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Overnight staff

Our agency is interested in putting together a training geared specifically for child and youth care staff who work on the overnight shift. Is anyone aware of resources out there geared to this specific type of training? Any thoughts on competencies that are specific to overnight workers? What are the particular skills needed for this position? Thanks.

Frank Delano
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This is an area that seems to be overlooked a great deal in our field. Overnights are an essential part of any program. There is a need for an increased awareness of what people do on overnight shifts. In the program I am involved in we focus on the process that the young people may need in order to go to bed as this can be a very frightening or hard time to get settled. This can include having some night time rituals like getting hot chocolate made, being tucked in, running a bath for the young people a half an hour before bed, reading from a book they enjoy or just dimming the lights in the living room so that there is a different atmosphere in the centre. I personally see people that do overnights as very important as they help the young people make the transition to bed and also wake them up in the morning. This takes getting to know each young person individually as some like to have one wake up call, some like to have a song sung to them (whether it is off key or not), some like a cup of coffee brought to them, some like to have the shower turned on so the water is nice and hot when they go to the bathroom. With overnights, comes the potential for nightmares, terrors or a young person getting up and getting a drink. These type of things needed to be treated with consideration and empathy and this is not always an easy thing when a youth care worker has already been up for six hours or so but the people I work with do it - and do it exceptionally. Along with this there are meals to prepare and things to clean so that the next shifts run smoothly also. I don't know of any training that is available but I would also be interested if you find any. You may be able to tell I am quite passionate about this subject because I think sometimes those who do not or have not done night shifts for a while tend to forget just how important they are for the young people and also for the other staff in any program.

Donna Banks
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I think that overnight shifts are important, and that the staff working these shifts need to be trained basically. But face it, they have little contact with youngsters, and their ability to be with kids need not be a strength. Why put the resources into training people to work these shifts? Unless they also work during other hours of the day. A thought.

Maggie Leigh 
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I myself am an overnight youth care worker. I work in a facility that is double, and sometimes triple staffed during the day, but that is single staffed at night. In this, and other situations where I have worked overnights in residential facilities, I find that the issue of training for night staff is one that is largely overlooked. I understand that overnight staff's contact with the children is usually minimal, but in cases where there is some sort of disturbance, I find myself at a loss. I feel that if I were offered more training opportunities, I would be more effective in my current position, as I would have a better understanding of how to effectively deal with these, and other situations that may arise. I feel that if I were offered the same training opportunities as the day staff, I would also be a more effective component of the team as a whole, as I would better understand the theories and principles behind the work. Overnight staff are not just "housekeepers", and our interaction with the children we care for, though minimal, is just as important as that of the day staff. In order for night staff to interact with each child in an effective and positive way when the opportunity arises, as well as to ensure that the actions of an overnight staff do not undermine in any way the efforts of the team, I feel that training opportunities should be made more available to us.

Heather Pratt 
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I recently met an adult who as a youth was in the residential treatment center that I am now working at. In our conversation she stated that the one thing out of the whole time she was there that stuck out for her was that an overnight staff went out of her way to get the girl a cold drink of water from the fridge instead of water from the tap. Maybe what we all should realize, not just overnight staff, is that underneath the labels and diagnosis are youth that need to be cared for and doted on. Overnight workers should have the same training as day staff. After all, isn't that what the youth deserve? Something to consider.

Susan Sinclair
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Maggie:
I have to disagree with your opinion on the low importance of training night shift people. Your program must be a great deal different than the one I work in because the night shift is a very important part of the day. You might find The Other 23 Hours - Child Care Work with emotionally disturbed children in a therapeutic milieu by Albert E. Treischman, James K. Whittaker & Larry K. Brendtro may be a book that gives a bit of insight into the importance of bedtime routines and also how a young person gets woken up in the morning.
 
