An anonymous diary entry by one of Circle’s family support workers, who has had a busy week supporting parents and their children.
Names have been changed
I start my day by attending the weekly team meeting at which we discuss any matters that need to be planned and actioned within the team. It is also an opportunity to share useful and interesting information that colleagues may have come across such as any new services that have been established or useful training that has been attended.
I am based outwith the office during the week due to the outreach service being locality based, so I use my Mondays to catch up with the team and spend the afternoon catching up on paperwork, phone calls and emails. I then head over to the Recovery Hub to sit in on the Women’s Only SMART Meeting.
SMART Recovery is a science-based programme to help people manage their recovery from any type of addictive behaviour. This includes addictive behaviour with substances such as alcohol, nicotine or drugs, or compulsive behaviours such as gambling, sex, eating, shopping, self-harming and so on. SMART stands for ‘Self Management And Recovery Training’.
This is the first SMART meeting I have observed and it is a really eye-opening experience. I have supported families affected by parental substance use for several years and heard many first hand stories from parents about their alcohol and drug habits, however this meeting provides a different perspective. The women are extremely open and talk about how devious and sneaky they were (their own words) when trying to conceal their alcohol use from their partners and children. They talk openly about sitting in their cars and glugging a bottle of wine before going in the house, hiding the bottle in their handbags; pretending to have forgotten to buy something in Tesco when shopping with their partner so they can run back in a buy a bottle of wine in secret; drinking bottles of wine in public toilets when out with friends so that they don’t get the shakes during their lunch date. The women are really honest about their feelings of shame, guilt and disgust.
I’m in supervision with my manager this morning which lasts three hours. We discuss what has changed with the families I am supporting since our last supervision and come up with new approaches and action points for continuing to try and promote positive change for the families. We discuss how I am feeling and managing my case load as well any training needs I have identified.
I update the online database and paper files and respond to emails and phone calls before continuing trying to make a resource out of the Emotions Talk tools I have had in my office for some time now.
I attend a Practice Teacher and Link Worker Forum meeting with several other Circle employees. We have these meetings quarterly to allow workers to come together and share their experiences and knowledge of supporting and supervising the students we have on placement.
I’m right in to another meeting with Circle employees again to discuss ACEs – Adverse Childhood Experiences – specifically what Circle’s knowledge is of ACEs and how we can further develop our knowledge and understanding of this and embed it further into Circle practice.
I attend a home visit this morning with a couple who I support. They are both working with me using Parents Under Pressure (PuP) resources, but I meet with them individually to complete the baseline questionnaires. The PuP program combines psychological principles relating to parenting, child behaviour and parental emotion regulation. The program is home-based and designed for families in which there are many difficult life circumstances that impact on family functioning.
I attend a Child Planning Meeting (CPM) for a family I have recently been allocated, which is an opportunity to gain an understanding of the strengths and difficulties of the family to aid in my own assessment of the family and focus my support. It’s a short meeting attended by myself, mum, key worker from EYC and the social worker. EYC take minutes and the meeting is very informal with a loose structure.
I’m off to another CPM right after this one. It is also for a newly allocated family. This meeting is attended by the head teacher, class teacher, occupational therapist, mum and myself. It is structured a lot differently to the previous meeting, with a member of the Support for Learning team sitting in on the meeting and completing an electronic child’s plan on a smart board which acts as an agenda.
I finish the day in the Recovery Hub reading articles on the topic of ’sideways talking’ with children, as myself and another colleague are meeting up soon to develop a session on communicating with children that we would like to use with the students on placement.
I attend a home visit with a mum who experiences high levels of anxiety and low motivation. Phone calls need to be made to chase up various referrals to other support services. Mum isn’t keen to make the phone calls herself, however, I am aware of creating a sense of dependency and de-skilling the parent. I offer a compromise of mum making one phone call herself. I make several calls on her behalf in the hope of role modelling what to say. I script the phone conversation for the mum and write down what she needs to say and the likely questions she will be asked and the responses that will be appropriate. We complete paperwork for the referrals and review the most recent support plan to check on the progress being made and any barriers that are prohibiting the goals being achieved. We complete a review support plan and set new goals for the next quarter.
I head off to another home visit. Mum wishes to discuss her son’s behaviour and the difficulties she feels she is experiencing responding appropriately to him. Discussions with mum are focused on the emotion regulation of her son and how this may be linked to his past traumatic experiences. I suggest some emotion regulation techniques and positive parenting strategies to help reduce her child’s over stimulation and soothe his emotions.
My next appointment is in the Recovery Hub and I am meeting with a parent who has been referred by her addictions worker. The appointment lasts about an hour and it is an initial screening appointment where I gather information on the family composition, the strengths and difficulties they are currently experiencing and what support the family feel they need in order to improve their daily living.
I stay in the Hub and write up some more outstanding case records.
I start my day by visiting a mum who recently moved in to a new flat with her two children.
My focus of support with the family recently has been to support mum and the children to establish and implement a morning and evening routine with the hope of improving the daily living situation for the family by adding structure to the childrens’ days. Mum reported that when she was consistent in implementing the routine, the home situation was calmer. The plan for today is to move on to discussing acceptable and unacceptable behaviour with the children and implement a behaviour agreement of sorts for the children. This is so mum and the children have something to refer to if disagreements occur and the children challenge their mother on her decisions, as they often do. Mum thinks it would be useful to have the children on board for this discussion and to have the agreement in writing to provide her with back up, so to speak, if she isn’t feeling confident with her decisions. However, mum reports that since the family have moved house and the children have their own space, the children’s behaviour and moods have improved and she doesn’t feel the need at this point to put in place a behaviour agreement.
Discussing with mum how their lives have improved since moving to a new more suitable and spacious home highlights to me the inequality experienced by the families Circle support, and the detrimental impact socioeconomic inequalities such as housing can have on families’ wellbeing.
I discuss with mum how the children have settled in to the new home and school and mum is still concerned about the emotional and aggressive outbursts from one of the children. I discuss emotion regulation strategies with mum and suggest we can focus on this in more detail. Mum agrees to try the strategies I suggest and to call me in a couple of weeks after the children have settled to discuss if the strategies have helped the children in the short term.
Mum mentions as I am leaving that she has been attending her counselling appointments regularly now and she is really happy the referral had been made. Mum mentions that she is managing her cravings (for alcohol and opiates) much better and she has been able to use SMART thinking to ride the craving wave and not drink alcohol, even though she knew there was alcohol in the home. Counselling has really helped mum and she has really changed her way of thinking – better decision making skills, more positive thinking and less catastrophizing thoughts. Mum herself is evidencing improved emotion regulation which I feel has likely had a positive impact on the youngest child who is mirroring her mum’s more stable moods.
My next home visit is rescheduled, so I make some phone calls. I confirm my next appointment is still going ahead and head off to another part of the city. I collect a parent from home and drive over to a local supermarket café. Mum doesn’t get out of the house very often due to her mental health and physical health complications, so part of the support plan we have put in place is to meet outwith the house.
We review support plans from July and discuss the progress mum has made in completing a lot of practical daily living tasks. We move on to discussing future support and mum agrees to work with me to complete PuP, so I chat with mum about what PuP is and how it can help to improve on aspects of her health and wellbeing.