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Policies around maintaining relationships post-care

2009

In continuing my learning about the importance and sheer essentiality of relational practice in CYC, I am wondering what mandates/existing policies say about maintaining contact with young people upon them no longer being recipients of services. Specifically, I am interesting in learning more about existing or non-existing policies that hinder or promote maintenance of supportive relationships between young people and their workers post-care. I've come across a lot of literature that speaks to dual relationships, however, I  would like to become more familiar with policies around the world that may speak to the relational context between a young person and their worker after service delivery .
 
I appreciate, in advance, hearing your thoughts around this topic!
 
Lisa Azzopardi
Toronto
...

Here in Wisconsin there is no state policy that restricts contact and many of our youth contact staff here after they leave. There is a policy in place at my facility that restricts personal (relationship) contact with a youth or parent or social worker of that youth for 5 years. We have our reasons for creating that policy but that is the only policy in our facility regarding youth released for the facility.

Donna Wilson
...
 
Dear Lisa
 
What an outstanding inquiry! I am not working within an agency therefore cannot provide you with any information regarding specific policies/mandates but I just had to say what a great question! I am so excited to read all the replies as I too am now curious about your question.
 
Additionally, I myself am currently working privately and that got me wondering how would private practice fit into this puzzle. It made me wonder what would the differences look like and what would they be (if any differences) when comparing private practitioners versus larger organizations.
 
Thanks for the stimulating question, I think you are on to something !!!
 
All the best to you,
 
Vanessa Lalonde
...

Hi there,
 
At SOS Children's Villages we work hard to remain in contact with youth who have integrated independently.  We want to remain in contact to support them through the period of transitioning from a cared living situation to independence, since we recognise that different youths may require different responses and levels of support to help them be successfully independent.

Some struggle while others easily adapt.  We want to be there to support the ones who struggle, and to learn from the ones that find it easy - we continually research what helps youth to be successful and what impedes the process.  It is also important for us to track their progress as long as they will allow us to be in contact with them - it gives us useful information about the effect of our programme on their lives, and we try and engage with them even years after they left, to learn from them about their experiences while living with us.  It is both a way to improve on the quality of our programmes, and to offer support if needed.  Since our programme is strongly geared for long-term, and often permanent care, many of the youth see our organisation as "home", and remain in contact with us because we have become their only roots to their past and their culture.

Some of the relationships they have built with our child care workers last a lifetime.
 
When a youth is integrated, it forms part of their youth development plan, a process that they participate in and that maps their development. Integration should therefore never be a hurried or sudden process, but a planned process.  We then remain intensively involved with them for at least six months to a year in order to ensure that they are able to live successfully independent.
 
Ideally, we would want youth who have left our care and have integrated successfully to "return" after a few years and become involved with us again - perhaps as an "older brother" or mentor to younger children.  Youth who become successful in life have the best possibility of motivating the children in our care, and can serve as excellent role models. 
 
I hope this information is useful.
 
Werner van der Westhuizen
Port Elizabeth
...

Hi everyone,
 
I felt the need to share my " two cents" on this. I do not work for an agency (nor have I) that limits contact with youth/clients after leaving a program. Obviously, I can't know the decision making process behind those agencies that do restrict contact. I do have to say however, that for us as Child and Youth Care professionals, in the business of healthy relationship and attachment, that it seems very contradictory to our usual philosophies, theories, and practices. How can we say to youth: we care about you, are here for you, and support your full and healthy development, if we do so, only within the confines of the "service" in which they are enrolled!?!? Especially if that service is mandated??? To me that does not say, "I am here and I care for you". It says, "I'm here because you are. And when you are gone, so am I".
 
Sorry if that is harsh. I would like to hear more on the reasoning behind decisions to implement a policy such as this.
 
Thank-you,
Shauna Lee
...
 
A good question from Lisa, especially following the recent postings about outcome data. 
 
I think it depends a bit on relationships.  I would not expect my school teachers or guidance counselors to call me for any reason after I had left their school.  It just wouldn't feel right.  But I would not expect my parents to cease all contact with me after I left home.
 
Is one of the problems with looked after children that it seems that nobody really cares?  That no one is really there for them after they leave?  That people are only there for them temporarily?
 
Or how about feedback?  We do our best with children, preparing them to move on.  Then they do so, and so do we, moving on to other children who need our full attention, confident in the knowledge that we did our best with those who came before, perhaps satisfied that we provided the best evidence-based practice.
 
But what if our best did not meet their needs?  What if they really weren't prepared for what they had to face?  What if they crashed and burned within a few weeks?  Would we change what we were doing and how we did it if we knew that?  If we knew how or why they fell?  Systems--people and organizations--cannot adjust themselves to meet their objectives without feedback. 
 
The grim outcome statistics offered by Lorraine Fox are mostly aggregate date.  They do not reflect on one worker, one agency, or one program.  Is one of the problems with looked after children that we don't get sufficient feedback?  That we don't really know what we are doing?  Is one of the reasons that we don't look for feedback because we don't really want to know? 
 
John Stein
New Orleans
... 
 
A more encouraging report from the UK which we featured in the news section on our web site earlier this week - Eds.
 
http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/Ofsted-home/News/News-Archive/2009/December/Over-a-
thousand-children-in-care-voice-their-experiences-of-the-care-system
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