Aras Attracta after the scandal: What have we learned?


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In recent days the media have been carrying a follow up story about the Aras Attracta scandal; it centres on the jailing of one of the staff and the on-going debate around the other four or five.

Interestingly on social media especially around the Social Care type sites this decision is being met with some comfort. This in itself is worth some analysis, when any vulnerable member of society is abused in any way are we as a society satiated once someone is held responsible? Is that all it takes? Is that enough?.

The simple answer is NO. That is not enough. That thought process is too simplistic. We, as in those in the Social Care community need to have an ability to take a much broader view of what has happened. We need to understand the historical context, the financial context, the model of care, the care providers, the process of inclusion, the place for advocates, the need for whistle-blowers, and most importantly the training and education of the social care teams.

Historically in Ireland residential care had been provided by various agents of the Catholic Church, some experienced that care in a positive light and many, many others will never recover from the care they received. There have been many reports over the years for example:

Tuairim Report: 1966, Kennedy Report: 1970, Task Force Report of Child Care Services: 1980, Report of the Kilkenny Incest Investigation: 1993 and the McCoy Report: 2007. Despite all these reports and despite all the well intentioned posturing by the government over the decades we now have a situation whereby 93 per cent of inspections of disability services carried out by the State’s health watchdog HIQA have found that facilities failed to comply with national standards.

Funding of care services is crucial and being able to be critical of the funder is essential. Most funding comes through one or more arms of the state and is tied to service level agreements which outline the type of services that are being provided. The funding provider will then look for outcomes which may not necessarily reflect the tenets of love, care and excellence. They may be more wrongly based on the tenets of value, efficiency and risk.

When assessing the efficacy of a service that is supporting vulnerable individuals we need to be able to look at risk, value and efficiency but if we forget to allow our hearts have a place in how we provide the service, if we fail to look at love, care and excellence then we have FAILED. We have failed to recognise that care is not just a service but is a whole series of real relationships that we engage in every day. When these relationships are genuine then the persons involved in those relationships will benefit, both the service user and the service provider.

That then begs the question; What is our model of care? Should there be a model of care or can you have a model of care? My belief is that care services need to be heart led, they need to be relationship focussed and they should be informed by those who are in receipt of the care. When I say informed I mean that in a very real way. All people in receipt of a service should have the access to inform and change that service. They should be on the boards, they should be interviewing the staff teams, they should be informing policy and procedures, they should be not just heard, but listened to, they should be trained and supported and where their voice cannot be heard, there should be wholly independent advocates to be their voice.

Why is inclusion so important and how does inclusion prevent abuses of those using the service? When you include someone in all the decisions of their life course you are directly responsible to your equal. It removes the power paradigm and grounds you in a decision making process that is based on an individual who is using a service instead of a decision in the best interest of the service. All apartheid is based on fear and if you want to overcome fear you need to get to know those and that of what your fear, opening your heart to real, honest, equal relationships allows that to happen.

What struck me about Aras Attracta was that seemingly experienced team members allowed this to happen, it appears they stood idly by as vulnerable people were abused. Or did they?

We haven’t heard if there were a host of complaints made that were never looked at, we may hear that once the legal cases are over. I believe as Professional Social  Care workers that we have to have much higher standards. That we need to, without fear, challenge our practices, both individual and collective. That support from senior team members needs to be exampled and that whole cultural shifts need to take place. Hierarchical leadership models are not as effective in care situations as they are in say, manufacturing. We need to recognise that we work with many differing professionals who are leaders in their field. If we accept this, then we accept that any one individual can and should have a voice and should be listened to.

When the mental health specialist advises, we should listen. When the cleaner advises then  we should listen and when a professional by experience advises we should listen. Decisions made in the collective, made when people get to have their say, made when the heart and the head are heard, made when people believe they are listened to allows a culture develop whereby people get used to being heard and are never afraid to try to speak, never afraid to speak when they see that which is not right and are never afraid to seek a hearing from someone who can institute change.

Aras Attracta failed on many levels and some people may end up in prison. This in itself won’t change anything. What needed to be in the dock this time is the culture of the service and that’s something you cannot put in front of a judge.

So, where to now?

