Applying social work skills in practice
Applying social work skills in practice

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Applying social work skills in practice

2.3 Being ‘looked after’

Social workers have a particular involvement in finding alternative care of all kinds, when service users are moved from their home in the community to other residential accommodation. This may mean working with children who are fostered or placed for adoption, or with adults who are in residential placements or hospital. Social workers also work with both the positive and negative outcomes that affect people as a result of their care experiences. Growing up in local authority care or living in residential care as an adult has the potential to enhance people’s life experiences, but can also have an adverse effect on the individuals involved. For example, a move into residential care for an adult may be a welcome source of support and stimulation but can also lead to ill health, depression and/or a loss of self-esteem. Research studies have attempted to evaluate the outcomes of such social work interventions. For example, the outcomes from kinship care (supported placement with extended family) have been evaluated positively (Aldgate and McIntosh, 2006). The outcomes of adoption placements have been shown to be diverse; ease of adoption has been shown to be related to the age of the child when they are placed for adoption and the support that adopters receive .(Howe and Feast, 2000).

The next activity shows some other experiences of care.

Activity 6 Other experiences of care

Allow about 60 minutes

First, watch Video 3, ‘Care experienced by young people’, which focuses on Colin, a 19-year-old who faced a number of challenges during his years in care.

Then watch Video 4, ‘Father’s day: our adoption journey’, where Paul and David, adoptive parents to two boys, share their story.

What do these videos show about the impact of growing up in care?

Download this video clip.
Skip transcript: Video 3 Care experienced by young people

Transcript: Video 3 Care experienced by young people

[MUSIC PLAYING]

NARRATOR
Colin Ragget is 19 years old and lives in temporary accommodation for homeless young people in Manchester. Currently he’s unemployed, but volunteers for A National Voice, a charity run for and by young people who are or have been in care.
COLIN RAGGET
When I went into care when I was 14, I had basically no control over where I went. Stayed in Manchester twice. The first one was Children’s home. Then it was foster carers. Then those two didn’t work out. So they moved me to Coventry.
It was really, really difficult in Coventry, because of contact. It was maybe once a month or something like that, that I would actually see my parents. And I couldn’t call them because I had no mobile.
Some of the time I was violent. Because school kids would pick on me for actually being in care, being away from my family. So that would spark up fights.
I didn’t fit in, until I went to Yorkshire. I was in one of the Children's homes at Broadwood Down.
NARRATOR
Today Colin’s returning to Broadwood in Halifax, which is the children’s home that had such a positive impact on his life. Being only a short car journey away from his family in Manchester enabled Colin to remain in contact with his parents and siblings, and was a contributing factor to his successful stay at the home, along with the excellent relationship who built with his key worker, Glenda.
COLIN RAGGET
Hello. Glenda was like a second mum to me. If I had a few problems, I’d go to her. She helped me with everything. Nicer sofa’s than when I was here.
GLENDA
Oh, I know. It’s nice to sit down. So what’ve you been up to, Colin?
COLIN RAGGET
Training, all sorts of stuff. Doing a work placement tomorrow.
GLENDA
All right, what’s that going to be doing?
COLIN RAGGET
Reception work, maintenance.
GLENDA
Are you worried about it?
COLIN RAGGET
No.
GLENDA
Aren’t you?
COLIN RAGGET
No, I’m enthusiastic.
[LAUGHTER]
GLENDA
Good. Good, good, good. Well, you’re good on the telephone anyway, aren’t you?
COLIN RAGGET
If you say so.
[LAUGHS]
GLENDA
Come on. Stop pretending you’re shy. You know how good you are. Will you be having your office voice?
[LAUGHS]
COLIN RAGGET
I’ve never had an office voice.
GLENDA
Yeah, you have. Are you wearing your suit?
COLIN RAGGET
No.
GLENDA
Do you have to wear a suit?
COLIN RAGGET
No, I don’t have to.
GLENDA
Oh, OK.
COLIN RAGGET
I’ll be wearing--
GLENDA
Dressed down?
COLIN RAGGET
Clobber like this.
NARRATOR
Glenda is a Senior Residential Care worker for the Keys Group, which took over from Broadwood two years ago. After being a carer for her father, Glenda decided she wanted to pursue a career in care. And after years of working with the elderly and adults with learning difficulties, is now using her experience to work with young people in care.
GLENDA
Working with children, it’s very challenging. There’s no doubt about that. Sometimes you feel that you’re being targeted by that young person. But it’s not a personal thing at all. It’s to do with all the issues that’s happened in their life. And they sometimes don’t know how to express their feelings, apart from being negative. Because that's what they’ve used to been doing.
When I first met Colin, he were a really, really, mixed-up young man, really confused. He had lots and lots of issues that he blamed himself for. He had low self esteem, didn’t really want to interact with anybody. And there were loads of problems surrounding him going home, and things like that.
COLIN RAGGET
Basically, Glenda got me contacts with my parents. She would organise for someone to take me there, drop me off, and pick me up again.
GLENDA
When I contacted mum and dad, I think it really important for them to know that we were only at the other end of the phone. So if there were any issues or any problems, all they had to do were ring us. And we were there to support them.
COLIN RAGGET
To do all that, it means they care. It meant that they care about me. They care that I want to see my parents, me family. And I want to keep contact.
GLENDA
Young people don’t think they’re listened to because they’re in care. And they don’t live with their parents, for whatever reason that might be. And they feel that the’'re not going to have the chances that maybe a young person has, that lives at home.
But we try and encourage that, and get rid of that stigma, by working really hard with them, encouraging them, trying to build the confidence. But they do find it extremely difficult to trust. And they probably think, well, what’s the point?
Because everybody else has let me down in me life. Why’re you going to be any different? And that’s why you’ve got to be different, by not letting them down. And keep working with them, no matter how difficult it gets.
End transcript: Video 3 Care experienced by young people
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Skip transcript: Video 4 Father’s day: our adoption journey

