The Workforce

Building relationships in secure care

Looking for ways to build and maintain relationships in secure care? Here you find some information for doing just that.

The relationships that young people build with staff are crucial to the success of secure placements. We know that having good, trusting relationships are vital for young people with care experience to grow up feeling secure, confident and trusting. Understanding a young person story, the context of their placement and the world through their eyes should be the standard for workers that engage with young people in secure care. Often, care experienced young people will have decisions about their life made for them and are not asked about their needs or wants which can cause resentment towards, and withdrawal from, authorities. Providing young people the opportunity to be involved in the different stages of secure care – before they are placed, during placement and moving on – is crucial for positive outcomes for young people. If young people are informed of their rights, and the decisions made for them and are included in this process, they are more likely to trust the adults that are directly and indirectly involved in their life and are less likely to rebel against decisions, if they are provided opportunities to influence the decisions that affect their life.

Children enter secure children's homes under two types of orders, while some are sentenced for committing an offence, others are placed by social services under a child welfare order. Though placed under different circumstances, both types of children are perceived as ‘vulnerable’ and in need of therapeutic care. Secure care is often seen as a place of punishment for children who may have committed an offence – by the children themselves and from outsiders. However, not all children that are admitted to secure care committed a crime. And even when they are, secure care is a place of care and not of punishment. Children that are admitted to secure care will have usually experienced adversity and difficult life experiences which can lead to them committing crimes. Secure care should provide the guidance, support and understanding that is often lacking in these young people’s lives.

Some steps you may want to consider in building relationships in secure care are:

  • Inform – young people should be informed of the decisions that impact their lives.
  • Knowledge – empowering young people through the information they need.
  • Rights – young people should know what their rights are in secure care and how these will be upheld and what to do if these rights are compromised.
  • Expectations – young people should know what to expect from secure care, what are the practical things they should know?
  • Connections – Someone who is understanding and sympathetic and will not judge.
  • Engagements – Young people should be encouraged to continue the relationships they have with their peers or family and this should not be used as punishment.
  • Health – young people’s mental, physical and sexual health and needs are prioritised and understood by those around them.
  • Care – young people are giving the care, respect and attention they deserve.
  • Confidence – young people should feel confident that any decisions made for them are done so with the desires, hopes and wants of young people are not only considered but the most important factor in decision-making.

These are only suggestions – there is a lot we can do individually and throughout the care sector to become more relational in our care. It is important to take care of yourself and be honest and open about your boundaries and limitations in caring for young people.

The Secure Care Pathways have set out what should happen at every stage secure care – before young people are admitted, during their time in secure care and moving on. It also offers practical advice and steps you can take to best support young people in secure care.

Secure care pathways and standards

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