Jack (14) is the eldest of four children and when he and his siblings lived at home they saw lots of scary things. There were times when Jack had to be the parent to his siblings, looking after them and keeping them safe, a role that he really shouldn’t have had to do.
Although Jack’s mum and dad loved him, at that time they weren’t able to keep him safe. Initially Jack moved into foster care with one of his brothers, but sadly due to the traumatic experiences Jack and his siblings had gone through, and the role of parent that Jack took on, it became unhelpful for Jack and his brother to remain living together. Jack’s own experiences meant that it was difficult for him to settle in foster care, and he moved between foster care placements, three times in five months, eventually ending up in residential care.
When Stepping Stones became involved, the outreach worker matched to Jack had been working with Jack and his mum in a different role previously, and therefore Jack had an existing, positive relationship with them. This helped Jack feel safer as he trusted his Stepping Stones worker and understood their role was to listen to him and to make sure Jack had a voice that was heard.
Jack was identified as a young person who would be able to move from a residential home to a family environment and has since lived with his foster carers. The foster carer got to know Jack initially through spending time at the residential home and building the basis of their relationship. Throughout the 12 months, Stepping Stones supported the foster carer and Jack. The foster carer said that the project was Jack’s “lifeline”; it gave Jack a safe adult to talk to while they built their relationship. The Stepping Stones worker spent time talking to the foster carer to ensure that the carer had space to talk and share any concerns she may have had.
By ensuring Jack had a worker he trusted, this helped with him not escalating further, giving Jack the time he needed to build that relationship with the carer. Without the Stepping Stones worker, Jack may not have had the outlet he needed and may have pushed the carer away further, increasing the risk of a placement breakdown. The project supported Jack emotionally at a time that he needed to ensure that he had that positive relationship to grow and build with his foster carer to avoid a move back to residential care.
Why Stepping Stones?
Jack often felt dysregulated, calling his outreach worker multiple times a day, crying, hyperventilating and feeling lost and frightened by the multiple changes in his life.
Jack would look at the clock when on a video call with his worker asking, “how many minutes until I speak to you again?”. At that time, the Stepping Stones outreach worker was his only consistent person outside of his foster home.
Due to Jack’s trauma, he understandably found it difficult to learn to trust his new carer and was struggling to form an attachment with them.
This led to Jack’s carer feeling a sense of rejection and a feeling of helplessness as she wasn’t able to form a relationship with Jack.
In situations like this, therapeutic support can be of great help to children and young people and their carers.
Many of the approaches will be undertaken by specialist trained professionals and some will include the carers' input when they have received relevant training. The foster carers will not be alone but will be working as part of an integrated support package.
It is worth noting that therapeutic support, whilst highly effective, takes time, patience and working together.
Trauma informed practice
- Being consistent, reliable, and flexible (6 days a week, 8am - 8pm) based on the needs of Jack and his carer
- Understanding Jack’s lived experiences
Attachment focused work
- Using Jack’s existing, positive relationships to build on him feeling able to form other safe relationships with those around him
- Providing a space to listen and to truly hear Jack’s fears
- Providing a space for the carer to talk
Systemic family therapy
- Building a safe, trusting relationship with Jack
- Understanding Jack’s relationships with others
- Building on the positive areas in Jack’s life and developing Jack’s resilience
- Discussing the impact of the trauma experienced by Jack with other agencies, so they increased their understanding of Jack
- Regularly updating the other agencies about outcomes of the work Stepping Stones was completing with Jack
- With consent, ensuring Jack’s views, thoughts and wishes were shared
Outcomes at the moment for Jack and his foster carer
- Jack remains living with his carer
- The placement is more stable
- The relationship between Jack and his carer feels safer for Jack
- Jack is beginning to feel able to share his lived experiences with his carer
Stepping Stones supported Jack and his foster carer for 12 months, there were lots of support and visits based on the needs of Jack and his foster carer. Initially we supported daily, moving to twice weekly, weekly, then fortnightly and monthly. We continued to be there for Jack for as long as needed to support both him and his foster carer. As we all know, change doesn’t happen overnight, but we remained involved until Jack decided that he was ready and no longer needed us.