Thursday, 14 November 2019

A collection of Stamps- Why I Recommend Post- Crossing

Since the passing of my Nan, I've embarked on a journey into the world of stamps and stamp collections. Helping with the organising of her house, I found a few odd stamps that left me intrigued.

There is no doubt in my mind that stamp collecting has in fact been a pass time that has gone on for decades all over the world with Britain's first postage stamp, The Penny Black, being made in 1840. The Penny Black saw the start of stamp collecting and  collections became increasing popular in the 1920's with the rise in value of stamps.

I am very much only at the start of my stamp journey, but so far, have found they opened up a whole new world for me. Buying and selling stamps for collections either privately, or through collectors, can be an expensive hobby which is not particularly useful for me at this time.

As an alternative, I've ventured else where for a modern day approach with Post-Crossing (Link to website below) and it is this, that I wish to share with you all right here, right now.

Post crossing is free to join and the aim of the game is very simple. You send a post card to a random person anywhere in the world, and you'll receive a card back. Post-Crossing provides you with the random addresses and for every post card you send, you'll receive one back. It is literally that simple.

What I love most, is not only the variety of modern stamps for my collection that I
receive, but also receiving the cards and profile of other people around the world.

Although you can not request specific cards or stamps, you do have space to create your profile, allowing you the opportunity to highlight your hobbies and interests. Most people, myself included, will check out your profile before sending a card and if we can send something that interests you, people generally will.

There are currently, 209 countries involved in Post-crossing and 787,446 members- That's a lot of postcards .... and stamps! 

I only joined Post-crossing in October 2019 but so far, I am loving it. 12 cards sent (4 still travelling) and 7 received so far from countries such as the Japan, Hong Kong, Sweden,  Singapore and South Africa. I've posted to the US, Spain, Russia and Taiwan to name a few.


For me, there are no negatives to post crossing. You do have to buy a stamp and a post card to send, and if money is tight, sending one each day is not going to work for you. The positive to this however, is that you are in control and can send a many as you like and how often you like so if that is only once a month, no problem.

There is always the added risk of lost post, but I feel the postal service in the modern world is largely reliable enough to manage a postcard or two. I have fortunately (and touch wood!) not had any unfortunate experiences so far......

Finally, I think it is a great way to get to know what life is like for other people on this planet we call home. Everyone so far has been supper friendly and, they ALL speak English, so if its been a while since your French lessons, don't worry.

So if you like stamps, fancying a new Pen pal or are interested in post cards from around the world, I'd defiantly recommend www.PostCrossing.com 

Happy Post- Crossing


Sunday, 29 September 2019

Social Work: Good Record keeping

Like most professions, Social Workers face an abundance of paperwork everyday. Every visit, every telephone call, every meeting and every plan. Often, a lot of the paper work can be tedious and very repetitive; at least that is what I have found in my own practice.

Despite this, it is a fair assumption to make that the likelihood of the paperwork going away any time soon is limited, so it's important we get the best from it. I want to be clear however that despite the downsides, paperwork has many ups and is extremely useful when used well.

Having completed some research in to "Good Recording", I wanted to take the time to share some of my findings with you, alongside tips on how to make the most of the paperwork you face daily.

As usual, useful information and references can be found below.

What is the point in recording?

Firstly, recording information is extremely useful as a reference later on. We have all been on those visits where you can't remember the small details from the last, or to a meeting
where your sure you've forgotten to complete a number of the actions. Recording the information will give you an immediate refresher so you can attend your next visit or meeting in confidence.

Secondly, the records you keep from a particular visit or conversation, is information gathered builds a picture or chronology of a family's situation (this makes monitoring a whole lot easier) and can be used as evidence to support in court, delivering outcomes and for decision making.

Finally, families we work with have the right to request their files and therefore if not written well, the records become unfit for purpose. This is particularly the case for children and young people who are Looked After by the Local Authorities.

EVIDENCE INFORMED PRACTICE: 
Lynch (2009) and O'Rourke (2010) 
Acknowledge how easy it is to loose sight of why professionals keep records. It can seem like a chore; time consuming and sometimes processes and computer systems hinder our ability to keep good records which makes it more frustrating for professionals. It does however, provide a rationale for decisions, promotes accountability and builds a picture. 

Good Recording should: 
  • Be accurate. Be clear; what is fact and what is your view/ Judgement
  • Write plainly. Remember families may want to look back at their files and they need to be able to understand what is written. 
  • Avoid abbreviations/ jargon. 
  • Proof read it. Check spellings and grammar. If this is something you find difficult, ask colleagues to read over it. 
  • Be clear with the wishes and feelings of those involved 

What hinders Good Recording Practice?

