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Promoting Effective Direct Work With Children

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  1. Promoting Effective Direct WorkWith Children Shelagh Beckett and Bridget Betts Dublin 2003

  2. Why Life Story Work matters: “Through their life books our children have to come to own their story little by little, mainly because they have gone through them so often with other people and each time it comes clearer to them. Besides in retelling it, they think of new questions to ask and gain new realisations each time.” SW quoted in Ryan & Walker, 1999

  3. Communicating with children • Listening to children was1 of 6 priority areas for funding in the first year of Quality Protects (Government initiative to improve outcomes for looked after children) • Strengthening the voice of the child remains a key issue within child care work, child protection and work with looked after children

  4. National Adoption Standards England, 2001 imp. April 2003 • Standard A4 “Every child will have his or her wishes and feelings listened to, recorded and taken into account. Where they are not acted upon, the reasons for not doing so will be explained to the child and properly recorded.”

  5. NAS cont’d • A6 “Children will be give clear explanations and information about adoption, covering what happens at each stage (including court), and how long each stage is likely to take in their individual case.”

  6. NAS cont’d • A7 “Children will be well prepared for joining a new family. This will include clear appropriate information on their birth family and life before adoption, and information about adopters and their family. Children are entitled to information provided by their birth families, which will be kept safe by agencies and adopters. It will be provided to adopted children, or adults, at a time and in a manner that reflects their age and understanding, as well as the nature of the information concerned.”

  7. Impact of Trauma, Neglect and Abuse • Development is likely to be affected in a variety of ways - delays in reaching expected milestones and 'patchy' progress i.e. the child seems to 'act their age' in some respects but not in others. • Some children with gaps in their earlier development may appear to be 'stuck' at an earlier chronological age.

  8. Fahlberg also highlights: • developmental delays in any or all key areas of development i.e. physical, cognitive and psychological • the child may have developed maladaptive patterns of behaviour • unresolved separation issues may cause the child to become stuck • misperceptions can hinder the usual progression of growth and change

  9. Cared for population • Highly vulnerable • Likelihood of multiple family problems • Culture of secrecy, non-disclosure e.g. CSA • Impacts on child: inc. risks of low self esteem and lack of choice, control etc., • Lack of continuity (e.g. impact of moves and different carers: pre care and during)

  10. Research, SSI Reports • Between 20-25% of adoptedchildren do not have a Life Story book (SSI 1996, Lowe & Murch 1999) ?figure pre-adoption • Agency practice needs to improve considerably if it is to meet the criteria for good practice set out in the SSI’s report For Children’s Sake this requires amongst other things, that:

  11. Research, SSI cont’d • “Specific work is done with children which helps secure for them both an understanding and a record about their circumstances and their origins” • Most children who had LS books felt positive about them and found them helpful • A few did not understand or retain all the info. contained in them or conveyed during the work itself.

  12. Direct work: a process not a one-off activity can help children • Repeat – info. in different ways • Revisit – explanations and explore feelings • Recycle – at different ages and stages, events will, or may be perceived differently • Reminders – opportunities for carers to acknowledge that past is not forgotten • Reappraise – the meaning and impact now

  13. Without Life Story work: Lack of information > multiple impacts • Impact on identity and self esteem • Cognitive distortions e.g. self blame • May affect the child’s capacity to settle and to make new attachments • Impact on sibling relationships, contact, future searching etc.,

  14. Without life story work • Misperceptions can impede child’s ability to settle and develop new attachments • Adopters responding to the consultation document Providing Effective Adoption Support (2002) highlighted Life Story Work as 1 of 7 areas of intervention that they found most useful after placement

  15. Fahlberg sees Life Story Work as 'an opportunity to identify strong feelings about past events, to resolve issues, to correct misperceptions.' It can help: • to organise past events chronologically • to aid in ego development • to increase self-esteem

  16. Fahlberg - cont’d • a child re-read at his/her own pace • a child share their past with selected others • build a sense of trust with direct worker/ carer • gain acceptance of the child's life, help the child accept their own past; and • facilitate bonding

  17. ‘Opening up’ can be difficult “Children want to belong to ordinary families. When parents’ problems lead them to behave in unpredictable or embarrassing ways children want to keep it secret.” Cleaver et al, (1999) p.72 Children’s Needs – Parenting Capacity

  18. “Mummy is that a true promise?” • Life story work must take account of differing accounts and perspectives • Children will often have receive mixed and confusing ‘versions of reality’ • The experiences of siblings may vary substantially > impact on relationships and placement

  19. We all communicate in a range of ways • Different methods facilitate communication • Providing children with some choices helps empower them • Computers = less boring and less ‘adult driven’! • Children are often more at ease when ‘doing something’ and talking