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In the most challenging of times, there are jewels to be found – Part Two

In the Most Challenging of Times, There Are Jewels to Be Found – Part Two

If you missed part one you can find it here.

In this second part to this blog, I will focus on the ways in which the emotional intelligence of our workforce has ‘held’, supported and facilitated parents and young people. This is a period during which ‘new ways’ of working were being developed, in the shape of telephone and Zoom calls. My intention is to link the emotional capacities of these Practitioners -sensitivity, maturity and resilience – to the ways in which parents, children and young people received them.

You may recollect that the sections of the workforce I referred to were those engaged in virtual support from family support provision, schools, colleges and mentoring services to young people. I shall also comment on significant episodes of growth between Practitioners and young women within a highly specialist residential care provision.

During this era of COVID-19, (the period characterised by the sudden decision to close all non-essential services and to move into national ‘lockdown’ over twelve weeks), I have noted some exponential developments in Practitioner to Parent or Young Person relationship.

While I recognise that these observations are anecdotal and far from evidenced-based, they are however significant in that they have arisen in the context of relationship during an unprecedented time, ‘a time of the unknown’ in many ways.
Some of the trends I’ve seen in community-based family support.

This includes either support offered by Designated Lead Person, Mentors or Pastoral Leaders from schools and colleges and Family Support provision formerly delivered face-to-face by experienced Practitioners through Children’s Centres. Frequent reference has been made to an accelerated ‘joining’ or engagement process with parents despite Practitioners own anxieties regarding the inferior nature of phone or Zoom support versus face-to-face contact.

– Some Practitioners have commented on the more concentrated incremental building of relationship over the phone or on Zoom. They have noted the way in which it has seemed to facilitate deeper disclosure regarding complex family relationships and dynamics. For example, more explicit connection has been made between domestic abuse in the past and its impact on current relationships. Practitioners have also found that contact sessions have often been longer, many over one hour and that areas explored during this time have been more meaningful.

– Reference was made to a higher incidence of parents calling the Practitioner to request support.

– Some Practitioners have begun to conclude that very isolated parents with multiple needs have responded more favourably to individual phone support than they had previously to face-to-face support. This has led them to question whether this was situational, linked to the COVID-19 context, related to face-to-face work perhaps being a little too emotionally intrusive, or maybe a combination of the two or inclusive of other factors.

– Some practitioners in this sector have begun hypothesising about the qualitative shift in relationship. They’re wondering whether the ‘we’re all in this together’ mentality of the COVID-19 era has led to a much deeper appreciation of the helper/helped relationship.

– Also, in the highly specialist residential provision for young women, a much deeper investment seems to have been made in relationships with Practitioners, perhaps driven by the fact that they continued to come to work. In contrast, social workers, mental health services and even the police were no longer around. Some of these young women, apparently our most emotionally traumatised have been ‘looking out for their Key Workers’. True evidence of reciprocity has been noted with young women cooking and leaving food for their Key Workers and actively inquiring about their emotional health and well-being.

How these extraordinarily committed Practitioners have consistently ‘held’ these young women emotionally during this internationally unsettled time seems to have laid the framework for deep levels of emotional attachment. The fundamental importance of this human-to-human connection which for many of these young women has been deeply unreliable and at best fleeting in their respective childhoods has the makings of being deeply transformational.

For both children and their parents dependent on community-based Practitioners at the other end of the phone and these young women reliant on their Key Workers to maintain safety, stability, security and quite honestly ‘professional love’, this has been a vitally important time. A time that we need to deeply value. Perhaps we begin by taking time to pause, reflect, recognise and document what we have learned.

I believe that this has been a time during which we have really come to appreciate the importance of human beings towards each other and the vital qualities, aptitudes and values in professional practitioners – CARE, EMPATHY and COMPASSION.

What these Practitioners shared with me during this period was truly beautiful.

You have been Pioneers in responding to the unknown. Those who you have supported and assisted will remember you, probably for a very long time.

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