  • High Case loads. You've got a case load of 25. That's 25 children (or adults), 25 families including mums, dads, grandparents,  aunts, uncles and siblings. They each want contacts and school reports and invites to meetings. Viability assessments and or Special Guardianship Assessments. That's before you think about the 25 schools your working with, 25 Personal Education Planning meetings (PEP) three times each year and LAC reviews every six months. Lets not get started on the 25 sets of foster carers, health visitors, therapists and or Doctors involved in a child's life also. Its overwhelming isn't it? 
  • Issues with staffing: Every Local Authority has this issue- there's just not enough social workers to keep up with the demand. (this is based on children's services, but I can imagine adult services is just as busy?) 
  • Time. Remembering that high case load? well much of your time is taken up but meetings, visits and telephone calls. Then you need to travel between locations. A full packed diary leaves little time for recording. On the other hand, you may be confined to the office battling paperwork as opposed to being out with your families. 

Tips for recording well: 

  • SCIE (2019) provides 11 top TIPS for social work recording using the acronym PARTNERSHIP, ensuring records are accurate, person centred, professionals and evidence based. Check out the Link below for full details 
  • Set time aside. Is there a day in the week that can be left to type? Or is there flexibility to work from home and have "admin days". 
  • Create a template with topics for discussion in visits/ meetings. Keeping good notes will help you keep Good records. 
Don't forget to add your analysis, rational and any decisions. 
What information did you gather, from who and why? (Think about the purpose of the visit/ meeting)
What are your thoughts on the information ? 
Outline Risk/ Protective factors 
Use your professional judgement 
Include any decisions that have been made. 

And finally, Practice. Practice Good record keeping. 
Look for training courses which may provide further tips and advise. 


References 

Community Care- Tips for Social workers on case recording and record keeping (2017):
https://www.communitycare.co.uk/2017/06/07/tips-social-workers-case-recording-record-keeping/

Social Care Institute for Excellence (2019):
https://www.scie.org.uk/social-work/recording

O'Rourke, L (2010) Recording in Social Work: Not Just an Administrative Task. Bristol: Policy Press

Lynch J (2009) Health Records in Court. Oxford: Radcliffe Publishing.

Wednesday, 25 September 2019

Creative Writing- The sound of Tap, Tap, Tapping (250 word live snapshot)


The office had eeriness to it. One filled with the sound of tap,tap, tapping on the keyboards of over seventy- five workers putting out fires against paperwork piles and the constant ringing of the phones. What Simon was really good at however, was drowning out the dull drowning sounds around him. Focusing on the tasks ahead and leading the way across the team.

“Ok team” Simon said with motivating confidence as he stood up from his chair. “We need a plan, only 7 days’ notice has been given from this placement and transport needs to be arranged”.

Maylina was already feeling the strain from the duty task she had, and felt overwhelmed with the thought of more but she reluctantly took on the extra task of sorting out transport. Whilst organising and filing paperwork, she came across an old tea stained note hidden amongst referral forms and quickly opened it for clarification around its priority needs.

October 5th, 1991.
My darling May,
It’s been 28 years since I last held you as a baby. Just 2 hours old and I knew that giving you up, was the best thing I could give you. Please forgive me.

Maylina paused in hesitation, for her grandpa, the man who had raised her had always called her May for short.
Was this a coincidence, she didn’t know……..


Photo by Jan Kah├ínek on Unsplash

Written by LexiRose @ LexiRose.me

Friday, 20 September 2019

Practice Education- The importance of students learning theory


Theory is one of those things right at the centre of social work practice. It is a given that during any social work degree programme, theory will become part and parcel of a students studies and practice from very early on in their career. 

Having said that however, I have learnt over recent months that the emphasis of theory is different for everyone, depending largely on the type of course and university establishment in which a student attends.

For me, I remember my very first lecture on my first day of university being:
Theories 1- Carl Rogers, person centred approach.

From then on, every week, I would engage in a Lecture on a different theory or approach to practice, followed by a seminar, working on case studies and integrating that theory in to practice. This went on for two solid years and was actually, something I really enjoyed. By the time I came to my ASYE, I felt I had a good foundation of theory knowledge and felt comfortable being able to apply it.


Photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash


Working with a student last year however, I found the level of theory taught on their course very minimal, with more emphasis on the independent learning of the student and the PE (Practice Educator) to fill in the gaps.


