How do you prepare for the transitioning of young people into an Intensive Therapeutic Care house? Part 2

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 the Blog, we will dive into the preparation of the team, young person and the other young people currently residing in the home.

Preparation

Preparing the new team

The Therapeutic Specialist will bring to the team what they have learned about the young person and present the information to the new team. Good practice is key; team members from the current care providers will attend the team meeting and teach the new team about what they understand about the young person, what they enjoy, what works best for them and any presenting pain-based behaviours to be aware of and in what ways they present themselves.

If team members are not present at the meeting, ensure they are provided with the information about the new young person and the plan. Our Youth Workers are committed to the home and the young people and you do not want them being blind-sided with critical information being provided by a young person etc.

Preparing the young person

The move is a big life event for the young person and needs to be treated with that weight of attention and consideration. There are key steps to informing the young person that a new placement has been found and provide information about the placement. The young person should be informed by a member of the current care team, someone in authority such as the caseworker, house manager or senior manager. This person will have a copy of the welcome and information booklet from the new placement. It is great if this information is accompanied by a social story about the new placement, pictures of the house, local attractions (focus on things you are aware the young person will like) and information and pictures of staff and young people in the house. This provides the young person with information and an opportunity to think about questions they have. It also allows the young person to begin to process the move. Pictures and information make it real and ideally reduce any fear and anxiety.

Emails and phone numbers are provided for the current Care Team to send through any questions after the young person has read the information or someone has read it to them. Important all members of the current Care Team have access to the same information to provide the young person a sense of safety and certainty in the move.

Preparing the current young people.

The house manager will meet with the current young people and inform them of the new young person moving in. You will know best if this is better done as a group or individually. If individually, ensure this is done in a way where the young person will hear from you as the house manager, not other young people. The young people are provided a first name, age, and some information the new young person has agreed can be shared.

The importance of firsts…

The first meet and greet with the young person.

The meet and greet needs to occur shortly after the young person has been informed of the move, the next or following day is best.

First impressions matter. Our actions during the transition deliver messages to the young person that we care and can be trusted. The young person’s relationship with you and the new team begins with the first visit. You are on time, you are reliable, you have clear information, and you are organised.

This first meet will usually be the caseworker and the house manager of the new home. The young person will want to meet with someone in authority, providing them confidence in the information and responses, and critically, meeting them is important.

The first visit to the new home.

The development of the relationship continues with how we present the house, young people, and staff to the new young person. We need regular staff on shift who know the house and young people well. Best practice would be at least one of the team members from the first meet at greet, ideally the house manager.

If one or more of the current young people in the house are having a bad day, make a call on whether the visit goes ahead. Will you be able to hold all young people safely and deliver a message that sometimes things get hectic, but staff can manage? Or will the young person get the impression the home is not safe for them, if it is the latter, reschedule. The visit is not a box for you to tick, it is all about the young person’s first experience of the home. Be honest with the new young person, explain it is not a great day for a visit and we want them to have a good first visit. Replace the visit with an activity with the new young person and new staff, picking paint colour for the room, shopping for furnishings or simply something fun, taking the opportunity to build connection.

The first visit presents a fantastic opportunity to lay the foundations of a therapeutic relationship by being clear about what to expect and then delivering on that, “doing what we say we are going to do.” By delivering on these expectations, you are presenting an early indication you are reliable and consistent. You are likely not trusted yet, but it is a great first step.

The first sleepover at the new home.

A sleepover in the new home should be offered, however in my experience, this is not always taken up and young people often say that once they sleep in a placement, they are staying. We offer the young person the sleepover, allowing the opportunity to stay the night and return to the current placement before the final move.

Other Critical Considerations

Value the young person and their possessions

Unless unachievable, the young person must be provided with an opportunity to pack their own belongings, ideally with a staff member they are very comfortable with. Packing is a part of letting go of the placement and an opportunity for reflection and connection with the staff member. If young people do not have proper luggage, buy them some and do not be stingy. Valuing a young person’s possessions, as minimal as they can be at times, delivers a message the young person and their time in placement with you is valued.

Do not move on a Friday

Unless absolutely necessary, avoid a move on the weekend, including Friday. We want the young person to connect with the house manager on arrival and again the following morning, Monday to Thursday is preferable.

Maintaining relationships

Relationships are vital. If the young person stays in contact with care staff from the previous placement, structure and transparency are critical. They will remain employed by the previous organisation and governed by that code of conduct which may dictate when and how they contact and communicate. It is important there is clear communication between the staff member maintaining contact and the care team in the new home. Review regularly to assess if it is helping and something the young person wants to continue.

Saying goodbye

Young people in our care often have a resume of placement breakdowns; relationships that have ended abruptly and potentially when the adult was not at their best. No matter the reason for the placement ending, it must end with a message of care, respect, and an emphasis on the value of the young person’s time with you.

Conclusion

All transitions are stressful. Each transition creates vulnerability for the young person in and of itself, and always brings some type of loss. Well planned and managed transitions can avoid some of the negative effects for the referred young person and the young people currently living in the home. It is important to anticipate and proactively address as many of the potential challenges as is possible. Research and practice wisdom suggests that attention to how transitions are managed can mitigate trauma and loss and may even have a therapeutic effect.

Peter Le Breton, Learning & Development Specialist at MacKillop Family Services

  • Author note: Peter has worked in Residential OOHC in NSW since 2006. Peter has worked in a range of roles in that time, ranging from direct work to District Manager. Peter brings a particular focus on frontline staff development in connecting with vulnerable young people to his work.