Taking a leap of faith

“Bold, brave…or just plain bonkers?” As she joins CYCJ as Practice Development Advisor for Secure Care, Ruby Whitelaw ponders new challenges, and what happens when you step outside of your comfort zone.

After 25 years of working in residential childcare I was pondering my next challenge, as throughout my career I’ve pushed myself to learn, develop and engage in new initiatives, trying to achieve better experiences and outcomes for children and staff.  I needed a new challenge, but like many people I imagine, the familiar is what is comfortable.  I had become somewhat of an expert in my work and I wasn’t actively pursuing alternatives but when I happened upon a job advert on Twitter, the opportunity was too inviting.  I’d be so bold as to say that it had my name written all over it – but the pit of my stomach was churning.  An application form, a job interview, potential success or failure?  All of this left me feeling very uneasy as while I was familiar with change, this was on a whole different level.

Until my final day in work I felt exhilarated and excited but also pangs of fear as I said farewell to familiar children, work colleagues and friends.  Beginning my new position as Practice Development Adviser – Secure Care with CYCJ in the midst of the Covid pandemic wasn’t going to be easy.  Starting a new job at any time, like any change, is anxiety provoking.  I collected my laptop and phone and prepared for working from home with my induction organised and my new colleagues greeting me from afar.  The first few days I was like a rabbit caught in the headlights.  From expert to novice in one short week!  But as I got to meet more and more of the team and they shared their experience and work roles, I resumed my glee caused by excitement at the work being done to be rights-respecting.  Anyone who has ever come across me in both personal and professional circles knows that I am a strong advocate for human rights so the fit re-enforced my view, that despite my fixed term contract, I’d moved in the right direction.

As I arranged more introductory meetings with both internal and external colleagues, I suffered from imposter syndrome.  My predecessor was a force to be reckoned with and I was plagued with a sense that I’d fail to measure up.  I was familiar with many of the people I would be working with from when I had my different hat on and that was very comforting in the early days.  Known and unknown alike however made me feel valued and welcome. reassuring me that I was not coming to the party with nothing in my gift bag.  Understanding that there are no stupid questions and that working with others who share values, beliefs and vision for the future for children and young people has given me no end of comfort.  I’m feeling the love and commitment that makes working in youth justice rewarding, worthwhile and exciting.

2022 will be full of opportunities.  I have joined the CYCJ team at such an exciting time: the age of criminal responsibility has been increased, the care and youth justice bill is being developed, implementation of the Secure Care Pathway and Standards is well underway, national secure care transport is being explored, restraint reduction is high on the agenda, changes are imminent in relation to under 18s in conflict with the law and who may have formerly been placed within Polmont…and the list goes on and on.

So has my move been bold, brave or bonkers?  I think a little bit of each.  You have to be a little bit bonkers to move on from your security and stability but without change, I ran the risk of losing some of my passion.  I hope that I can continue to have an impact on children and young people’s lives for the better.

About our blogger

Joining CYCJ from Kibble, Ruby Whitelaw has worked across a range of settings including secure care, intensive fostering and residential care as a manager.  She recently submitted her PhD which looks at ‘What factors support successful transitions for residential care experienced young people in Scotland’. Read more. 

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Children's and Young People's Centre for Justice
University of Strathclyde
Lord Hope Building, Level 6
141 St. James Road Glasgow G4 0LT

(0141) 444 8622


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