For me, I argue that theory informs our practice which in turn, supports analysis, hypothesis and judgement. “Theory is a set of propositions or hypothesis that seek to explain phenomena” (Pierson and Thomas, 2002. p. 476) Theories are the very tool that help social workers understand and work towards a plan. “Theories are a particular way of making sense” (Howe, 2009, p. 2) Theory set’s a goal for intervention.


ASPIRE (Assessment Preparation Intervention Review Evaluation) (Mclean 2017) Highlights that social work practice is a process, and regardless of the individuals situation, a series of steps are required to ensure that all avenues are covered and managed.


The assessment stage of the process requires a high level of involvement of theories to inform the worker of what might be happening as well as the use of research, knowledge of the law. The preparation and intervention stages however, require the use of theories to intervene, putting in support and resources to reduce risk and improve the lives of society’s most vulnerable children.

I have heard multiple times that theory is a waste of time and social workers do not use it in everyday practice. I would argue that notion, as Social Workers gain experience everyday. There is always a new challenge or situation to face and therefore, I believe that theory becomes an integrated part of everyday practice because it is used all of the time. Practitioners may not verbalising their thinking in the same way in which students are taught too however, practitioners are thinking about it, analysing and drawing conclusions to formulate plans and here, I believe practice wisdom plays a huge role in everyday practice.


For me, there have been numerous occasions where I have not verbalised the theory and thought process I am using however, there are also countless times when I have. Usually with peers or in supervision to utilise other practitioners knowledge around me, share ideas, and create a plan that works in the child's best interests.


When supporting the student I worked with last year, I found that working through a written case study with them and using a spider diagram to put down ideas and make connections, really helped. Starting with identifying the risks, protective factors, and then working through theories to inform practice to make sense of what was happening for the family. This made the preparation and Intervention stage of the process easier to plan because we knew what we were working with.


The really great news, is there is room to review and evaluate and so if something is not working, alternative solutions and support can be put into place.


There are so many great resources out there to support students with their studies and understanding of theories, and there is no better time to put them in to practice then when on Placement.


If theory is something you struggle on, then i'd recommend trying: Siobhan Maclean, Social Work Theory Cards, 2017 (look on Amazon) For me, I found them easy to read, engaging and to the point. Perfect when in a hurry. One card a day (or week) will help students and practitioners enhance their knowledge and understanding of theories in practice.


Alternatively, Siobhan Maclean also provides a book : Theory and Practice A Straightforward Guide for social work students, 2015. This book offers a wide range of theories, covering their origins, use in practice, positives and negatives. I found it easy to read and a useful reference guide- especially for assignments and assessments.


References:


Howe, D. (2009) A Brief introduction to social work theory. Hampshire, Palgrave McMillian

Mclean, S. (2017) Social Work Theory Cards. Second Edition. Kirwin Maclean Associates

Pierson, J and Thomas, M. (2002) Dictionary of social Work. Glasgow: Harper Collins Publishers

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Creative Writing: Social Work- I have three parents you know....


I have three parents you know….

Written by LexiRose @ Lexirose.me  

19th Septmber 2019

I have three parents you know? My sister Lily and me,
And I appreciate it’s difficult for you all to see.
But please take a seat and drink your tea,
whilst I take the time to explain how things came to be.

Parent one is that of my biological mother
I’ll tell you, it did not take her long to find another,
The next bad man with a Fix-er uper,
I cried when I almost had a little baby brother.

She left me alone all day and night,
and I was always thankful to be out of sight,
for when she and Steve saw only black lights
I new I could sleep and I would be alright.

Sometimes it was hard as Lilly would cry
And I was so scared someone would die.
Especially when mum and Steve were so often high.
I never knew the day would come where we could say goodbye.

A man in uniform came to my school, “Robyn, it’s time to go soon”
I was puzzled and confused because it was barely noon,
then I caught him looking at the mark from mum’s wooden spoon
and my teacher announced “he’ll be twelve in June”.

In the car I am silent and wishing for home,
I was worried my mum wouldn't answer the house phone.
“where is Lilly?” I started to moan
as I sat in the back of the Volkswagen alone.

It’s dark and it’s cold and I can see lights flickering
Inside this small cottage just above the clearing.
“where are we going” I start fearing
and I swear this uniformed guy is hard of hearing.

Parent two is that of my foster carer,
I really wished he wouldn’t come any nearer.
In the living room he had three two seater's’and
he said “sorry lad, I’ve got a fever”

Day one, day two, then three and four,
please don't think I was just keeping score,
but I was anxious because no one would tell me more.
And Lilly was gone and I couldn't save her like before.

