To consider the process and practice of admitting young people into residential care today it is important to have an awareness of the history of residential child care. The second half of the 19th century saw the introduction of Children’s homes by philanthropists such as Victorian Gentleman William Quarrier and the Reverend Jupp. Residential child care was provided in groups of small cottages usually in rural locations. Residential child care today still contains charitable/voluntary interventions. (RGU 2007)
Prior to 1983 there was no specific legislation that controlled the admission of young people into secure accommodation, an exception to this was if a young person was convicted of a serious offence through the criminal courts. In these circumstances the Secretary of State had the power to place the young person in a place of security. A hearing could name a specific school for a young person or child but it was left to the head of the establishment as to whether or not the placement was in a secure or open setting. This meant that the child could be moved between the units within the residential establishment without informing the hearing system. This raised concerns that the European Convention of Human Rights was being breached by Scotland. The three heads of the existing establishments and the Scottish office set out criteria for admission into secure accommodation. This resulted in new legislation being added to the health and social services and social adjudications Act (1993) which took effect from 1st February 1984. (Secure in the Knowledge, 2005, p7, p8)
Scandals that led to public enquiries involving the standards of residential care for children and young people have also contributed to the higher level of care now provided.
Grounds for referral: The reasons a child or young person is referred to the reporter and children’s hearing system vary, the child may have been abused physically or sexually or both. They may have been absent from school without reasonable cause, offended, been a victim of an offence or bullying, misused drugs or alcohol, be out with parental control, or any combination of these could be grounds for referral. (Children’s hearings 2011)
Referral: The foundation of the children’s hearing system has laid out the following guidelines for the children’s reporter and panel. When a Reporter receives a referral, they will undertake an initial investigation to decide what course of action, if any, is in the child or young person’s best interests. The Reporter has to consider whether there is enough evidence to support the grounds of the referral and then decide whether compulsory measures of supervision are required. The Reporter has statutory discretion when deciding the next step, they may
â€¢ decide that no further action is required. The child or young person and usually the parent or appropriate person will be informed of any decision in writing.
â€¢ refer the child or young person to the local authority so that advice, guidance and/or assistance can be given on an informal and voluntary basis. This usually involves support from a social worker.
â€¢ arrange a children’s hearing because they consider that compulsory measures of supervision are required for the child. A children’s hearing panel is made up of three members of the public who have had training in this area. It must be made up of both male and female members and aims to have a balance of age and experience. One of the panel members will chair the hearing. The hearing thinks about and makes decisions on the welfare of the child or young person, taking into account all of the relevant circumstances, including any risk taking and offending behaviours. (ibid)
According to Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) Consultation Pack on the Review of the Children’s Hearings System, the most common decision for disposal of a hearing is a supervision requirement. This means that the child will have contact with a social worker or other identified professional on a regular basis. The child or young person will have to meet certain criteria. This is as well as other people and professionals having to do specific tasks to work with the child or young person. A supervision requirement can have any condition attached if the hearing thinks it will help the child or young person. The local authority has to put the supervision requirement into action. Some examples of conditions attached to disposals are: seeing your appointed social worker regularly; attending a special programme to address their behaviours; being placed in foster care or in a residential school or in a secure unit because of particular concerns; victim-awareness and/or mediation. (GIRFEC)
Pre-admission: Requests for placements must normally be made by Practice Team Workers. Exceptions to this are out-of-hours Referrals from the Emergency Social Work Services or emergency Referrals through the Criminal Justice system from Court Social Workers. Once initial requests for placement are received and considered appropriate, and then the referring worker will be required to complete our Secure Referrals Application Form. This will then be considered by the next meeting of the Secure Referral Group. The main principles that guide this decision are: Secure Accommodation must only be used as the last resort and all secure placements must be for the shortest time possible. (Edinburgh Secure Services 2009)
It is always better if there is a transition plan put into place for a child or young person coming into care but this is not always available as the child or young person may have a secure warrant attached to them or they may have to be accommodated imideatly for their safety or the safety of others.