We now need to focus on the education, training, ethics and morals of the Social Care staff we are hiring. We as Social care professionals need to take responsibility for our profession, we need to put those that use our services first, we need to make each other accountable and we need to focus on relationships.

In the coming years we will be going through a registration process for Social Care Workers, we need to engage positively with this process and take back the damage and disdain that our forefathers have left for us.

Adrian McKenna is a frontline Social Care Professional; he has worked and Managed for many years with young people and adults in residential care, detention services, mental health services, homeless services and post-adoption services. He currently works with a large Dublin-based charity. He is a Committee Member of The Irish Association of Social Care Workers, A Member of the Social Care workers Registration Board at CORU, A Member of Social Justice Ireland and was on the National Committee of the YES Campaign for Children. All views expressed are entirely my own unless otherwise stated and are not representative of any organisation or employer past , present or future.

 

Children are never too young to help around the house


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The eternal question from young parents, “when do we start getting the kids to help around the house”??

My simple answer the day they are born !!!!! does that sound ridiculous ??? to some it may but you need to look at what getting our children to help around the house means and why we do it.

Children learn in many many ways, watching, listening, doing, trying, failing and helping.

The younger they are (2 to 4) the more they need help and encouragement, in the very early stages of their development they are watching what is going on around them. Everything we want them to do now has to be shown, replicated and made fun. The attention span is short and you need to be on your toes.

As they develop their little personalities (4 to 7) the helping period will start, everything you want to show your children now is done through asking them to help. At this age they respond well to helping, this is where they start to replicate our behaviours so having them do tasks beside us really works for them.

Now they are beginning to develop a bit of independence (8 to 10) this is the time to start giving some small simple tasks to complete without being tied to your left leg. They will enjoy lots of praise and encouragement so make sure you let them know they are doing a great job. If they make a mess of something jump in beside them and help them fix it.

The next phase of development is (11 and up) this can be the most difficult time for us and them, they really want to be independent but they don’t necessarily want to do the tasks. This is where we as parents need to be firm and set tasks that they can complete and can be good at. Don’t be afraid to support them either pre-teens are on the cusp of not wanting to know us and still loving us, keep the boundaries tight and keep the tasks short and specific.

It is our responsibility to example to our children what sort of adult we want them to become, they will learn by us showing, supporting and doing with them. Barking orders and criticising only demeans our children and undermines their esteem. If we want them to learn we need to be the best example for them.Enjoy your kids when they are young they grow up all too fast.

Here is a little list that might help all you parents and carers.

Age Appropriate Jobs for Children around the House

2-4 year olds – need lots of encouragement and will help a bit if tasks are used as a game, make things fun for them.

Putting away their toys

Putting dirty clothes in a basket/hamper

Help feed dog/cat/fish/hamster

Bring extras to the table eg salt , pepper, sauce etc

Tag along while dusting sweeping etc

 

4-7 year olds – Children of this age naturally want to help, they learn by replicating/observing. This is where we teach by showing and doing.

Put away their things eg toys, school stuff, sports kits etc

Help set the table

Help feed the pets

Help water the plants/garden

Help make their bed

Bring down clothes for washing

Help clear the table

Help load the dishwasher

Help in the garden (small tasks)

Help put away small shopping

 

8-10 year olds– if you have been working with your children to become independent now is the time to start giving them their own tasks to complete.

Making their own bed

Taking responsibility for watering plants

Clean and hoover with direction

Show them how to set and clear the table

Show them how to hoover and dust

Feed pets (depends on type of pet and how your comfortable your child is interacting with the pet)

Help choose and make dinner

Bringing their washing down

Help clean the car

Do the washing up

Load / empty the dishwasher

Take rubbish out to the bin

Help in  the garden

 

11 year olds and older – will now be more able to complete tasks independently but may be less willing, this is where you as a parent needs to be able to set planned and regular tasks.