But then day five began to change
when a “sibling contact” had been arranged
and oh my how happy I felt that finally, we were no longer restrained.
Lilly was smiling and so was I, as our very first hug was excitably exchanged.

It’s Monday afternoon and your on your way over
to do that last minute visit in late October.
Yes you’ve guessed it, your the controller,
Parent number three, My Social Worker.

You enter the house and talk as if I was not here,
whispering so quietly I can not possibly hear.
This behaviour of yours only makes me fear,
and then you proceed to ask me “Robyn, do you like it here?”

well Mrs Susan, my social worker friend,
I’ll tell you the truth because you drive me round the bend.
You come late and break your promise which you think you can just mend
but I am telling you now, you are not what I recommend.

“I just want my sister Lilly” I protest,
for that's the only way you can restore my trust.
You pretend you understand but still I’m repeating that the court must!
then you slowly walk away, leaving the door mostly shut.

Several days have past and Parent 2 tells me your back.
I was nervous and ready to attack
when you said “Robyn, just look behind your back”
I turn slowly, confused, scared it’s a hack

and then there she is, I see her clearly,
my beautiful baby sister Lilly.
With a snack in each hand I’m thinking “really?”
“The courts said yes” said Susan cheerily

I have three parents you know? My sister Lilly and me,
And I appreciate it’s difficult for you all to see.
One biological, one foster carer and one social worker from Dundee
and now I am ready to work with all three.


Written by LexiRose @ Lexirose.me  
19th September 2019
Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Friday, 13 September 2019

Direct Work- Feelings Rainbow, Getting children talking

Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

One of my passions within social work practice, is that of direct work with children.

Direct work takes on many forms, and can be used in so many ways, something I will cover at a later date however for now, I wish to share one of the tools I use to understand children's feelings. 

My background to date includes six years of working with Looked After Children (LAC) in the UK and everything that comes with it.

What I love most about this role, is the long term relationships you can build with children and young people. The difference you can make, being able to see them grow and building a strong, trusting relationship with them.

When children trust you, they open up to you. Simple equation really? For me, it's at this point that you can begin getting to the heart of soul of that child, how they are feeling, what they really love? their fears? their dreams and what is it like to be in their shoes.

For some children, talking about their feelings is more then just hard. It's a scary and unbearable prospect where often, they wouldn't even know where to start. This is where the Feelings rainbow can come into play. There are many spins and adaptations to this tool, but it's easy enough to draw your own, or ask the child to draw it.                                                     Photo by Alex Jackman on Unsplash

Essentially, it looks as it sounds. A rainbow. A very simple, average looking (or more exciting if you want) rainbow. Red, Yellow, Pink, Blue, Orange, Purple, Green (the song version) or any version you like. Just a rainbow.  The idea here then, is that the child(ren) can begin to connect the colours with feeling, for example:
  • The colour blue can be a cold colour. How do you feel when your cold? Maybe connect it to the weather; On a cold wet day I feel..... because.... If the child(ren) uses words such as; sad, upset, hurt, ask them about a time when they have felt like this (or someone they know if personalising it is too difficult) 
  • The colour Red may be an angry colour. Can they tell you of a time they have felt angry? If this is too personal for them than again, make it about something eles; what might make a person angry? can you think of a time when someone you know has felt angry? 
  • Get them to write down or draw trigger words for feelings. use colours that match the rainbow: All angry words in red, Happy words in green or yellow. 
  • Can the chid(ren) give you examples of times they have felt these feelings? What happened? 
  • How would the of liked to have felt in that situation? 
  • Is there anything that could help them feel differently next time. 
I love using the tool because there are no rules and no limits.  Your not sat squarely looking at each other. Your both relaxed and able to get creative. Children can be as creative as they like. Lots of colour or no colour, the idea of the rainbow if to offer a focal point for conversation, that will support an open dialogue between you and the child(ren). 

Ultimately, the purpose of this is to help you understand the child's world and what life is like for them at any given time. You can use this as a generic conversation starter, or a specific area. 

For me, I've used it countless times during Life story work when talking to children about why they came in to care and are not able to live with their birth family. This is naturally, a very sensitive topic and by using the feelings rainbow, I can ascertain how the child feels throughout, as we work through the story of their life so far. You can incorporate aspirations and hopes for the future too. 

Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

I have used this with children aged 4 years and up to 12 years. I have not tested older then 12 years however, if you work with young people who engage well and like to get creative, there is no reason why this can no work for them too. 