The admission process is the same for all children and young people who are entering the care system. This is however a more relaxed process if the child or young person has a planned transition into care. A transition plan follows a basic four week plan. This is not set in stone but the principals are.
Week 1 induction, this is a chance for the keyworker to become familiar with the young person’s background and file, do risk assessments based on the available information and start to develop a transition plan.
Week 2 transition plan, this will include meeting the young person discussing the care plan and putting a transition plan with visits to the unit into place.
Week 3 introducing the young person to the open unit through meeting staff and other young people,
Week 4 building on Week 3, within the secure environment there would be preparation for endings.
The keyworker from the secure unit would also visit the young person in the open unit during the move and once they have moved to provide support for their transition. (ibid)
By following these guidelines the trauma of being admitted into care can be minimised although the child or young person will still suffer the feelings of loss and separation from their family, community and peers. Elizabeth, Kubler Ross describes the stages of separation and loss as D.A.B.D.A, Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. These stages of grief can also be applied to a young person going into care and will not necessarily follow any set order. (Kubler Ross, 1969)
Anthropologist Kalervo Oberg discussed four stages of culture shock which an individual can go through when entering a strange culture. These stages can also be related to a young person entering into care. The four stages of culture shock are described as, the honeymoon period, the crisis phase, the adjustment phase and adaptation. Young people coming into care often display behaviours that they would not normally use, this will include being really quiet, angry, violent, hostil and submissive before they accept the new milieu they find themselves in.
Staff in the unit can also assist in a less traumatic transition by assisting the young person to decorate their bedroom with posters and personal effects to make them feel more at home. Facilitating contact with parents or careers and ensuring the child is made to feel welcome in the unit by introducing them to the other residents and staff.
“Institutionalism is the syndrome which is now used to describe a set of poorly adapted behaviours that are induced by the pressures of living in any institutional setting”. (McNown, Miriam. Johnson Rhodes, Rita. 2007)
There is always a danger of becoming institutionalized when staying in care for extended periods, by trying to promote a sense of self and personal identity within the young people this is less likely to happen.
If a young person is to be secured under section 70 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 they have no involvement in the identification of a placement. The resources available may mean that the child is placed out with their geographical area. This is an institutional response which is in direct conflict with the rights of the child; thought also needs to be given to statutory requirements and the law. The national care standards for care describe what each individual child should expect from their time in care. The relevant section is “beginning your stay” standards 1-7. The standards are grouped under headings that follow the child or young person’s journey through the service. The significant ones in this case are “Beginning your stay” (standards 1 to 7)
1 Arriving for the first time
2 First meetings
3 Keeping in touch with people who are important to you
4 Support arrangements
5 Your environment
6 Feeling safe and secure
7 Management and staffing arrangement
By following these standards admission trauma can be minimized and the young person will be able to continue to have a sense of self and personal identity.
Forming new attachments is another area that a young person coming into care can find problematic, a securely attached child, according to, Mary Ainsworth, in the “Strange Situation” study, exhibit distress when separated from caregivers. Edinburgh children and Families department are now working towards an attachment promoting model of care. This will work in conjunction with anti-oppressive and anti-discriminatory practice.
“It is vitally important to us that young people are able to develop their identity within a positive environment. Therefore, we will not tolerate any unfair treatment or discrimination of young people which is based on their age, gender, culture, race, religious practices or beliefs, sexual orientation or indeed any other characteristic of the young person that they have a right to hold or express”. (Edinburgh Secure Services 2009)
In 1989, governments worldwide promised all children the same rights by adopting the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. These rights are based on what a child needs to survive, grow, participate and fulfil their potential. They apply equally to every child, regardless of who they are, or where they are from. (GIRFEC)
Within the care setting it is vital that all children have access to a children’s rights officer to act as an advocate for the young people who are looked after by Children families Services.
The Care Commission was set up in April 2002 under the Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act 2001 Regulation of Care