A day in the life of a Child Community Visitor
My day starts by jumping in my car and heading off to a residential care facility (child protection) to visit a young woman, April*. At my last visit she mentioned she wasn’t being given her medication on time.
On inspecting site documents I could see there were no record sheets, meaning that there was no information about what medication had been given to April or when – which is especially concerning where there are staff shift changes at the site.
Following that visit I had emailed both the Child Safety Officer and the Residential Coordinator outlining my concerns about medication safety practices. When I got to the site today I asked to see the same documentation, and was very pleased to see it now contains a medication policy, and record sheets marked with the time, date and initial of staff members dispensing medications.
A Child Safety Team Leader returns my call in relation to a young person I’d visited at a site recently. Cooper* was waiting for a Child Safety Officer to visit him to discuss where he would be living when he exits care, and what help he needs before then to meet his transition goals.
Cooper was especially worried about managing a household budget as he hadn’t done this before. We talk about Cooper’s transition to adulthood and my concerns that Cooper has limited time to access the life skills programs he needs to live independently, and around the lack of general planning about where he will live at the end of the year. The call ends well, with the Team Leader advising me that a Child Safety Officer will meet with Cooper this week to write a transition from care plan.
It’s time to head to another residential site – this time a child and youth mental health service – to visit a young nine year old girl named Willow*, who is being treated for a variety of diagnoses, including post-traumatic stress disorder. There had been concerns raised about Willow’s treatment, and in reviewing records at the site I could see that over a period of approximately two weeks, Willow had experienced a high number of instances of physical restraint. Half of these had occurred whilst staff at the service were trying to ‘enforce’ seclusion, and more than half also involved the use of psychotropic medication.
I found such a wide ranging use of restrictive practices in such a short period of time to be highly concerning, and raised the possibility of re-traumatisation. There also appeared to be no indication that Willow has the opportunity to access therapeutic support in the form of psychological and counselling services either now or upon her discharge. My actions from here will be to advocate on behalf of Willow by escalating these concerns through my manager so they can be raised in writing with the Service. To complement this I will refer Willow to an OPG Child Advocate Legal Officer so they can work with Willow to ensure she understands her ongoing legal rights surrounding her treatment.
After taking a break for lunch I take some time to write up my phone calls and emails about the earlier issues.
A change of pace now, as I’m visiting a foster home where there are two young children from the same family, Stacey and Crystal.* Stacey and Crystal have a lot of brothers and sisters, both older and younger than them, living in a number of different placements. Last time I visited, I’d contacted their Child Safety Officer to discuss Stacey’s and Crystal’s wishes to see their siblings more often. The contact had been irregular and at times there had been months between contact visits.
The children and I talk while we all colour some pictures I brought to the visit. Stacey tells me that they got to go to the park to see their brothers and sisters, and all were there except their brother Thomas. Crystal tells me she wishes Thomas could be there next time. Stacey and Crystal’s foster carer Robert tells me later in the visit that the Child Safety Officer and carers had all worked together to work out a schedule for regular sibling contact visits. Robert stated that the transport arranged by Thomas’ carer fell through, and that for the next visit Robert is going to offer to pick Thomas up so he doesn’t miss out.
Time to head home. Tomorrow I won’t have as many visits in the day, as I have blocked out time to complete a child report for each of the children I have seen today.
I have a list of calls to make to Child Safety, to discuss the matters that have been raised today, and I can close off some issues as we’ve had great results.
It’s highly rewarding to see the impact of our work, resulting in positive changes in the lives of the vulnerable children and adults we visit.
*All names have been changed to protect identities.