Happy Rainbows....




Sunday, 8 September 2019

Guest Speaker: Speckles: My first meetings with mum

Hi Everyone,

It's been a little over a week since I posted my first Blog (on mum's site) and gosh, what a response I have had. I think that you are keen to know the next part of my story? well, here it is.

Oh and before I forget, I promised to find that photo of mum laying down and giving me the chicken the first time I met her. Do you remember? well, I've found it......

So, when mum found me, she spent a long time talking to the people who looked after me in Dogs Trust. They was excited for me to have sisters too so I wasn't on my own.

Dogs Trust thought that if I could live with other dogs too, I'd be able to build up my confidence and feel better about myself. I didn't want to always feel worried and anxious, but I just couldn't help it.

Dogs Trust helped set up an introduction. I was so frightened that I laid down on the floor and tried to be invisible. My handlers put on my lead and tried to reassure me, but I was very nervous.

Once outside, I ran around crazy, looking left, then right and running ahead. I loved to sniff the air and look for food in the bushes. I had forgotten all about where we were walking too, I was just happy to be outside. Being out on walks was defiantly my happy place.

Once outside the pen, I could see my mum and new sisters waiting by the gate. My sister were trying desperately to come and say hello. They ran as fast as they could and invited me to play. We started running around, chasing each other backwards and forwards really really fast. We ran around crazy for ages.

Cilla was black in colour, with short hair. She was a bit smaller then me, but I didn't mind. Lulu was white with some brown patches in her hair. She was smaller too, and much quieter then Cilla. Lulu and Cilla are sisters.

Mum didn't talk to me at first. She sat down on the grass and was watching. I was curious because most people try and come to me or talk to me and I get worried because I don't understand what they are saying. I was as brave as I could be and when she looked like she was busy watching the grass, or a bug or something, I'd creep up so quiet behind her to sniff. You know? check her out and stuff.

Mum never moved. Not the whole time I was sniffing and I felt great being able to walk away safely.

Mum laid down in the grass and was giving lulu and Cilla lots of attention. They was playing together, rolling around and having fun. Mum was also giving them delicious chicken. Gosh I wanted some so badly. My mouth was watering, I was dribbling and licking my lips and hoping I would get some too. I was trying to get closer and closer to join in, but I was very scared. Mum still hadn't looked at me and I knew I could trust that she wouldn't, I think. I took small steps to get closer.

Mum put a really big bit in her hand and held it out to me. She still didn't look. I had to make a choice, it was now or never and if I wanted the chicken, I needed to make the jump.
I stretched out my neck as far as I could reach, just to grab the tip of the chicken before running away again. Nothing happened after that. No one moved, or shouted or chased me. I was OK.

Mum held her hand out again and I was getting brave. She did this over and over again, feeding the three of us chicken until my belly was full.

They came Saturdays, Sundays and during the week for a long time. We always played in the field and Mum always bought me a treat. I was always so worried that they would give up on me too and never come back. On the rainy days, we used to play inside in the hall. As they left, I would chase them  past the windows looking for them.Id run from window to window as fast as I could.  I'd watch them leave and feel really sad that I wasn't going with them.

I wasn't brave enough to go near my mum, but I liked the fact she didn't look at me and that she bought me treats. Lulu and Cilla were great fun though, we used to run around for ages, chasing balls and bouncing off of the sofa's. Mum used to bring in blankets too that she had slept with, or that lulu and Cilla had slept with. My bed used to smell of them all of the time.

Mum, Lulu and Cilla, visited me 22 times before I could go home with them, just to make sure I was as ready as I could be and then, that day came and for the first time, I was going home.

16th November 2017 was the day I came home. Dogs Trust bought me in a big yellow van. I had my blanket and bag packed, but I was very very scared. I didn't no how far away it was, or what the house would look like. Did I have my own room or did I need to share? where would I put my blanket? Maybe I had missed dinner time?, I did hope not though.

The good news, was I got to the house in a short amount of time and was really excited to jump around the house and find my feet whilst mum and my handlers did the boring stuff, but I am going to come on to this more in my next blog- My first days at home.

It is getting late now and way past my bed time. Mum says it's time to go to bed because it's a "school night" and mum needs to go to this place tomorrow called "work". I'm not sure what that is, but she is gone for a long time, so it must be fun, otherwise she'd be home with me right?

Until Next Time.....

Speckles

xxx



A collection of Stamps- Why I Recommend Post- Crossing

Since the passing of my Nan, I've embarked on a journey into the world of stamps and stamp collections. Helping with the organising of h...