Take out/in the bins

Set/ clear the table for dinner

Clean their own room

Put away the shopping

Clean the bathroom

Clean the kitchen

Hoover

Mow the grass/work in the garden

Do their own laundry with support

Choose and make small meals on own

Help wash the car/wash car

Make bed

Wash dishes/load or empty dishwasher

 

 

Adrian McKenna is a frontline Social Care Professional; he has worked and Managed for many years with young people and adults in residential care, detention services, mental health services, homeless services and post-adoption services. He currently works with a large Dublin-based charity. He is a Committee Member of The Irish Association of Social Care Workers, A Member of the Social Care workers Registration Board at CORU, A Member of Social Justice Ireland and was on the National Committee of the YES Campaign for Children. All views expressed are entirely my own unless otherwise stated and are not representative of any organisation or employer past , present or future.

 

When an article offends is it offensive ???


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One thing that is worth considering when looking at our personal life journey is how we react to others opinions and especially this article by Michael Patwell. To denigrate and cast Judgement is to do what we are offended by on a regular basis, JUDGE. When we in the Adoption community feel that we are not being heard or that at times we are not being agreed with then that can lead to hurt, pain and anger. Likewise if we want to have our opinions heard and accepted (not necessarily agreed with) then we need to accept that some people’s experiences are different than ours. In this one sided article (his view only) he clearly says that he was treated well, that what he saw was love and kindness. That may be a rose tinted perspective but it is his experience. I for one won’t take that away from him but if I ever got the chance I would try to educate him to the other side of the story. He is clearly right on one thing though, it is of its time as is all of history, things were done very differently then, children and women were lesser humans and were seen as a commodity. We continue to live with appalling practices in social care settings and the secularisation of the care field hasn’t led to a seismic shift in the care of the vulnerable. There will be investigations in the future and people will be accused of ignoring the pain of others or accused of ignoring the positive experience of others. If we continue to try to acknowledge history from only one perspective then we are ignoring history and creating an excluding dialogue, thus marginalising others as we would not like to be marginalised. Michael Patwell has written a piece that is his perspective only, and as much as it annoys me I still own my story and am as strident in my opinion as he is.

Adrian McKenna is a frontline Social Care Professional; he has worked and Managed for many years with young people and adults in residential care, detention services, mental health services, homeless services and post-adoption services. He currently works with a large Dublin-based charity. He is a Committee Member of The Irish Association of Social Care Workers, A Member of the Social Care workers Registration Board at CORU, A Member of Social Justice Ireland and was on the National Committee of the YES Campaign for Children. All views expressed are entirely my own unless otherwise stated and are not representative of any organisation or employer past , present or future.

“It is Morally Unacceptable”


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Ireland in 2008 was precariously close to financial bankruptcy or so we were lead to believe, the underlying message of the day was that we were morally obliged to save the money men and do the bidding of the financial behemoths of the European experiment. What has outraged activists and advocates since then is the way Ireland Inc. has abandoned all sense of values, ethics and morals and not just in the Christian sense.

There are on a daily basis campaigns springing up to support individuals and/or groups of Irish people who are feeling more and more marginalised, more and more abandoned, more and more ignored and less and less able to have a voice and be heard.

The message from the government is once we pay our bills and look after the European Union then everything will be ok. They operate in a world of platitudes, the world must see that we are ok, that we are still willing to help others, that we can and will send aid to other nations, that we will ride in on a white horse and rescue those who are struggling all over the world. That in itself is of course right and just, where the difficulty arises is when those that are marginalised in our society are being ignored.

If we accept that morality has many sub texts but broadly include a personal belief in what is right and wrong, is regarded in terms of what is known to be right or just, as opposed to what is officially or outwardly declared to be right or just, is a way of giving guidance on how to behave decently and honourably, frames what is good or right, when judged by the standards of the average person or society at large and is based on an inner conviction, in the absence of physical proof. Then we cannot accept what is happening in this Country either morally or ethically.

