It's the 'little things' that matter most

Sheena Hanningan, one of our dedicated Registered Managers in Scotland, shared with us some beautiful reflections on the importance of the ‘little things’ in residential child care when welcoming a new young person.

Words from Sheena Hanningan

The consideration of placing a child into one of our homes brings with it anticipation, excitement, anxiety, hope for the future, and joy.

For us at Kippsbyre Cottage, welcoming a new young person into our home requires a lot of self-reflection, learning, and consideration. Thanks to our trauma-informed practice, we recognise how important it is to get it right for the child, and the long-term impact it will have on them if the placement is unsuccessful. The children we care for might often have insecure attachments, have had several broken placements, feel untrusting of the adults around them, and believe they are not lovable, further strengthening their feelings of rejection.

So, welcoming a young person is a big task for the home, also considering our organisation’s core values, Accountable, Considerate, Collaborative, and Progressive, and it is important that there is a team effort behind it. The new processes in place have made this a shared organisation experience with the multi-disciplinary professional team.

Kippsbyre’s team reflects and recognises their strengths and skills, considers our location, and thinks about what we have achieved before making an offer for a new placement. This is shared with our fantastic commissioning team, who spend days looking through referrals and sifting through them to get what they believe may be a perfect match for us at Kippsbyre. The home manager, the team, and the area manager then spend some time reading the information and speaking with the social worker before having an information gathering session and answering all the young person’s questions.

D., a young people who joined us recently, took some time to think about whether she wanted to move into the placement. She agreed it would be beneficial to meet with the home manager and deputy manager, which was so important. Through my many years of experience, I learnt that for a placement to be successful, the young person needs to be at the heart of it and be involved in all the decisions that relate to them.

I am pleased that after travelling to meet D., there was an instant connection. We were able to answer her questions, offer reassurance, talk through what it was like to live at Kippsbyre, and explore her expectations and ours, giving her time to speak to her social worker and decide if our home was where she would have liked to live.

Very quickly, we heard the news that she wanted to come to Scotland to live with us. We jumped into action as we had agreed with her as part of the transition plan. To reduce anxiety, we arranged daily video-phone contact, where we introduced her to the team. This allowed us to get to know each other better, giving us the opportunity to discover her interests, likes, and dislikes, which was so helpful.

Before she arrived, we prepared her room to be calming and welcoming, with the colours she liked, and we cared about every single detail. This included speaking with her current carers, social workers, and teachers. We committed to the little things because we wanted for her to feel welcomed and important. The young person felt strongly about her healing crystals and the need to have her hair products for her cultural needs, so we ensured all of these were ready for her.

On the day of her arrival, we spent the morning preparing and cooking her favourite meal. We moved and moved her room repeatedly, filling her welcome basket, taking every detail into consideration. For others, this may not be important, but we know well how first impressions last, and we wanted her to feel immediately welcomed, important, and listened to. So far so good; she likes her room and says we were the first people ever to give her flowers, which she loved.

My hope is that more young people get to experience this level of compassion, consideration, and involvement where they live.

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