Innovation at the heart of family support
In October I attended JUCONI’s conference in Mexico. Undungu Society of Kenya (USK) has also joined the Family for Every Child first Community of Practice whose first meeting I joined after the conference in Mexico. The training we have been getting from JUCONI and my personal reflections on it will form a pool of valuable resources beneficial to me as an individual and to my organisation. There is a lot to learn thanks to all of the different backgrounds and different experiences from different countries. Our many group works and discussions will allow us to generate a lot of ideas, which will be really useful for the work that I do with children and families.
Even though we have about twice or three times the capacity of children in our centre than JUCONI, with about 50 children, we will still benefit from their methods and there several of them that we can apply to our work with the children. I am certain that we can be innovative so that we can put the best interests of the child at heart. The weekly timetable that JUCONI has at their centre will be useful. It gives staff a clear idea of the week ahead – ‘this is what I’m doing with the kids from Monday through to Sunday’. And if staff who work at the centre have taken days off, it’s easy to know when somebody is not in. It’s a simple solution but one that makes it easy to get a clear overview of what is happening. JUCONI have their child protection policies on the walls. As a child worker it reminds you of your obligation towards the children. In my organisation, as in many others, the Child Protection Policy is something that you sign and keep, but it’s not something you interact with every day. The other priority will be to improve the structures and levels of privileges as those that JUCONI use in their centre. It will be a motivating factor for the children because they will know ‘if I do this then I go to this level’ and they take the next step. In a way it shows all the positives of working like this because we are supposed to be using an evidence based approach and this method can build into that approach. Some things will be more challenging to apply. At our centre all the children are in the same classroom. I work with the children in the centre and at the same time I work with the family. My colleagues at the centre have also been trained by JUCONI but they work with children who have come from very far, which makes it difficult for them to involve the families in their work.
The conference itself had a number of interesting sessions and workshops. I liked the session about seeing patterns of family resilience. I had been thinking that this was something that we needed to add into our own reintegration work. When you are working with a family you want to see what existing supporting social structures are available to this family so that you can work out how best to support them. I also joined a session on storytelling. It was interesting to see how storytelling can be used to help bring out the best in children, with the child knowing ‘this is me and that they are in focus. I remembered that I once had some new boys in the centre and Iasked them ‘can you write a story about yourself?’ but I didn’t have the structure on how they should do it and one of them kept telling me ‘I don’t know what to write because there is a lot to write!’. The session will give me ideas on how to help children structure these stories.
Finally, one of the aspects from the CoP that I enjoyed the most was the self-care and home safety – these are things that we go but sometimes we overlook them. This approach helps assess the need of a family at their homes and do an assessment of the safety at their homes. By doing this kind analysis with a family it will be easier to know ‘when do I need to assume that this is not an emergency?’ or ‘When is it an emergency so that I take action?’ Or when do I go to a neighbour and call them to come and help me? In some situations it can be challenging to know what the right response is so I am glad that I now have tools that can help me with this.
The things that I have seen in Mexico will help the children we work with in Kenya. I have ideas for how to improve levels of practical admin and ways to better support the children. I feel like my eyes have been opened. You need to look at things differently. Our centre will be warmer and welcoming which is better for the children. I feel that I am now better equipped to get all the staff to do these things. If you look at JUCONI it is not one person who is doing this it is the whole organisation. There are things we need to embrace as a whole organisation and say ‘this is what we need to do’. It is not right that in the same organisation some people do things and others do not.