It is morally unacceptable for the old to be cold in their homes,

It is morally unacceptable for the rich to have gotten richer and the poor to have gotten poorer during a time of financial crisis

It is morally unacceptable for us to use the criminal justice system to deal with our addicted citizens,

It is morally unacceptable for us to keep people on trollies in hospitals,

It is morally unacceptable for us as a nation to think that offering someone a bed in a hostel is a solution to homelessness,

It is morally unacceptable for Ireland Inc. to deny the wrongdoings of the past in relation to the incarceration of women and children in Magdalene and other institutions,

It is morally unacceptable for us to have given away our rights to the gas and oil in our waters,

It is morally unacceptable for NAMA to be selling our assets to buyers from all over the world when we can’t or won’t house our most needy,

It is morally unacceptable for leaders of large NGO’s who support the marginalised to be involved in financial and ethical corruption,

It is morally unacceptable for us to allow generation after generation believe that social welfare is the only way for them to live,

It is morally unacceptable for us not to have a living wage,

It is morally unacceptable for the citizens to have no say in local and national governance,

It is morally unacceptable for freedom of information to become more restrictive instead of less,

It is morally unacceptable for us to accept inequality of choice,

It is morally unacceptable for young people leaving care to be allowed go straight into homelessness,

It is morally unacceptable for us to ignore the wisdom of the elderly,

It is morally unacceptable for us to allow private companies profit out of human pain,

It is morally unacceptable for the civil service to apparently have no mechanism to hold people individually responsible for their mistakes,

It is morally unacceptable for us to pay lip service to the notion of whistleblowing,

 It is morally unacceptable for the Garda to be used as a private security force,

It is morally unacceptable for Ireland Inc. to attempt to criminalise protest,

It is morally unacceptable for some in society to be prevented from having access to their birth cert/file

It is morally unacceptable for the Government of the day to forget that society is made up of a collection of individuals and that the strong need to support the weak,

It is morally unacceptable for us to not recognise those that have risen from lives of challenge to lives of moral positives, look at Katie Taylor (https://twitter.com/KatieTaylor ) (sports person), Elaine Harrington (https://twitter.com/TMMissElayneous ) (performance artist), Rachel Keogh (https://twitter.com/rachaelkeogh1 ) (therapist), Christina Buckley, RIP (former golden bridge resident) and on and on and on,

It is morally unacceptable for us to allow countless children finish school with no education and a potential life of hardship as a social welfare user,

It is morally unacceptable for the Government to be dishonest and ethically bankrupt,

It is morally unacceptable for each and every one of us to not take the opportunity to make a positive contribution to someone else’s life,

Let’s build relationships that are morally, ethically, respectful and caring, if we used that as the starting tenet of governance then we might see some growth and change both individually and collectively.

Adrian McKenna is a frontline Social Care Professional; he has worked and Managed for many years with young people and adults in residential care, detention services, mental health services, homeless services and post-adoption services. He currently works with a large Dublin-based charity. He is a Committee Member of The Irish Association of Social Care Workers, A Member of the Social Care workers Registration Board at CORU, A Member of Social Justice Ireland and was on the National Committee of the YES Campaign for Children. All views expressed are entirely my own unless otherwise stated and are not representative of any organisation or employer past , present or future.

The Language we use……


I was at a very interesting event today where we spent time looking at the proposed language to be used in some documents. Interesting insofar that the nuances of the English language are multifarious and abstruse. As is that last sentence as if to hammer home a point.

What was clear as mud is that language is very personal, it can divide and unite, it can inform and confuse and it can be a barrier to some a gateway for others.

In the social care field there is no set agreement on what to call those whom we work for, our service users, our clients, our residents, our customers or something entirely different. In the Adoption community there is a battle fought around what to label those who place their children for adoption and the adopted, what you call the women who gives birth to the child, the birthmother, the natural mother, the mother, the first mother.

I have seen these debates descend into bile throwing hurt fests online all because of words.

There is a need to use the simplest of language so that the greatest number of people find documents accessible. That been a given, how do we meld the language we use in daily discourse with the language we write for policy or is there a need to do that at all.

In social care when we say for example that our practice is based on an individuals need, that to us is simple enough, the problem lies in what sort of meaning can be construed from this if it is in a public document.

We must always be open to the challenge of wordiness, language , reportage, labelling, policy documents and human interactions as these are all very differing dialogues. We need to be sensitive to all these language pathways and to have the ability to challenge ourselves to allow understanding from all facets of society.

What is your meaning in what you are saying? If you’re being asked that question then maybe you have already failed…..

