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Private care homes for vulnerable children

(23 Posts)
whenim64 Fri 11-May-12 08:12:17

I'm not a fan of the Daily Mail, but I read it online with a few other morning news sites, and this report says what some of us have found for ourselves about the treatment of vulnerable children when they become difficult to manage teenagers in the care system.

I know an ex-colleague who has opened one such home that will accommodate four teenagers on the verge of leaving care. She won a contract from the local authority and staffs the home using professionals that she knows, with one full-time permanent member of staff and herself there in the daytime. All well and good, but most of these people have full-time jobs already, and will come in to help out on non-working days and during leave, but also in an emergency when a regular member of staff has not reported in. This means a tired worker is showing up, who still needs to squeeze in some sleep before returning to work the next day. It's easy to see how a teenager who wants to slip out unnoticed can pick their moment. Also, they are not mandated to follow the child - that would be tantamount to harrassment - all they can do is report to the police that they don't know the whereabouts of the child. Parents are not always informed when the child is under parental oversight of social services. The child might be in care because of the same behaviour at home, with parents who don't/can't keep close watch on their children.

In probation hostels, there are always two waking members of staff on duty overnight with a manager as back-up, being on-call. In these private care homes and hostels, they only have one member of staff overnight. That worker might be asleep during the night.

The motivation of the person that I know for opening a home for teenagers was money, and the desire to grow a property portfolio. There are many such people doing this now because these local authority contracts are lucrative.

When will they get it? Children need discipline and consistency in concerned homes who want to know what they are doing, where they are, and who they are with. Private homes can report in to their designated social work department, but they won't go beyond what the contract requires them to do, and no contract requires a professional to care about the children and want to protect them from harm, only to report what they are aware of. Mums and dads who go looking for their children would be horrified at the lack of care given in some of these private homes. I'm not saying they are all the same - I belong to a family that includes foster carers and residential social workers and I see the difference.

nelliedeane Fri 11-May-12 08:34:20

Whenim that is a subject close to my heart several times I have thought when GD is playing up how easy it would be to put her into care....I just couldnt do would she feel abandoned by all and left in a system where abuse and neglect are very common and fostering is often done for the wrong reasons....the reason GD is difficult is because she feels safe enough to know that we will not give up on her when she kicks off and is difficult and it is a safety valve for her...she kicks against her boundaries which are put their to give her that feeling of security.....the word NO is the trigger to many outbursts....when she calms down the word compromise is the order of the day..and a cuddle.....when she is an older teen I know from bringing two up communication and support and a watchful eye are the way can anyone be paid to provide that 24/7.

nightowl Fri 11-May-12 09:14:30

when you are so right. I work as an out of hours social worker and I know how many children are reported missing every night because we receive the calls notifying the authority. These children are placed all over the country in such private units and most of them have only two or three children with a similar number of staff. But as you say the staff are not allowed to follow them, the best ones do so for a short distance and do spend time talking to them and trying to talk them back inside. For many children this is a nightly occurrence and the local police refuse to take a missing person's report until they have been missing for several hours. My own managers had a brainwave earlier last year, after one of 'our' children had come to some harm, and they issued an instruction that directorate had to be informed out of hours of all missing children. When they discovered how many calls they were getting they quickly revised the guidance and said 'only the most vulnerable children need to be reported to us'. Excuse me, but how vulnerable do you want them to be? Aren't they all vulnerable? My colleague and I were discussing this only last night and talking about the 'good old days' when children were placed in small 'family group homes' in their own locality. Now I don't want to look back with rose tinted specs but the staff in those homes were also local, often middle aged and older women who really did care about the kids and stayed for years. The most difficult kids were still placed far from home and we know about the abuse that happened in such places, so I am not advocating a return to that, but we have lost the middle ground somewhere.
And nellie you are so right about boundaries but what you are also giving your GD is unconditional love, which is every child's right. You are doing a fantastic job, if only all children had families like yours. These poor kids mostly don't have that and they kick against the boundaries because they generally feel they have nothing to lose. Sorry to go on but it really is a scandal. And the irony is, these units charge an absolute fortune for each child!

whenim64 Fri 11-May-12 09:20:19

nellie I've seen some brilliant results from children growing up in care and many adults who've been looked after will say it's an issue that has affected their life but they have been better cared for than they would have been if they stayed with their parents who couldn't look after them. Those parents/carers who do what you do and keep trying are far better for a vulnerable or wayward child than the care system, particularly small private care homes.

