8 ways to support young people in residential care during COVID-19

Mar 2020

Written by Janise Mitchell

How do we keep to the therapeutic care principles of safety, consistency, predictability, and routine in a world that feels like it has turned upside down overnight? It’s near impossible! If we are feeling this way, imagine how young people may be feeling.

I know you are all working very hard to put plans in place that ensure the safety and well-being of all young people and staff. If your organisation is like ours, this process is consuming a lot of time and energy, including emotional energy. There is so much uncertainty surrounding what we knew our lives to be about – it’s changing in ways we could never have predicted. It’s impossible not to see the parallels of our current realities with the world of a traumatised young person.

Humour is a great way of relieving tension but remember that for many staff and young people it also masks underlying anxiety and fear about COVID-19 that they need our support with.

At these times, the perceived and felt a sense of safety of young people with trauma is easily undermined by the uncertainty brought about with COVID-19. As we know, when young people are feeling unsafe in their world they can have a range of responses that can include escalations in behaviour. We need to remember the drivers of the behaviour are a lack of safety and thus our focus needs to be on building safety in a time of uncertainty.

Here’s a few things to think about in fostering the experience of safety of young people in your care:

  1. Be honest and open about the situation, acknowledging that the situation is changing, and we are all having to adapt in the face of it.
  2. Keep clear lines of communication open with staff and young people so that any changes can be communicated ahead of time, and where possible allow for the preparation of the young people for change.
  3. Acknowledge with young people that it is normal to feel worried or concerned in the face of the uncertainty and that you are feeling it too – even if their bravado suggests they are not worried at all.
  4. Encourage young people to share their thoughts and feelings about what is happening so that you can offer reassurance, clarify any misinformation and ensure them that support is available.
  5. Where you can, whilst things are still unfolding, keep as much normality as possible in the daily routines and operation of the houses.
  6. Set up processes that support young people to be involved as much as possible in decision making about what is going to happen next.
  7. Reassure young people that for the vast majority of people the virus is not serious and much like a cold or the flu.
  8. Remind them about the things they can do to keep themselves healthy, reinforcing messages about hygiene, social distancing and telling someone asap if they start to feel unwell or have been in contact with someone who is unwell.

There are no easy answers to the unfolding realities for young people in residential care but calm, reasoned and sensitive approaches will always be helpful.

As staffing situations for young people are likely to change due to illness we will need to ensure that staff filling in are aware of the best ways to understand and respond to the needs of the young people.

Now more than ever, Therapeutic Specialists have a role to play in supporting staff so that they can support the young people through this uncertain time.

Janise Mitchell
Director, Centre for Excellence in Therapeutic Care

 

