Leading to Serve, Serving to Lead


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Today was the first day of a Servant Leadership Course that we are doing in Crosscare, this was introduced to us a few weeks ago by our Director and Senior Managers and I for one have been excited and worried ever since.
This morning 12 of the management team met up at 9am in Holy Cross College, Conor Hickey our Director and Aidan Browne our trainer were going to take us through day 1 of the course.
Servant Leadership, what is it ?????
Management is doing things right, Leadership is doing the right things.
Efficiency is doing things right, Effectiveness is doing the right things.
There are seven practices to create cultures that are ethical, practical and meaningful.
Self Awareness
Developing your colleagues
Listening
Coaching not controlling
Unleashing the energy and intelligence of others
Changing the pyramid
Foresight
Today we spent some time looking at an overview of the course, we shared some of our hopes, looked at some of our skills and discussed our experience of positive and negative leadership. We have only scratched the surface but we are on our way. We watched a piece on youtube from a TedTalk by Simon Sinek called “Start with why”, this is a very interesting piece you should if you have the time watch the youtube piece and then go on to look at Robert Greenleaf who is recognised as the founding Father of Servant Leadership. That’s all for now, more in two weeks time after the next session.

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“ADOPT”ing a different stance


The forthcoming Children’s referendum will hopefully be truly Child centred. It will hopefully give Children a greater voice in decisions made for and about them, one area that I am particularly interested in is whether they will look at post adoption tracing and support legislation. This is one area that affects us as Children and Adults.

In Ireland now in 2012 adopted Adults require permission from their natural Mothers whom they have probably never met to get a copy of their original birth-cert. Permission for a document that is a matter of public record, permission to get a document that all of you, those not adopted have as a matter of course. As a 47 year old man I’m a bit pissed off that I need permission to have the legal record of my own birth.

In Ireland there is no formal mechanism for tracing and reunification services, these are either left up to the HSE or the original agency, this can be very problematic for adopted people and natural Mothers as you are asking them to re-engage with the agency that initially facilitated the adoption and therefore were intrinsically involved in the process.

Adopted people are precluded from requesting information on their adopted selves under the freedom of information act, if you were precluded based on gender, colour or nationality there would be wigs on the green. We need to have a much more positive system whereby birth-certs are available without having to jump through hoops, natural Mothers and adopted Adults should be encouraged and supported to meet if that is what they want, but as a minimum your lineage should be available as a matter of course, it should be enshrined in the forthcoming Children’s legislation and should be retrospective so it is available to the 50,000 legal adoptions and the god only knows how many illegal and de-facto adoptions since the inception of the adoption act in 1952.

There is no good reason to prevent people from accessing their past and having some sort of a relationship with blood relatives if that is what they want.

Adrian McKenna is a frontline child care professional; he has worked for many years with young people and adults in residential care, detention services, mental health services and post-adoption services. He currently works with a large Dublin-based charity. All views expressed are entirely my own unless otherwise stated and are not representative of any organisation or employer past , present or future.

Aftercare support – let’s empower young people leaving care to start new, healthy lives


Turning our back on young people leaving the care system is doing nothing to break the cycle of abuse and neglect, writes frontline social care worker Adrian McKenna, originally published on http://www.campaignforchildren.ie

As a professional working in the care sector, I have accepted responsibility for the care and protection of the children I have been assigned to.

Can I say I believe that the needs of those children have always been placed above the needs of the care sector and the State? Unfortunately, I can’t.

I have seen children’s rights being measured against the needs of the accountant.

I have seen children moved from familiar care settings they had adjusted to because a bed had become available in a cheaper setting.

I have seen children in care forced to make their own way to hospital because there was no one available to bring them.

I have seen children going to school without breakfast.

I have seen teenagers who are expected to survive on €19.00 a week.

These things happen because gaps exist in our child protection system, gaps that are allowing children in need to fall through the cracks.

As a social care worker, I am tasked with making sure the voice of the child is heard in the decisions that affect their lives, until this right is finally enshrined in law.

But my task is made difficult, by overloading of case files, a lack of resources and the fact that my work is not supported by laws that protect the rights and the voices of children in Ireland.

So how do we make things better? The care system has to be founded on legally-based directives, not soft-focus wish lists. One tangible example that needs immediate attention is the lack of aftercare services that are available for young people who have lived in care.

Latest figures show a total of 6,015 young people and children are living in State care in Ireland – nearly double what it was twenty years ago.  The vast majority are in foster care, with the remainder in State residential care, voluntary care, special care or in detention schools.

As it stands, once a young person turns 18, the State is no longer obligated to legally support them. The experience of social care staff is that without support, many young people coming out of care struggle to cope.

While some are able to make that transition to independent adulthood, too many young people end up becoming marginalised, or even homeless. Some develop addiction problems and even get sucked into petty crime. Without support they can get trapped in this cycle.

We must return to this issue as a matter of huge urgency. Children and young people in care need support the whole way through the system but it can’t simply stop there. Turning our back on young people once they turn 18 isn’t doing anything to break the cycle of neglect and instability that many of these young people are finally beginning to recover from.

As a social care worker, it’s intensely frustrating to see young people that I have helped to care for thrown out of the system without a helping hand or support system in place to help them make that transition.

We owe them more than that – let’s give young people exiting the care system the chance to start living safely, secure in the knowledge that they’re not alone, that aftercare support is there for them when they need it. Empowering young people to take care of themselves will help prevent future generations of children entering into a cycle of neglect and abuse. Let’s make it happen.

