Presentation on theme: "Dr. Caroline Leeson University of Plymouth The importance of the relationship between looked after children and their social worker/guardian."— Presentation transcript:
Dr. Caroline Leeson University of Plymouth The importance of the relationship between looked after children and their social worker/guardian
What was the research? An exploration of the world of the looked after child, trying to encourage, promote and hear their voice. Involving children aged 4-13 as co- constructors, analysts and evaluators. Seeking to identify the key components of successful engagement in decision making
What literature informed the research? Legal framework Both the 1989 Children Act (DoH, 1989) and UNCRC (Unicef, 1989), whilst talking about the child’s right to be heard, appear to uphold the rights of adults to make decisions about their competency, whether the children has a view worth listening to and in what format or forum this listening will take place.
What literature informed the research? Policy and practice framework Research into the significance of the voice of the child within a welfare context shows a patchwork of experiences, with some children being listened to and others not (Ofsted, 2009)
What literature informed the research? Theoretical frameworks Power Participation The differences between caring for and caring about Child development Decision making
What methods were used? Interviews with individual children/young people and practitioners Focus groups with children/young people and practitioners from Children’s Services, Independent Fostering Agency and Family Court Advisors
What methods were used? With the adults – conversation With the children conversation and activities, including: Large bag of art materials, games, dolls and other resources Decision tree activity Collage Workbook Ladder of statements Posters
Caroline and I will be talking about what makes me happy, what makes me sad and what makes me cross when I am talking to adults about being in care. be talkiat makes me happy, what makes me sad and what makes me cross when I am talking to adults about being in care.
What were the results? Key findings Personal identity Powerful Caring relationships Age and ability Self belief Confidence Experiences of competence Importance of memory Permitting circumstances Conferment of power Encouragement to care Support from others Listening Time Training and knowledge Range of resources Clarity of roles Memory keepers and memory practisers Power Relationship Consultation Caring for each other Working with others
What were the conclusions? Permitting circumstances An affective environment that recognises emotional labour and encourages care and power sharing Support Time Training Resources Social worker Looked after child
What were the conclusions? Quality relationships between social workers and children need to have firm foundations of trust and honesty: ‘Some social workers only smile with their mouths. They have to have smiley eyes if they are going to be good social workers.’ (Debbie, 8)
What were the conclusions? The individuals need to be caring and intrinsically interested in each other and, most importantly, the relationship needs to be stable: ‘ When I asked her (Anna, 7) if she thought social workers made conscious decisions as to whether they were going to love the children they worked with, she replied: ‘Oh yeah. If your social worker loves you, you get good things. If he doesn’t, then you don’t.’
What were the conclusions? Unless there are favourable permitting circumstances: Resources; Support; An affective environment that recognises the emotional interplay of child and social worker, the relationship will not work or will be weak and therefore unsatisfactory.
What were the conclusions? ‘The system does not allow commitment to individual children and it’s so frustrating’ (Jake). ‘We have a new social worker, but I don’t know her name. She is always busy and only comes to see us sometimes’ (Alice). ‘She just cancelled my review and did not give a reason except she was too busy, something else had come up. That’s rubbish’ (Vickie). ‘I really enjoyed it when Derek took me up country to see my dad. At last we had some time to talk. He’s a funny bloke and I think I got to know him better. We have got on better since we got back, anyway’ (Mark).
Recommendations and food for thought Social policymakers should recognise the right of looked after children to be actively involved in making decisions about their care needs, present and future (Ofsted, 2009). The development of a bureaucratic, managerialist system of care that is outcome driven (Parker and Bradley, 2007) has created a situation where the development of productive relationships has been hindered or discouraged
Recommendations and food for thought The result has been a failure to honour the significant emotional cost involved (Hunter and Smith, 2007) and to develop strategies and systems that support and acknowledge the emotional labour required to properly care about looked after children.
Recommendations and food for thought What is needed is a corporate parenting framework that places emphasis on the positive experiences of being parented, cared about and nourished rather than on the bureaucratisation of service delivery.
Recommendations and food for thought A good starting point would be an overhaul of the review system. Reviews should be regarded as part of an ongoing process that helps to build relationships and foster effective communication rather than an administrative necessity The court system also requires intervention as access for looked after children to the courts was regarded as highly restrictive for all participants
Recommendations and food for thought A culture of participation in collective decision making (Hart, 1992; Shier, 2001) should be promoted through changes to social policy regarding looked after children. Creating an affective, participatory environment will begin the process of establishing a new social care system for looked after children