Blog by Richard Mills
Currently, there are approximately 100,000 children looked after in alternative care environments in the UK – a sharp increase in the number over the past ten years. Looked after children are predominantly placed in foster care or residential childcare services – sometimes referred to as children’s homes. Children enter the care system for several reasons, most commonly because they have suffered abuse or neglect. Others because their parent(s) or family carers are ill, disabled or have died. Some are in care because they have a disability and need specialist support that their families cannot give them. Many have lived in poverty throughout their lives. There is a common misconception that children are in care because they have done something wrong – this is a myth.
For a small minority, that is true, but for the vast majority, it is not.
Reflecting on your own life, perhaps you were in the care system as a child yourself, and that’s why you choose to work in the childcare sector. Maybe you had a very different experience of being a child, one where you grew up in a stable and loving family home. Whatever your experience many of us can identify certain people who made a significant, positive impact on our lives, and helped us change course when needed. Do you ever wonder where you would have ended up without them? We all need positive role models throughout our lives, not just when we are children, those role models are especially important when we are growing up because that is when we learn so much about how to be and behave in life, how to treat others, and even how to treat ourselves.
In a high proportion of cases but certainly not all, children who are cared for in an alternative environment have not had such positive role models to learn from in their family and social environments. In fact, quite the opposite is true when the majority are in care because of abuse or neglect. And so, an opportunity presents when they enter the care system to offer them a different kind of experience, one that shows them a more loving, caring, nurturing, healthy, and socially acceptable way to be. We learn a lot from the reflections of others, which means we observe what they do and copy their behaviours and actions, often in the belief that it is the ‘right’ way to do things. Working in residential childcare is an extremely important, highly rewarding, and challenging career choice. In fact, it is hard to imagine something more rewarding than helping a child or young person with such a troubled past to turn their lives around and supporting them to see a bright future, where they have real purpose and can make a difference in the lives of others. Just as we have been inspired by the role models in our own lives, we can inspire others by our own reflection.
For those amazing individuals who do choose this line of work, there is of course a lot to learn, and this is where we at Grey Matter Learning can help. We are passionate about providing excellent training, learning and development resources, and we specialise in the social care sector. This is why we have recently developed a suite of residential childcare training courses for both managers and care staff. And this includes courses specifically written to support those who are studying for their RQF Level 3 Diploma for Residential Childcare covering topics including:
- Supporting children and young people who have experienced harm or abuse
- Support the wellbeing and resilience of children and young people
- Safeguarding children and young people in residential care
- Support attachment and positive relationships for children and young people
In addition to supporting those studying for their diploma qualification, they also offer support staff and others insights into what is important when working with children and young people and the qualities a great role model can offer.
Through ‘Click’ our online training portal, you can also access courses like: ‘Autism Awareness’, ‘Positive Behaviour Support’, ‘Self-harm and Suicide Awareness’ and ‘Person-Centred Care’. This will either supplement what has been learned through completing the diploma or act as stand-alone courses. In fact, you don’t have to be undergoing the diploma to take any of these courses – they are available to everyone who is signed up to ‘Click’.
It is inspiring to read the stories of children who have received support have changed their lives for the better. From being involved in drug dealing and crime, being victims of child sexual exploitation, being in abusive relationships, being part of a gang or living in poverty, to lives that have a realistic expectation for a positive, purposeful and productive future. Through our online courses and learning programmes, we want to do our part in supporting all of you who do this amazing work and help make a difference in the lives of the children you care for.