Relationships are the starting point

As we approach the one year anniversary of the publication of Scotland’s Care Review – and three months since the Secure Care Pathway and Standards Scotland launched – Chelsey talks about the importance of building genuine and honest relationships with young people, and the difference this can make.

A young person once told a colleague of mine that as soon as a ‘worker’ walks into the room they know if they really care or if they are just there for the money. Isn’t that crazy?

I also had a young person tell me they are just ‘used to’ workers coming into their life and then just dropping them soon after. How heart-breaking is that?

How sad must that be, to be a child or young person and just expecting people to come and go and worst of all, feeling like they don’t actually care about you. Yet blame still seems to be placed on young people when they don’t engage with workers but surely, it’s understandable?! I for one wouldn’t want to engage with someone who I thought didn’t care and was only talking to me because they got paid to; I certainly wouldn’t want to try work through any issues I was having with this person.

In research, done by myself, I interviewed six workers from different organisations (some voluntary and some statutory) and every single one said that relationships were the foundation of everything and without the relationships with children and young people nothing would happen, engagement would be low and no progress would be made. Of course, some workers from statutory organisations encounter resistance due to stigma and the ones I spoke to said that the only way to break this stigma was to be consistent and build a relationship with the young people and this was when they were able to begin doing meaningful work, this was when they were able to make a positive impact on that young person’s life.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that relationships massively impact upon a young person’s engagement with a worker or a service and do you know what? Quite rightfully so! Workers should be taking the time and effort to build a relationship with all young people they are working with; after all when children and young people come into contact with services it is usually because they are facing some sort of crisis in their lives. Therefore, workers should be aiming to be a little bit of light and stability in their turmoil. Don’t get me wrong, it is a two-way street but sometimes a lot of consistency and showing you care can really make the difference in whether a young person will engage with you. Care or justice experienced children and young people can often present as mature for their age, but I think it is so vital for not only workers but for everyone (as a society) to remember that they are children and young people, and they should always be treated with care and protection proceedings first and foremost.

Sometimes when I first start working with young people, I will have met them on a weekly basis for around a month and think to myself ‘oh no, I’ve not done any focused work’ or ‘oh no, we’ve not made any progress on these outcomes’; but then I try to remember I’ve spent that time getting to know that young person. I’ve found out their likes and dislikes, what they’re comfortable with and what they aren’t, what they enjoy doing in their spare time and what has led them to needing support and they also will have learned things about me. All these things are important and allow for me as a worker to have an approach which is tailored to that young person.

By building relationships with young people, it allows for there to be trust and honesty between the young person and the worker; and this is what gives people the confidence to be open and be able to share how they feel and think about things. This is obviously important for the young person to receive support but this also opens the door for increasing young people’s participation. By this I mean involvement in decision making that affects young people, whether this is policy making or decisions on how a service is run. Participation is extremely important, so if a young person has a good relationship with a worker it can be assumed they will be more comfortable and confident to say ‘hold on a minute, this isnae working’ or ‘this is what we need to happen to help us’. Which we want, we want to hear from young people, we want to put them in the driving seat, we want them to take part in shaping decisions that are made which affect them.

I may have taken this on a bit of a tangent here but I believe it’s important to explore how pivotal relationships are between workers and young people. They really are the starting point and without a positive relationship, it would be extremely difficult to achieve positive outcomes. Relationships are how we build young people’s confidence, how we help them trust in us to support them to make good decisions. Relationships really are the building blocks to positive engagement and interactions between young people and workers.

About our blogger

Chelsey Crosbie is 22 years old and a recent Criminal Justice graduate. She currently works for a children’s charity and loves working with children and young people. Chelsey is very passionate about care and justice experienced young people’s rights and is a strong believer in holistic approaches for young people.

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