My sister fosters children, usually tiny babies who then go on to be adopted, but also older children and she and her husband have been loving parents to every child. They grieve and celebrate when they go to new parents. They are still in touch with all of them (30 plus at the last count) and see them at least twice a year. One is our honorary niece and will always be a big part of our lives - she came at the age of 9 and stayed, and although they could not adopt her because her grandmother is around, she is treated as their daughter in every way. She's 20 now and has her own flat, but can often be found staying over at weekends, or joining in any family get-togethers. That's the sort of care all looked after children should have - if only.

Mishap Fri 11-May-12 13:54:19

nellie - you really have summed it all up - what these children need (and what you are giving) is unconditional love. It often comes at huge cost to the care-giver - I am sure you could tell us all about that! They need to know that they can be as bad as they like, but they are still loved - this is not available to many children who find themselves in the care system., and it cannot be manufactured.

You are doing such a good job to stick with the challenges.

jeni Fri 11-May-12 14:11:49

Good for you nellie it's hard, but yore doing a great job! Turn to us when neccessary!flowers

Greatnan Fri 11-May-12 15:44:18

Nellie, when I feel sad about my own situation with my daughter, I think of you and stop feeling sorry for myself. Your gd may not realise how wonderful you are at the moment (who is a hero to a teenager?) but I am sure she will come to appreciate the wonderful thing you have done in raising her. Your daughter would have been proud, I am sure.

grannyactivist Fri 11-May-12 18:59:31

When my eldest daughter was in her mid-teens she had a number of friends at school who were 'in care'. They had good holidays, regular spending money, clothing allowances and very few restrictions on behaviour. As a consequence my daughter felt very hard done by and began acting up - to the point where eventually she asked a social worker to place her into voluntary care. The social worker agreed to her request (I was a social worker myself at the time) and I was presented with a fait accompli. The relationship with my daughter has never healed and her time 'in care' was the time in her life when she had the least care and was permitted to run wild. sad
At the time I was working professionally with some of these teenagers, who had become parents whilst in care, and I believe every single one of them had a completely distorted view of the world and what they were 'owed'. They had mostly been let down by the system, but a minority, like my daughter, were simply taking advantage.

jeni Fri 11-May-12 19:28:11

That's terrible. I had a lot of problems with my dd who felt we were too restrictive. But we're ok now and now she has a 10 1/2 month dd herself I thinkshe is coming round!

nelliedeane Fri 11-May-12 19:44:51

Grannyactivist DGD has had a similar distorted view of life in care through watching Tracey Beaker and thought it all looked jolly good fun.. she now acknowledges she is better off not living in "The Dumping Ground"...
We have had to ban her from watching it at times.

nightowl Fri 11-May-12 19:51:32

grannyactivist how very sad. I remember working with teenagers like your daughter and as a very young inexperienced Social Worker I was taken in by one such girl (not my finest moment). She told me all sorts of things including that her stepmother had dangled her out of a bedroom window. I am ashamed to say that we took her in to care. I met her some years later, we were chatting and she said 'do you remember what I told you about my stepmother - none of it was true'. She thought it was highly amusing but I was horrified, and when I look back at it now I can only imagine what her family went through.

I rarely come across teenagers who actually want to 'come into care' these days; I'm not sure why that is but maybe it has something to do with the demise of the 'family group homes' and the dispersal of looked after children into foster homes or more specialists units.