Adrian McKenna is a frontline Social Care Professional; he has worked and Managed for many years with young people and adults in residential care, detention services, mental health services, homeless services and post-adoption services. He currently works with a large Dublin-based charity. He is a Committee Member of The Irish Association of Social Care Workers, A Member of the Social Care workers Registration Board at CORU, A Member of Social Justice Ireland and was on the National Committee of the YES Campaign for Children. All views expressed are entirely my own unless otherwise stated and are not representative of any organisation or employer past , present or future.

“Seeing the Beauty”


The start of this year was a very difficult time for me, I ended up allowing myself to become very stressed. I didn’t recognise it then and I have spent months thinking about it and how to learn something from that time.

What is clear to me now is that when you are under stress it is difficult to see the beauty.

That in itself is not earth shattering, nor is it the statement of the century, but for those of us who work in Social Care it is really worth reflecting on.

In recent times I have consciously taken the time to try and look for the beauty, this can be challenging especially when we are surrounded with a culture of negativity. When you are working with individuals who are marginalised by society it is easy to see those individuals as a series of diagnosis, ailments, addictions and traits. It is much harder to see the individual as just that an individual, one who may be living with a diagnosis, ailment, addiction or trait but an individual nonetheless.

When you stop to listen to what we say and how we say it, when you stop and challenge yourself to stand firm in defence of, when you stop another individuals diatribe and infuse the conversation with challenge, then and only then can we start to see the beauty again.

Separating the human from the behaviour is a start, engaging  with their story and allowing time for relationships to build is what can make my working world so satisfying.

Those that we work for, our clients, residents, and those that we work with, our colleagues deserve at the least the chance to relate. For it is in the relationship that the real change takes place.

My challenge is to never allow stress subsume my want, need and desire to relate for it is in the relationship that I find joy.

MY Birth Cert is Not Mine To Have


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I have been reading this morning in the newspapers about the new proposed adoption legislation, it said “at present many adoptees are unable to access birth certs listing their original parents’ names due to legal obstacles, including a constitutional right to privacy on the part of birth parents.To help resolve this, adopted people would be required to sign a statutory declaration obliging them to respect the wishes of birth parents in cases where they do not wish to be contacted”. The constitutional right to privacy is conferred upon all citizens as it is and in no other circumstance is any citizen required to sign a statutory declaration to uphold that privacy. In fact there are numerous piece of legislation currently used to protect one from unwanted contact by others. Mary Hanafin tried something similar many years go and failed to get the backing of the adoption community. I for one will not be prepared to criminalise myself by signing any declartion to access my Birth Cert something that no other citizen of this country has to endure. I implore you all during the debate on this issue to help make sure that there is unfettered access to original birth certs and full written histories. Please contact your TDs, Senators, MEPs and Councillors.

Marriage or Matrimony, Religion or Civil


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I assume that people who are shouting down the NO side are frustrated and annoyed at the fact that their fellow citizens would cast a vote that effectively continues the marginalisation of our Brothers, Sisters. Aunts, Uncles, Mother and Fathers. What is being lost in this debate is the difference between civil marriage and holy matrimony. At no stage will the church have to perform holy matrimony for any same sex couple and that is their right. Therefore that piece of the argument is null and void. Civil marriage requires a constitutional change to give it absolute protection, if there were merely a change in law then that change could be reversed just as easily. The third point is the link between the family and how that fits with same sex couples, there is no simple answer here and this is where there is a great divide. The NO side who are predominantly faith based although not exclusively believe that the FAMILY is Father, Mother and Children, in effect that is a norm from which we are used to. Legally this interpretation is incorrect as in the constitution a cohabiting heterosexual couple with no children can be defined as a family, Article 41.3: “The State pledges to guard with special care the institution of Marriage, on which the Family is founded, and to protect it against attack.” nowhere though is Marriage defined, we could accept that it was clearly understood as opposite-sex when drafted in 1937 but original intent is not decisive.The failings of this current piece of constitution also marginalises other family forms, such as….a cohabiting heterosexual couple looking after the children of either or both parents,a cohabiting heterosexual couple either of whom is already married ,a cohabiting heterosexual couple either of whom is already married, whose children (all or some of them) are being looked after elsewhere ,unmarried or lone parents and their children and homosexual and lesbian couples. So back to the referendum the proposed amendment to Article 41 is the insertion of the line: “Marriage may be contracted in accordance with law by two persons without distinction as to their sex.”, again this is a civil legal amendment and imposes no change on religious matrimony. All other facts of the debate in relation to children, surrogacy etc etc etc are just being used to confuse the issue.Surrogacy and other methods of assisted reproduction are being dealt with in other pieces of legislation and if battles need to be fought there then that is where people should direct their fight. I for one will vote YES to this referendum and look forward to attending the CIVIL marriage of some of my friends in the future gay or straight. Adrian McKenna is a frontline Social Care Professional; he has worked and Managed for many years with young people and adults in residential care, detention services, mental health services, homeless services and post-adoption services. He currently works with a large Dublin-based charity. He is a Committee Member of The Irish Association of Social Care Workers, A Member of Social Justice Ireland and was on the National Committee of the YES Campaign for Children. All views expressed are entirely my own unless otherwise stated and are not representative of any organisation or employer past , present or future.

