Paula, Residential Childcare Officer

Paula tells us about her role as a Residential Childcare Officer.

What does a typical day in the life of a Residential Childcare Officer look like?

A typical day in the life of a Residential Child Care Officer... there isn't a typical day. This is a role where you can make plans and organise your day and then you step through the front door and know almost immediately that those tasks are going to be put on hold and instead be having an unexpected day that could go in any direction.

We do two shift patterns; an early is from 7.30am to 3.30pm, or a late which is from 2.00pm to 10.00pm. Then three times a month you'll be rostered for a sleep-in, which is where you work a late shift, do the sleep-in and then the following morning you're on an early.

On an early shift, I would expect to support our young people in waking up and getting themselves ready for school. Our current young people, who attend secondary school, do so out of the immediate area, so we will drive them to school and on my return, I'll support any young people who remain with us, with whatever plans they have for the day.

All interactions and details of our young people's day are recorded in their running sheets and logbook, which is useful as you get an idea of where the young people are, the moods they're in and even down to what they're currently wearing, which can come in useful at times.

Tell us about your role as a key worker.

I've recently taken on the role of a key worker, which means I work with a particular young person. I still work with everybody else, but just one I work with more closely. This means that I do regular assessments and planning alongside my young person, ensuring that all their needs have been identified and provisions are in place to meet those needs.

This means lots of regular updates and meetings with all the professionals that are involved in their life; from Social Workers to Education, Looked After Children (LAC) nurses, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAHMS) provision to the young person's family and people that are important to them.

One of the interesting things that I've learned about key working is it isn't necessarily an individual job. You are obviously the young person’s direct contact and are responsible for their files, but you may not necessarily be the person in their life that they like the best, and this is how having quite a good close team works.

We recognise the strengths of our colleagues and make choices on who will be better having different conversations, perhaps about relationships, sex or drugs. It's not necessarily going to be best coming from you and they may engage better when it's coming from a different person within the team.

Why are our Children’s Residential homes so important to our children and young people?

The Residential home is a home for our young people and we need to make sure that it keeps that feel. That can be from home-cooked dinners to Netflix binges, moaning about keeping bedrooms tidy, or takeaways on a Wednesday. It is their home first and foremost, and you are entering their home - it's not necessarily your workplace as such, but it is strange because it does feel like my second home now.

What are the learning and development opportunities?

Within West Sussex County Council there are many opportunities to further your knowledge and there are plenty of training courses that you can have access to. When you first start the role, there are quite a few mandatory training courses that you will have to do. This could be safeguarding, it could be neglect, trauma, but it all directly reflects on what our young people have been through and are still going through.

How does West Sussex support you?

West Sussex also offers something called supervision, which is between yourself and your supervisor. It is a great opportunity to talk about anything you might have on your mind, and it's a chance to say, "I've struggled with this" or "I'm having a really hard time at home".

Things can be really challenging and you can come across things that you might not expect, and it's so important to have those conversations and that support, because if you're keeping it all in, that's going to impact on the way that you're performing and the way you are with the young people.

I really enjoy having a chat, talking about situations which have been difficult and thinking about what I could have done differently, what’s working and what’s not working; it can help you dissect and analyse yourself, so I find that very useful.

I really do enjoy my role, which is something that may sound strange when working with young people that have experienced difficult circumstances in their life and they will continue to suffer with that trauma, but however challenging as that can be, and it really is as I've said, the support is really there from my colleagues, management and West Sussex. It’s really nice because I can see that there is a pathway and development opportunities for myself to progress within the role.

Last updated:
14 February 2023
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