I can only imagine how terrible it was for you to go through this while working as a Social Worker yourself. I know that we are our own worst critics and I have often felt like an impostor when I experienced problems with my own children. My colleagues were not always very understanding either, and other professionals seemed to find it difficult to know how to deal with us. I do hope you will be able to heal your relationship with your daughter somehow flowers

nightowl Fri 11-May-12 19:52:36

nelliedeane Tracey Beaker has a lot to answer for!!

nelliedeane Fri 11-May-12 20:07:38

Being a social worker has got to be one of the most stressful of the professions as you are front line,you are damned if do,and damned if you dont.
The social worker attached to our case when we moved here was fantastic,and we built a good relationship[without the blurring of boundaries]she herself was a kinship carer and understood my difficulties,we also had a brilliant guardian ad litum and her care for the children she dealt with was excellent they certainly gained my respect.
GA how hard that must have been for you to support other families,when your own family was in difficulties flowers

Greatnan Fri 11-May-12 20:12:55

If only our children knew how much they hurt us.

nightowl Fri 11-May-12 20:16:32

Greatnan flowers

nelliedeane Fri 11-May-12 20:18:07

greatnan .....that sentence says so little and gives away so

Greatnan Fri 11-May-12 20:44:46

Thank you. I have grieved for the daughter I thought I had but now I have made a conscious decision to get on with my life.
If ever she or her children decide they need me again, of course I will help them in any way I can.

nelliedeane Fri 11-May-12 22:33:50

Greatnan if I had to choose my situation or your situation,I would find your situation loss was final....yours isnt flowers

Greatnan Fri 11-May-12 23:16:48

Thank you, nellie. The worst part is not understanding why she feels the way she does. I have such an easy relationship with her sister.

nelliedeane Sat 12-May-12 10:46:34

Greatnan you can have two children and bring them up exactly the same,but they will they will both be different daughter wild and rebellious,my son a party animal but so dependable and loyal,I can see my traits in him,I really dont know where Kate got hers from,she was an accident waiting to happen,the pain is in the not knowing,and maybe she dosent know herself but is angry for something that has got out of proportion..and all you can do is be a mum waiting for her to return,does she speak to her sister.
I can remember the pain when Kate went to live in a squat with a man 25years older than her and our relationship was distant from each other,her problems were always to do with her choices in men,and at times our relationship was strained to the limits.....Martin is a different kettle of fish,I would trust him with my life...Kate wouldnt have trusted her further than I could see her[which isnt far without glasses]...your very short replies are more poignant than a great lenghty one....I am feeling in my gut your hurt and anguish....probably not pc or even welcome but if I could give you a great big hug now I wouldxxxxxxxxxsunshine

Greatnan Sat 12-May-12 11:37:30

Your hug is very welcome, nellie -I know you have suffered so much loss too.
My daughter has always been jealous of her sister but still resented her going to live in NZ. I think she felt abandoned. She cut off contact when her sister sent her a letter saying how unfairly she was treating me. She made it clear before she cut me off that she would never be able to care for me if I needed it - in fact, she has earmarked her oldest daughter to care for her. Nevertheless, when her sister said she wanted me to live close by them in NZ I think she saw that as proof that I had always loved her sister more.

This month is a bit poignant, because my little mortgage on my house in France would have been paid off, and I would still have a two-bedroomed bungalow with a good garden and a little pool, instead of a flat which is less than half the size.

Jacey Sat 12-May-12 12:56:18

Well, some of the posts here have certainly opened my eyes to the so-called care system shock

I hadn't realised how poor the care could be in private child care ...but I suppose given the problems that have been high-lighted in the private care homes for the elder, I shouldn't have been so naive!! hmm

The current system ...where local councils cannot 'afford' to run such facilities properly, is allowing the private sector to make money.

Are there not systems for checking the actual pastoral care in such places? or is it a case of anything is better than nothing? confused

nelliedeane Sat 12-May-12 13:23:14

Greatnanflowers and a big warm hug coming your wayxxxxx