Donna Banks
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Night time observations are the frosting on the cake, the truth come home to rest. Having two very competent night people has been a major factor in some youth being successful in the residential treatment program. Nightly observation reports are a part of the daily entry on each youth. Everything in between the begining of the evening routine right up to the school bus fits in there. Who sleeps how, position, restless or calm, sleep walking, talking, including length, content, and voice. At bed time who goes right to sleep and who is it that hangs out with staff waiting for others to get settled before they turn in. Who walks on their heels with heavy feet after lights out and who softly wakes to get a drink or use the restroom. How many times does one kid get up a night. Is it more before or after being home for the weekend or after his family visited the center. Observations. No judgments no therapy, not light bulbs going off in the kids head. But from my view a key to treatment. I use the night reports as a window to see the youth from a different vantage point.
 
Larry James
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Wow! I admit to having a very strong reaction to the response by Maggie regarding the training needs and support of overnight staff. One of the cornerstones of milieu care is that treatment (and, therefore, change) can occur at anytime in the 24-hour day. Programs must be ready at any moment to assist a young child in crisis, to provide a sense of safety so that youth may let down their old defense and survival mechanisms and attempt to look at their world in a new way, and to be present as we are truly "with" ayouth as they re-navigate their lives. While I agree that most likely an overnight staff in a residential center will have less direct contact with youth, their contribution to the facility and to the treatment is no less important than any other staff. In this regards, overnight staff need the same amount of attention, support and training in the critical components of their shift and within good old-fashioned child and youth care work. What the field needs (and what we should be demanding) is an increase in resources so we never have to determine which shift within our milieu gets attention and who does not.

Peter Rosenblatt 
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I feel that overnight staff are just as important as daytime staff. In my experience, they deal with the same issues that daytime staff deals with, and they are often alone to face that challenge. I believe that they should get as much support and training as any daytime worker considering that they are working with kids in care.

Sara
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I already wrote one note on this subject but I think I should make one more point. Night staff are given the same 40 hrs. of training that all staff receive as well as the ongoing trainings during staff meetings every month. I know some programs that actually pay the night staff more than some of the regular line staff. From my view this is money well spent. Our night staff set the tone for the day by all the prep work they do. They also do all the data base documentation and recording done during the day. The develop the hygiene and morning skill building and routine programs. Night staff are entry level but what better way to get a picture of the overall program. It is like working a piece of every shift every day.
 
Larry James
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In the 1970s I worked at a residential school for children with severe learning disabilities that was considered to be excellent and was excellent - except for its night staff who were underqualified, underpaid, and poorly supervised. Physical abuse of a child by one of these staff who was probably at a loss about how to deal with a behavioural challenge (as Heather mentioned) was a major factor in the school having its license pulled.

In the 1980s and 1990s I spent much of my time working with a small group of colleagues, former students and parents to uncover rampant abuse that was taking place at Jericho Hill School for the Deaf in BC. The culture of sexual violence that had developed at the school was rampant at night (e.g. nightly gang rapes of both male and female students of all ages by both male and female teens). Further, during the 1970s and 1980s the school had attracted several pedophiles who liked working at night and on the weekends.

I think child-centred staff training for and close supervision of staff on all shifts is absolutely critical to child safety in any residential setting including summer camps and weekend retreats. The philosophy of safety, respect, and non-violence must pervade the entire 24 hours or our children are in danger.

Linda Hill
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Further thread ...
Re Child Care Night Cover: I would be grateful to access information on the issue of Live Cover or Waking Staff in Residential Child Care Centres.
Tony Moore

...

Hello Tony: Here in Ohio, Children's Residential Centers are required by government standards to have at least 1 staff awake and actively supervising (i.e., documented bed checks every 15 minutes) on each floor of a building. These standards — first put into practice during the mid-1980s — also prohibit children being left in a facility without adult supervision.

In many agencies, include the one I work for, two staff are used per floor for client/staff safety and supervision issues.

Chip Bonsutto
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