Transcript: Video 4 Father’s day: our adoption journey

FATHER 1
When my partner and I adopted our two boys five years ago, we were worried about how they might react to having two dads. But we needn’t have. In fact, at school they boasted about it to their friends.
FATHER 2
Adoption training had focused on and prepared us for all the possible negative things, but couldn’t have started to prepare us for all the positives. Firstly, it’s a lot of fun having kids in the house. We get to go to the cinema to watch all the latest cartoons. We didn’t realise how it widened our circle of friends and the things we were involved with.
We’re now involved with football coaching, school governors, PTA, and helping out with the Beavers and Cubs.
FATHER 1
I started taking the boys to football training on Friday evenings with our local junior football team. And I sat there, week in, week out watching them play, watching them do their drills and play games. And then, one evening parents were asked if they would be willing to help out, so I thought, why not? And now, I’m club secretary and I coach the under 9s and under 11s.
FATHER 2
I remember one Sunday morning when we made bird boxes. I explained to the boys how to use the different tools and how you design the bird boxes for different birds. It was a great morning.
It still makes me smile when I see birds going into those bird boxes, and it reminds me of the fun we had that day.
FATHER 1
I’ve always been a football fan and gone to matches, but it’s a whole different ball game when you take your kids with you. The pleasure of introducing our sons to my football team and to see them, too, become die-hard fans.
FATHER 2
Adopting our boys has been the most rewarding and fun thing we have done.
End transcript: Video 4 Father’s day: our adoption journey
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Comment

Colin describes a number of difficulties he faced during his time in care. He talks about being moved from place to place and how he felt he had no control over his life. Colin was bullied at school, which he linked to being seen as a child in care. He had difficulty in managing his emotions. He also had difficulty in maintaining his relationship with his family because of his geographical location and lack of telephone access.

Colin’s situation improved when he moved to Broadwood where he formed positive relationships with key workers. His relationship with them was built on trust, and he saw them as genuinely caring and committed to supporting him. He describes Glenda, a senior residential child care worker, as being like a ‘second mum’. Glenda helped him to establish regular contact with his family, which enabled him to strengthen his relationship with his sister who continues to be an important source of support in his life. He feels that the relationships he formed with staff at Broadwood enabled him to turn his life around by building his confidence so as to enable him to live independently and develop strategies to manage his emotions.

The ‘Father’s day’ video footage, by contrast, shows two fathers who are very positive about the richness that the experience of adoption offers both them and their two children.

Intervention and measuring outcomes

The decisions that were made by social workers, and the approach adopted by staff in the children’s homes in Colin’s life, and in the lives of the two fathers and the children adopted by them, are far-reaching. The changes that social workers have the power to implement can make a significant difference in vulnerable people’s lives, and often in positive ways. However, the research evidence about the outcomes for looked after children have been of concern. The reality of poor outcomes for children leaving care has been measurable. Mike Stein, who compiled a review of national and international research, notes that care leavers ‘are more likely than children who have not been in care to have poorer educational qualifications, lower levels of participation on post-16 education, be young parents, be homeless and have higher levels of unemployment, offending behaviour and mental health problems’ (Stein, 2006, p. 273).

The Government has looked at the evidence from research (Stein, 2006) and has aimed to improve the achievements of ‘looked after’ children. In particular, it has looked at ways to strengthen the role of the ‘corporate parent’ (in the shape of local authorities and their staff) and to emphasise the responsibility to improve the educational opportunities of children in care. The responsibilities of local authorities towards care leavers have been specified, and there is a duty to provide a pathway and support plan for children leaving care (College of Social Work, 2015).

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