You may be interested in: COVID-19 Residential care

What does stability in residential care mean? Part I
What does stability in residential care mean? Part I Written by: Jenna Bolllinger
After four years working in residential care, both on the floor and as a clinician, I wanted to better understand what stability really means for young people in residential care?...
Read more
Stability in residential Care: Part II
Stability in residential Care: Part II Written by: Jenna Bolllinger
Sarah is 14 and has been in placement for 18 months. She lives in a residential house with two boys and one girl. The boys display aggressive behaviours and are...
Read more
Tips for supporting young people in therapeutic care through COVID-19 - Practice tool
Tips for supporting young people in therapeutic care through COVID-19 - Practice tool
This resource was developed to provide a range of tips and insights on supporting young people during the COVID pandemic. It covers a range orf areas across Realstionships and staying...
Read more
How do we create excellence in Intensive Therapeutic residential care practice?
How do we create excellence in Intensive Therapeutic residential care practice? Written by: Janise Mitchell
What creates high quality therapeutic residential care? This is the question often asked of agencies, of staff, of policy makers and of the young people themselves. There is no simple...
Read more
Cultivating curiosity in Therapeutic residential care
Cultivating curiosity in Therapeutic residential care Written by: Noel MacNamara
Curiosity is something that has excited me my whole life. I am sure a lot of you share my fascination and enthusiasm for curiosity. There seems to be wide support...
Read more
Therapeutic residential workers? Who are we?
Therapeutic residential workers? Who are we? Written by: Glenys Bristow
This blog is to introduce my recent research with therapeutic residential workers. Further blogs and practice guides relating to finding, keeping, acknowledging and celebrating the best person for the job...
Read more
10 ways to enable young people's participation in therapeutic residential care
10 ways to enable young people's participation in therapeutic residential care Written by: Meaghan Vosz
In this blog, I’m keen to offer practitioners in therapeutic residential care some ideas about how to involve young people in decisions that affect their lives. Many young people in...
Read more
Vanessa Farrell interview: Therapeutic opportunities in the time of COVID-19
Vanessa Farrell interview: Therapeutic opportunities in the time of COVID-19 Written by: Kelly Royds
In this video, we talk to Vanessa Farrell Therapeutic Care Manager at Anglicare. I had the opportunity to hear Vanessa speak at a recent Therapeutic Specialist Community of Practice on...
Read more
The Intensive Therapeutic Care dance
The Intensive Therapeutic Care dance Written by: Noel MacNamara
Therapeutic residential work can be conceptualised as a dance. It works best when therapeutic workers display therapeutic presence, are in sync with the young person, can making meaning of the...
Read more
Understanding and supporting young people who self-harm in residential care
Understanding and supporting young people who self-harm in residential care Written by: Noel MacNamara
Some of the young people we care for in the ITC programs deal with emotional distress and pain by hurting themselves physically. Young people hurting themselves is distressing to them...
Read more
What makes a good therapeutic residential care worker? Practice guide
What makes a good therapeutic residential care worker? Practice guide Written by: Glenys Bristow Janise Mitchell
Trained staff and consistent rostering are essential elements of therapeutic residential care. The purpose of this guide is to consider more broadly what makes an excellent therapeutic residential care worker...
Read more
How do you prepare for the transitioning of young people into an Intensive Therapeutic Care house? Part 2
How do you prepare for the transitioning of young people into an Intensive Therapeutic Care house? Part 2 Written by: Peter Le Breton
In the first part of the Blog, we explored limit and expectation setting, maintaining a state of occupancy and the planning process for a successful transition. In part two of...
Read more
How do you prepare for the transitioning of young people into an Intensive Therapeutic Care house? Part 1
How do you prepare for the transitioning of young people into an Intensive Therapeutic Care house? Part 1 Written by: Peter Le Breton
This is a two-part blog and will focus on the transition of young people into an Intensive Therapeutic Care house; however, most of the content is transferrable to other placement...
Read more
Changing your practice to being trauma informed in therapeutic residential care
Changing your practice to being trauma informed in therapeutic residential care Written by: Glenys Bristow Noel MacNamara
Whilst the following Arabian proverb takes a bit to get your head around it leads rather nicely into this blog and our brief introduction on the relevance of the conscious...
Read more
How to thrive in lock down, lean into what works in therapeutic care
How to thrive in lock down, lean into what works in therapeutic care Written by: Kelly Royds Noel MacNamara
Lockdown means we lose touch with many things: friends, family, freedom. For young people, therapeutic youth workers and other staff in Intensive Therapeutic Care, however, it also offers an opportunity...
Read more
Trauma-informed relationship-based recovery reflection tool - Practice tool
Trauma-informed relationship-based recovery reflection tool - Practice tool Written by: Noel MacNamara
Children and young people need adults who can co-regulate with them and teach them about feelings and their inner world. This Trauma Informed Relationship-Based Recovery Reflection tool can be used...
Read more
Q&A with the trainer: Harmful sexual behaviour
Q&A with the trainer: Harmful sexual behaviour Written by: Kelly Royds Cyra Fernandes
Working with young people who engage in harmful sexual behaviour is complex and challenging. Cyra Fernandes and Dan Howell have spent over a 1000 hours in the past year helping carers and professionals...
Read more
Strengthening connections & relationships project
Strengthening connections & relationships project Written by: Lynne McPherson
What is this research about? Young people in residential care face major challenges that can prevent them from forming healthy relationships and a strong personal identity, which are critical building...
Read more
Come on it’s only a game
Come on it’s only a game Written by: Noel MacNamara
Many of you will have experienced something like the following… A residential worker is observing two young people playing table tennis in the rear yard of the residential unit. One...
Read more
Do ‘no touch’ policies in residential care keep workers and children safe? It’s not that simple
Do ‘no touch’ policies in residential care keep workers and children safe? It’s not that simple Written by: Glenys Bristow
Lyn was 16 and had grown up in foster and residential care. Lyn was interviewed about her experience and views about out of home care. She was extremely positive about...
Read more