Adrian McKenna is a frontline child care professional; he has worked for many years with young people and adults in residential care, detention services, mental health services and post-adoption services. He currently works with a large Dublin-based charity. All views expressed are entirely my own unless otherwise stated and are not representative of any organisation or employer past , present or future.

Challenging ourselves, Professional Social Care


Today all over Ireland there are professional Social Care Workers doing great work with a myriad of different service users with a myriad of different needs. Today all over Ireland there are Non-Professional Care Workers doing great work with a myriad of different service users with a myriad of different needs. What unites all these people is that they want to help, they want to care, they want to make a difference and where this becomes problematic is when the organisations they work for does not have the same goals.

The residential care sector for children has been subject to statutory inspection for a good few years now, and this is right and proper, and in that time some service providers have not passed these inspections and have had to be closed down , again right and proper. The adult service providers have not been subject to this level of scrutiny, vulnerable adults whether physical, intellectual, or sensorial disabled or old aged are living in environments where close external scrutiny is not the norm, the most vulnerable in society are being let down by us the professionals. The longer Professionals remain quiet the more vulnerable our service users are.

A few years ago I worked in a residential setting where I was unhappy with the level and quality of service being offered to the young people in our care. It was a privately run, for profit, residential care home. The longer I worked there the more uncomfortable I was with the way it was run. Money was the guiding hand; everything was measured against the euro. Budgets were based on profit and loss, not on care, morals and ethos. Over time we were inspected and with a bit of work we passed two inspections, at the second inspection I voiced my concerns about the way the service was run, and to be fair to them the inspectors listened and acted appropriately. Eventually the inevitable happened and I had to make the decision whether to stay or leave, and so after a short break (mandatory holidays for all staff enforced by the directors) I decided not to return to work for this organisation.

I effectively put myself on the dole as Irelands economy collapsed; thankfully my wife supported me through this. I again spoke with the inspection service about my concerns. I was well and truly sickened by my particular experience of the private residential care sector. I now know that this isn’t the norm in childcare, but while we all strive to do the very best that we can for the very vulnerable people we work with if we are not willing to stand firm against bad practice then we should find a job elsewhere. Time and time again we read of investigations into bad practice and downright abuse, this can only happen when proper oversight is not as normal as tea and toast.

We as professionals should be the driving force behind these changes, we the professionals should be instituting change from within, and we should be fighting to make sure that all the people who use our services get the very best service they can get, and that starts with trusting, honest, open and safe relationships with one another. Hopefully this year we will see the wording of the proposed referendum on the rights of the child, hopefully it will be child centred, child focussed and strengthen the hands of those that advocate for societies most vulnerable.

Adrian McKenna is a frontline child care professional; he has worked for many years with young people and adults in residential care, detention services, mental health services and post-adoption services. He currently works with a large Dublin-based charity. All views expressed are entirely my own unless otherwise stated and are not representative of any organisation or employer past , present or future.

Relationships – are they at the core of the caring Profession?


Relationships – are they at the core of the caring Profession? What must it be like to have to put yourself into the care system or worse still to have to be taken into care?

For most of us, it’s something that is far removed from our everyday existence, but for many thousands, it is a daily reality.

The care system in Ireland covers the full life span of a person from birth to death and crosses all creeds, colours, and social strata.

It is organised in a haphazard way with private (for profit), voluntary and statutory agencies providing the services. The one constant is the vulnerability of the people young and old who require our care.

The world around us functions by virtue of the relationships and inter-relationships that we have with each other. But what happens if you grow up in an environment where these relationships are dysfunctional?

Every day in care settings across the country, young people come into care. They enter the care system for a myriad of reasons but the one area that is consistent is that the relationships in their lives have broken down, sometimes irretrievably.

The rights of the child must always be paramount, but to ascertain what the needs of the child are, requires us to build a relationship with that child. That can only happen by spending time with and getting to know the child and their family, by getting a sense of their community, by trying to understand their cultural nuances, and by developing a sense of mutual trust.

This is the type of work that most social workers would like to do but are restricted from doing. This is the type of work that social care workers do and have the time to do.

The relative positions of the social worker and social care worker have changed over the years. The social care worker is now a professionally recognised member of the care field and operates academically to the same level as the other professionals.

The main difference is that the social care worker is the person that the child is with almost 24/7 in a residential care setting. This is the space in which relationships are built. It’s also where the mutual understandings start, where the advocacy starts, where the emotional rollercoaster is ridden, where the child bares its soul. It’s where the pain is on view and where a child or young person’s vulnerability can eventually be revealed.

In this space, the notion of relationships have to be re-set, relationships have to be re-enacted, built up in order to fail, so that they can be built up again. This is where a child gets to have a relationship with, first themselves, and when that has been achieved, a caring adult.

This is also where the caring adult learns, through that relationship, what the needs of the individual child are and how to advocate for them, when it’s needed.

What is clear from working at the coalface of the care system, is that we need to have a mechanism for the voice of the child to be heard.

The voice of the child needs to be listened to through this mechanism, through those that care for them, through those who have been cared for and through those of us who were once a child.

Yes that’s you, me and everyone else, we all need to speak out with our inner child’s voice and unburden this country of the silence of the children.

Adrian McKenna is a frontline child care professional; he has worked for many years with young people and adults in residential care, detention services, mental health services and post-adoption services. He currently works with a large Dublin-based charity. All views expressed are entirely my own unless otherwise stated and are not representative of any organisation or employer past , present or future.