Realising Potential – A truly inspirational journey…

The 7th Annual Conference of the Scottish Institute of Residential Child Care : 6 – 7 June 2007

Once more, our annual conference exceeded all our expectations. On what were possibly two of the sunniest days of the year and with a record-breaking 350-plus speakers and delegates from over fifty agencies and representing ten different countries (as far afield as Jamaica and Saudi Arabia), the theme Realising Potential: Inspirational Journeys to Positive Residential Child Care Cultures was thoroughly explored.

We aimed to examine how a climate is created in which children and young people can aspire to achieve, recognising that the cultures of residential units are important. We also hoped to explore how barriers and obstacles to a change in culture could be surmounted.

Tuesday evening began the conference with a drinks reception and a quiz for early arrivals. The evening was informal, relaxed and a good opportunity for delegates to meet, particularly those from further afield.

Dr Sandra Bloom, co-founder of the Sanctuary Model

The conference officially started on Wednesday morning with a powerful input by keynote speaker Dr Sandra Bloom, co-founder of the Sanctuary Model. Sandra brought us immediately to the point of the conference with an extremely thought-provoking insight.

She presented important lessons from research, The Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) Study. This is the largest study of its kind ever done to examine the health and social effects of adverse childhood experiences on 18,000 participants over their lifespan. There were strong and alarming links between adverse childhood experiences and significant life-threatening health, social and psychological problems in adulthood. Sandra advocates that the way forward is a shift in culture and fundamental organisational change when working with traumatised children and their complex problems. We need to be asking, “What’s happened to you?” rather than, “What’s wrong with you?”

Other speakers included Addie Stevenson, Director of Children and Family Services, Aberlour Child Care Trust, who gave a presentation focusing on relationships between managers and workers and the culture created by that relationship. Keith White from Millgrove reminded us of the history and the pioneers who contributed to the journey of residential child care to the service as we know it now.

Naomi Breeze of Breeze Productions and a group of young people from Renfrewshire delivered a powerful presentation, providing an insight to the views and experiences of young people.

The vital role of registration and learning in the process of professionalising residential child care as an occupation was very well illustrated by Geraldine Docherty of the Scottish Social Services Council and Rosemary McCrae of SIRCC. Both spoke of their personal experiences in residential child care and how it has developed over the years, emphasising the importance of learning and registration.

The 7th Annual Conference of the Scottish Institute of Residential Child Care : 6 - 7 June 2007

There was a wide variety of workshops, each examining the conference theme in diverse ways. Maureen Greig from Donaldson College, Edinburgh, presented the theory that language and culture are linked with one shaping the other. She gave evidence of projects where communication had been effective when workers had been recruited who shared the same native language as the service users, whether it be Polish or British Sign Language. Kim Snow, Ryerson University, Toronto, also highlighted the theme of communication through language by considering the unique language markers that reflect the local culture of care.

Bernhardt Babic and Liane Pluto from the German Youth Institute, Munich, offered findings from research that illustrate the current levels of participation of young people in residential child care in Germany. The theme of participation was also explored by Jeremy Millar, a member of SIRCC based at Robert Gordon University, with a group of young people who demonstrated how they have developed a partnership in terms of young people’s input into the education and training of workers.

The effect of the residential culture on young people leaving supported housing in Denmark was considered by Trine Wulf-Anderson, Roskilde University, using young people’s own perspectives on the specific supported housing or residential care programmes they had lived in and the challenges they faced when leaving them.

There were too many workshops to give details of each one individually but other themes included: helping people grow; the dynamics of loss from a residential care perspective; offending behaviour in residential child care; an approach to life space interviews; experience of life in and beyond the Camphill Schools; and the RAID (Reward Appropriate, Inappropriate Downplayed) approach and how it influenced practice, and the development of a positive culture among staff in Rath na n’Og.

The ceilidh (sponsored by Starley Hall School) and conference meal were enjoyed by all who attended on Wednesday evening.

The evaluation forms and feedback from the event assure us that Realising Potential: Inspirational Journeys to Positive Residential Child Care Cultures was a very successful conference. Once more, we are delighted to bring an international perspective to the residential child care sector in Scotland and offer the opportunity for workers to share experiences and research findings.

Leave a comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.