Young people in residential care want practitioners to be consistent, set boundaries and build stable and trusting relationships with them, according to a new toolkit from Action for Children.
The Keeping Myself Safe toolkit draws on the views of 25 young people on what social care workers can do to help them feel safe and boost their emotional resilience and highlights how it ties into existing research and practice.
It names five qualities that the young people want from children’s home workers:
1. Provide a stable and consistent relationship that will help them develop friendships in the future
2. Build trust and grow young people’s self-esteem so they can open up to practitioners
3. Understand the young people’s past and accept them for who they are in order to build their confidence
4. Give young people a feeling of control and accountability for what happens while they are in care
5. Listen and communicate well, set boundaries, provide support and challenge the risks young people take
In the document, the young people say they feel better when staff keep their promises and “say thanks when we do things and show their appreciation”.
The young people also say staff who offer them more choice, clear boundaries and remember important things about them help them.
“Don’t speak to me like a kid. Speak to me like a human being,” said one. “Ask my opinion and how I’m feeling…we want to be offered options.”
Another said: “Some people don’t stick to all of the rules. If you don’t…there’s consequences. It’s good, it teaches us that we can’t do that stuff.”
While another of the young people noted: “They do remember important things, like my favourite food. When I’m sad they make my favourite food.”
The toolkit advises practitioners to be realistic about what can be achieved and “do what you say you will do”.
It also urges children’s home workers to “undertake on-going self-reflection” about the power balance between them and the residents, and to be clear about what is expected of the young people.
Tony Hawkhead, chief executive of Action for Children, said: “We know that children in care are more likely to fall into crime, drugs or homelessness in adult life.
“But we also know that when children are given the chance to develop in an environment they consider home with people they know and trust, they are more resilient to these dangers.
“We have taken on board young people’s views to produce this valuable resource to support care workers so they can help young people succeed in life to the best of their ability.”