I used these extracts from time-to-time in staff training at the Cotswold Community. I don‟t know how it was added to the library of papers that we used. I suspect Richard Balbernie came across it. What I like about it is that it helps staff and managers to be more alert and to act on signs that all is not well. I‟m a bit uncomfortable about the “barrelling-in” terminology. This could be reworded as “trust your own instincts and act on them”. I also like the fact that it is about grownups‟ behaviour as well as children‟s behaviour. Signs that all is not well can be detected in both. This is an important message to managers.
EXTRACTS FROM “A HANDBOOK FOR THE GUIDANCE OF GROUP HOME STAFF”
By David Aird, Director of Viking Houses.
Staff Management Signs that all is not well:
- Unclean or disorganised house.
- Unkempt children.
- Tendency for children to act out – when kids get into trouble in the community, remember to check into staff attitudes and general well-being.
- Any staff incidents with vehicles – speeding tickets, bumps and bangs in parking lot, failure to maintain vehicle.
- Lateness, failure to attend staff meetings, poor attitude towards programme.
- Difficulty with budget – unpaid bills.
- Lack of Planning.
- Tendency to give self hard times; ie, forgetting to arrange important things for kids resulting in angry kids, complaints about useless staff.
The local supervisor must assess with each person in which areas he most needs to grow himself to become a more effective person; we all have our various weaknesses and strengths. Each staff should be encouraged to grow to the weak areas and develop expertise in the strong areas. In watching the house in progress, an assessment should be made regarding the staff ability in respect to:
- ROUTINES AND CARE
Safety In creating a programme for angry children, it is vitally important to provide a safe, secure house. Therefore, the household must set and maintain certain limits which apply to all residents, both staff and children. These basic limits are:
- No person shall hurt anyone including themselves.
- No person shall damage and destroy anything.
- No person will threaten or intimidate.
- No person will interfere with direction and guidance being given to another.
- All fire regulations including smoking rules will be observed scrupulously by all residents, STAFF AND KIDS.
Beyond these fairly obvious rules, there is an important aspect of safety. The child must “feel secure”. Any action which reduces this feeling is unsafe. Staff, at all times, must be attentive to any indication that the safety of the house is in question. For example:
- A kid asking another about drugs.
- Conversation about hot wiring cars.
- Conversation about previous delinquent exploits.
- Unusually “good“ behaviour.
- Unusual combinations of children.
- Excessive spending money (from where?).
- Sudden appearance of new items – clothes, records, radios, etc. (HOT).
- Tendency for kids to converse alone, without staff, or make or receive clandestine phone calls.
Equally, staff must at all times:
- Keep money safely in lock-up.
- Keep car keys safely in lock-up.
- Drive children in an appropriate, safe manner in a well maintained vehicle using SEAT BELTS.
- Set an example around honesty, integrity and sobriety.
- Keep a close eye on children in stores.
- Take immediate action if worried about safety, ie, call supervisor and check.
Remember: IF IN DOUBT – BARREL IN – DON‟T HESITATE TO ACCUSE. IF YOU HAVE THE FEELING SOMETHING IS “FISHY”, 99 PER CENT OF THE TIME YOU‟LL BE RIGHT.
On the odd occasion that you prove to be wrong – take time to get back to the kid you have suspected and apologise for your action, but explain that because you really care about him and the other kids you had to check it out. Remember, if there has been a breach of safety – a kid hits a staff or vice versa, a kid runs away, a member of staff carelessly leaves his wallet laying around – the house will remain unsafe for a couple of days, at least. The household must re-establish safety by most energetically restoring the limit and openly and plainly letting the offender know that he is angry with him. The house may remain “high” for a day or two and time off for staff may need to be reconsidered.