interventions which can be used to support staff and the young person to reach improved outcomes.

The ability to reflect in one-to-one supervision and together in team meetings about the impact that the techniques are having upon the behaviour and the wellbeing of each young person is a critical part of the process.

Expert guidance from psychologists helps to introduce structure and rigour to the process and there are strong parallels with the reflective supervision process which is being developed for other social workers.

We all know that a young person in care is just as talented, intelligent and has the same potential as any other young person. Yet, there is a strong correlation between being in care and ending up with poor educational outcomes. Many young people in care engage in other self-defeating behaviours, have mental health problems and their opportunities in life are often limited – this is clearly something we want to address.

Understanding the causes of the issues faced by children in care creates the imperative for a new ways of thinking, which includes evidence-based support by residential care staff.

I wanted to find out more about the difference Pillars of Parenting is making to the way staff work and support young people. The home I visited cares for six young people, both boys and girls aged 14 to 16. They have lived together for different lengths of time and as with any group of young people they face different challenges.

Barbara, the deputy manager, told me about the difference the approach has been making – it has enhanced the discussions in team meetings and has had a significant role to play in one-to-one supervision sessions between managers and frontline workers. I was told that as a staff member’s knowledge and confidence builds, they are able to make better use of the support, resulting in a deeper understanding of the situation of each young person. The team discussions also help to build a more consistent approach to dealing with individual young people across the team because there is a better understanding of their needs at a given point in time.

Interestingly Barbara also felt that the staff’s professional confidence in other settings was boosted, so they felt more able to represent the interests of young people in the home when dealing with other agencies and professionals.

Staff work hard to make sure that all young people positively engage in school and it was great to hear relationships with local schools are now much more constructive than they were a few years ago. The expectation that young people not only attend school but that staff support their learning and education in other ways is clearly embedded. So much so, that they go the extra mile to ensure families are positively engaged in the young person’s education by supporting them to attend parents’ evenings, for example.

I took the opportunity to talk to some of the young people whilst I was there, including someone who was planning to redecorate part of their bedroom and sort out the practicalities of how this was going to be done.

Michael, one of our care staff, talked about food preferences and how the young people are involved in choosing menus in their regular meetings. He does a lot of the cooking there because he enjoys doing it and others urge him to do so because apparently he’s a very good cook. Michael recommended a recipe for strawberry roulade by Mary Berry which he told me is easy to make and always popular with the home staff and young people alike.

I promised to visit again and next time I will make a point of calling in at teatime, so that I can join everyone for what I am sure would be a delicious meal!

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