Published on 09 April 2019
A Sunderland partnership celebrated for paving the way to a better future for looked after children is sharing its best practice at an international level for a second time.
Our University, Together for Children (TfC) working on behalf of Sunderland City Council to deliver children’s services in the city, and Priory Education and Children’s Services have been collaborating on a range of work to ensure young people in the care system, awaiting a permanent home, and those in special education provision at Priory Hurworth House School are given the best possible support to deal with their diverse needs - work which has received praise nationally.
As a result of the partnership, the University, TfC and Priory Education and Children’s Services were invited to present at the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (ACAMH) conference that took place in Malta in 2017 and again this April.
Stephanie Hunter, senior lecturer in Childhood Studies part of the University’s School of Social Sciences, Carole Young, Senior Adoption Worker at TfC, who is a specialist in therapeutic intervention for children in foster care and children who are adopted / placed for adoption, and Sharon Pearson; Operations Director for Priory Education and Children’s Services are jointly presenting at the conference.
The partners presented a paper that focused on helping children with complex needs make successful transitions in their childhoods. The emphasis was on innovative practice that has been developed to improve transitions for children with complex neurological conditions and/or adopted or children in care or special needs education provision.
The development of the initiative focused on adopted and looked after children, some of whom had autism and other conditions. Children with complex neurological conditions, face additional challenges which impacts upon them in terms of preparing for and making transitions.
The partnership’s working group developed transitional objects, in the form of sensory toys that the children call “Alien Allies”. These help children to explain their emotional state and how it’s possible to feel alien when you experience lots of changes.
Stephanie has been working with the local crafting community who have developed patterns and have been working successfully to knit the transitional toys.
Attendees at the conference included therapists, psychologists, academics, social workers and those who have a professional and personal interest in the topics. There was also an opportunity for Maltese social work staff to engage and discuss their practice in this area.
ACAMH is keen to improve the standard of Malta’s children’s mental health services and reduce the number of looked after children who receive in-patient mental health care.
Stephanie said: “We again met motivated staff who manage children’s homes, plus healthcare practitioners. We also further developed a knowledge transfer partnership with the Maltese professionals. I was impressed by the warmth of the relationships with children described by staff.”
Carole Young, Senior Adoption Worker at TfC, said: “The opportunity to review practice at an international level has been inspirational. I am confident that learning will come from the knowledge transfer that will benefit children and young people in Sunderland.”
Sharon Pearson, Operations Director at Priory Education and Children’s Services, said: “This initiative has had such a positive impact for some of our children in the school, one young person has spoken on the radio about this and his parents were thrilled with his response. The ability to share these experiences and learn from others at an international level is a great opportunity.”
Dr Nigel Camilleri, consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist, founder and chair of the ACAMH Malta branch, said: “We have a number of well-meaning professionals working within social services and mental health services, however, there are two main areas which we believe needs improvement; the first is raising the standard of provision of care through evidence-based practice. The other area is improving collaborative care and improving communications between professionals and services, one way of achieving this is by increasing staff number, reducing caseloads, and giving time to professionals to adequately discuss the cases of young people.”