04 June 2008

Helping children to stay with their families

I was very encouraged by an article in the Saturday Times this weekend (31 May P4), describing a scheme whereby volunteers with no experience of social work are helping families of children on the at-risk register.

All the children in the families who have been helped have been taken off the risk register. Most importantly, in contrast to the national average whereby 2/3 of children go back onto the register, ALL the children have remained off the register.

The scheme, 'Volunteers in Child Protection', is being piloted in Bromley and Sunderland by the charity Community Service Volunteers. They are now talking to several other local authorities wanting to implement this in their area.

The volunteers are a total cross-section, of all ages, male and female, and from all parts of the community. They support the parent(s), helping them to develop a routine at home and work out how best to manage their children's behaviour. CSV requires a commitment of at least a year, usually four hours a week at whatever times suit the family they are working with. They say that the key is to help the mother to do things for herself, working our her own solutions, and not become dependent on the volunteer.

I do hope this spreads and is equally successful across the country. I remember talking to a very experienced foster carer who said that, however well the children she fostered were doing, she was still aware that what they actually wanted was to go home. The very best thing for a child is to remain with their own family and the more we can do to help that the better.

Mary Douglas