Gavin Cross, home manager, Hillcrest Childrens Services
In residential child care, it is vitally important to fully engage with young people and build relationships to enable development.
Part of this development is through education within the care setting, and here at Hillcrest Park Farm we have established a “teach not preach” approach.
This approach consists of reframing negative situations, concepts and behaviours as opportunities to educate young people, rather than simply addressing and sanctioning what we view as unacceptable. This is done both proactively and reactively dependent on the situation.
A non-judgemental forum
As well as using online resources and in-house methods, we have found that bringing in outside training to be delivered is extremely effective. Training is delivered in the form of educational workshops, which allow young people to share views, create supportive relationships and further develop their individual educational and care plans.
We feel these workshops play a key part in our young peoples’ progress as they offer a non-judgemental forum that encourages them to challenge their own misconceptions. We believe that young people are more likely to adhere to conclusions they come to themselves, rather than ones that are forced upon them.
Topics covered in these workshops include; internet safety, risks of absconding, cyber-anti-discrimination, child sexual exploitation and also personal, social and health education workshops targeting sex, drugs, gender empowerment and relationships. All topics that are highly relevant to the young people looked after at Hillcrest Park Farm.
The workshops have been delivered by a range of professionals including police officers, Barnado’s representatives and local authority trainers. Training is then followed up and supported by care staff.
We feel it is particularly important that the workshops are delivered by an external party, because it adds to the importance of the message being delivered. Young people are aware that the people delivering the training are independent, and so they feel comfortable asking questions that they might not necessarily ask staff.
One of our young people, for example, was receiving unwanted attention via social media, and so we arranged for the local police community support office to deliver a workshop on internet safety. This has proven to be a highly effective way of keeping the young people safe on line, and is down to the collaborative nature of the “teach not preach” approach.
The workshops are followed up by staff during key work sessions and within one-to-one settings. This is to make sure the message has been understood and to evaluate if further work is required. It’s also a good opportunity to get feedback from the young people on how they feel about the approach and so far, feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
Positives promoted, negatives challenged
Residents who normally find engagement difficult have participated with ease with the support of the team and the other young people. This is down to the community ethos and the teach not preach approach used at Hillcrest Park Farm, where positives are promoted and negatives challenged by all members of the community equally.
Ben Lovatt is the lead consultant at The Training Effect and talks about the programme he ran at Hillcrest Park Farm:
“Focus groups were held between staff and young women around the issues that were important to them and went on to inform the content and focus of the group work programme. This approach proved highly effective in facilitating the engagement process and ensuring ‘buy in’ from young women.
“The group work programme covered the constructs of a healthy relationship, power and control, consent, gender expectations and intimate partner abuse.
“The young women who attended were afforded the opportunity to explore the factors that affect and impact the issues discussed and express their own thoughts and opinions in a safe environment.
“As a facilitator I can only hope more children’s homes follow this lead and invest in the provision of high quality and specialist education and awareness.
“The group were an absolute pleasure to work with and the staff were immensely supportive of both us as a provider, but more importantly the young women in attendance – especially when covering what I am sure was a very difficult subject for some of the young women in attendance.
“We look forward to continuing to work with Hillcrest Childrens Services and collaborating to broaden access to intervention for some of those that are the hardest to reach.”