Criminal Care? · 26 Jul 2019
Addressing unnecessary criminalisation in a children’s home
Last October, Susan blogged about issues in the care home where she works that were leading to the criminalisation of children living there. In this post she reflects on changes to practice in the home in the first half of this year that have led to more positive outcomes for children.
“In 2018 there were numerous arrests of young people in the children’s home I work in after the police were called because of household damage. So far in 2019 there has only been one arrest for such behaviour. Hopefully in 2020 there will be no arrests of young people because the home I work in will finally move away from the culture of phoning/threatening to phone the police when damage is being caused.
“My explanation for the significant reduction in arrests is the changing philosophy within the home for understanding and responding to the challenging behaviour that young people can display. This change includes the introduction of key words into the home’s vocabulary and practise, such as “trauma”, “attachment” and “self-regulation”. The current key word that is in the process of being introduced is “restorative”, so young people receive the opportunity to reflect on, repair and resolve challenging situations without police involvement.
“The benefits of this change in philosophy was evidenced over the weekend when a young person expressed their frustration by smashing the front window of the home. Instead of phoning the police like we would have done last year and adding to their trauma, a restorative process was applied throughout the day. This resulted in the young person engaging in the opportunity to reflect on the reasons behind their frustration, consider the harm it caused, show remorse and apologise, and start to discuss ways to repair and resolve the issues to prevent a repeat.
Police involvement for household damage makes the situation worse, not better
“What shone through this restorative process was the young person’s ability for expressing themselves calmly and reasonably. This probably wouldn’t have happened if they were arrested and locked up because based on past experience police involvement for household damage makes the situation worse, not better. Applying the restorative process also enabled more understanding of the young person’s difficulties because this approach encourages dialogue and cooperation, which is in contrast to artificial punishments such as supervised spends and loss of Wi-Fi that can cause disengagement and conflict.
“I know the value of restorative practice from facilitating sessions in my previous roles in schools and youth and community centres, so I’m pleased that the process of embedding it into the thoughts, communication and actions of the home I work in is finally underway. Embracing the restorative process is also something that the local police officers I’ve spoken to have been keen to see happen to prevent more criminalisation of young people in residential care.”
Susan (not her real name) is a residential care worker in a children’s home in England