The Late Late Show and the fat shaming Katie Hopkins


Katie Hopkins is not right in what she says about Fat people, and this is why, you cannot place obesity into one simple linear argument, you cannot say people who are fat are fat because they eat too much and sit for too long. This is a complete over simplification of a very complex issue. We don’t yet understand the connection between emotion and eating, we don’t fully understand the need for bodily control, we don’t fully consider that overeating may just be preserving a fragile mental state. We find it difficult not to judge others, why???, what pushes us to judge. Why do we constantly use our head but forget our heart. Some obese people will never lose their weight if they constantly feel judged, some obese people may need a kick in the arse to get them going. What is important to remember is that we need to give them time to let us know when and if they need support, obesity and the whole fat shaming issue may have more to do with mental health than we are willing to recognise. The Late Late show would have been far better off having an honest debate about how culturally it is becoming unacceptable to look different than what the media want us to accept as normal.I am a morbidly obese man, I am loved and I love, I am successful personally and professionally, I have been told that I have been the instigator of change in other peoples lives. I am led by my heart and use my head, I am not less because I’m obese. I would never judge another human being and their frailties but I would go out of my way to try and bring some positivity into their life. Shame on Katie Hopkins for not having the sense and wisdom to use her media status to a more positive heart based effect.

Leading to Serve, Serving to Lead Part 2


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Today was week two of the servant leadership training in the organisation I work with, Crosscare. Today was principally about looking at self awareness, part one of this was the group reflecting on whether we recognised/ knew our developed abilities and preferences and whether we recognised/knew our less developed abilities and struggles. First we reflected on how we go through the process of hiring people, we looked at what was important to us when we chose a candidate to come and work with us. We recognised that we were drawn to people who were multi-skilled with different strengths. What we were reflecting on was, were we the sort of organisation who then told that person that they then had to subscribe to our way and forget all they brought to the table, bonkers, of course its bonkers. There is little point in having a multi-skilled team if you are not going to encourage them to play to their strengths.

We looked at the Johari Window, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdozzYQgD_g. This is used to help us look at how open we can be to our self and others; it is a tool that can be used for personal growth and one that we have used in a supervision setting with our social care workers. This is achieved by giving and receiving feedback which allows us to achieve our growth potential. By allowing self disclosure and embracing self discovery we can change how others respond to us. Vulnerability allows other people feel connected to us.

Our emotional side is an Elephant and the rational side is the rider, the rider holds the reins and appears to be in control, to be the leader. But anytime the elephant disagrees the rider will lose. To make any progress you need the drive and energy of an elephant, if you want change to happen you have to have both, the rider for direction and the elephant for energy.

So in this case the three elements of change can be described as such:

Direct the rider: what looks like resistance may only be a lack of clarity.

Motivate the Elephant: what looks like laziness may be exhaustion, the rider can’t get his way by force for very long, what you need to do is engage peoples emotional side, get the elephant back on the path.

Shape the Path: what may look like a people problem may just be a situational problem, when you shape the path you make change more likely no matters what’s happening with the rider and the elephant.

We are slowly but surely opening up the world of Servant Leadership, have a look at Brene Brown explore the nature of vulnerability: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEPbkvhPuRk

More in two weeks time.