Saturday, 31 August 2019

Let's Talk- Direct Work- Blobs

Working within the court arena and with Looked after Children, it is vital that I accurately gather their wishes and feelings and there is nothing I like more, then to get creative with the children.

Here, I am curious to know how the child  is feeling? What do they hope for the future? Maybe it's time to review contact arrangements. Maybe the children have the option to return home or live with extended family? Maybe you just want to touch base? Whatever the reason, the blobs series have really helped me along the way in not only engaging and connecting with children, but more importantly, opening up the dialog enabling you to really hear what the child has to say.

Blob Tree was created by Pip Wilson (Group worker and trainer) and Ian Long (artist) and between them both, come up with an inspiring, fun and engaging tool that promotes both communication and Emotional Literacy. 

The really great thing about the Blob series for me, is that it does not have to be limited to children. I recently qualified as a Practice Educator  and this tool was used with students who were  on their second and final year placements. Social Work training as you will know, is a roller coaster of emotions with peaks and troughs occurring by the hour. This tool can be used with students individually as part of supervision, during their reflection time and or as part of a group.

One of my Favourite ways to use the blobs, is to add as much colour as you can. For this, I think about the aspects of the child's life, home and family, placement, school, friends, and personality traits such as, feeling confident, or outgoing Vs shy. For me, sometimes, I want to understand just one or two of these aspects whereas other times, I want to try and focus on it all. This for me, is usually around the time of Looked After Children's Reviews to ensure the child's voice  and needs remain at the centre of the meeting.

For one young child I recently worked with, we choose to explore their feelings in relation to contact with their birth family. For this, I gave a series of opening sentences to which the child would need to complete;
  • When I know contact is approaching, I feel.........
  • When I am at contact with (.......) I feel......
  • How I feel about my contact location (community/ contact centre/ family home)
  • If contact was increased, i would feel......
  • If contact was decreased I would feel......
In addition, the child would answer each question in a different colour and then circle or colour in the blobs that would represent that sentence. 

The really great news about this is, you can tailor it to your child. You know them the best and this can really work to your advantage when trying to understand the child's world. 

When working with children to support their understanding of emotions, Blob Tree can offer scope for discussion around their expressions and how the blobs may be feeling. Children may be able to give examples of situations that may lead to that specific feeling. Perhaps your child likes keeping their hands busy, so can you cut them out and stick them into categories of different feelings or emotions? Perhaps your child simply enjoys colouring, or using glitter....... You really can get creative with these Blob, as little or a much mess as you and your child can make. 

Fortunately for us all, there is now an entire series of Blob resources from books to flashcards, all which offer support with emotions and feelings. There is also a set of flashcards for teenagers. I've enclosed the link here which will take you to the main page for all resources via Amazon. 

Happy Blobbing 

Friday, 30 August 2019

Guest Speaker: Speckles- Let me introduce myself.

Hi Everyone,

I'm feeling truly honoured to be here with you all today. It's my mum's blog, but I kind of convinced her to let me help.

For those of you who do not already know, I was adopted by my mum and because she is a Social Worker, I knew I could help by sharing my story too.

My mum says that she wants me to have the best-est ever life. My adoptive sisters, Lulu and Cilla, ask me what "the best-est ever life" looks like and I say, "well, to have all the Jumbone's in the world"......... mum said no! 😏

When mum comes home from work, sometimes she is sad that she couldn't help one of the children she works with better. Sometimes she rants for ages and all I can think about is those tasty juicy Jumbone's.

Mum talks about children in Foster care. I don't really know what that means, but sometimes she says "adoption" and I think of me, because I was adopted too. I lived in lots of homes before coming here and sometimes when mum is talking about her children, I feel like I can relate to them because of what I went through too.

Whether your a child, a dog, duck, rabbit, hamster, horse, ant or social worker like my mum, there are people out there who love you and so, I want to share my story to help and inspire others.

My Story

I don't know very much about my early life. I'm Irish, and 5 years old. I have dark eyes and floppy ears that sometimes, I try to make stand up straight. I have some funny markings which make me look speckled, hence my name.

I guess I had brothers and sisters and I must of had a mum and dad at some point but I didn't live with them for too long. Us dogs are a little different to humans, we leave our parents much earlier and begin our big adventures in the world. Some of us go on to be police dogs to help fight crime, some of us support and look after the blind, some of us are just really good companions and love to snuggle on the sofa next to our favourite people and watch TV. Some of us though, end up on the streets, forgotten, mistreated and left to survive alone- that's what happened to me.

My adoptive mum doesn't know for sure what happened to me. She thinks I may have been trained as a guard dog because I am very good at protecting the house and she didn't need to teach me this trick. Mum wonders if I was too much of a nice dog and that wasn't really what my previous family wanted and so that's why they threw me out.

Man, I remember it well. It was cold and wet outside and I was so scared. I didn't even have my coat. I missed my bed and my friends and my family and I didn't know what was going to happen to me.

I was on the streets in Ireland for a while. I don't know how long exactly but, gosh it felt like forever. People used to walk straight past me, like I was invisible. Sometimes they would throw things at me, shout at me or chase me. I was always so scared and I stopped trusting people. I would hide anywhere I could just to get away. My belly hurt because I was hungry and my feet were sore from walking so much from place to place. When it rained, the water would sting my eyes so bad I could hardly see where I was going.

One day, A lady with a long stick was looking for me. She wanted to take me to the Pound. Mum said that the pound is a bit like a children's home, only it's for dogs and not children.

The pound was very busy and very noisy. I had a bedroom which I had to share with another dog. I don't even remember their name. I was just so scared all the time and I would hide in the corner. When the lady with the stick came in each day, I tried to lay on the floor as small as I could and stay so so so still, hoping she would not see me and come near me. Sometimes, I felt so scared I would get really cold and start to shiver and no matter what, I couldn't stop my body from shaking.

One day, the Lady with the stick came into my room and said I was going to a different pound called "Dogs Trust". My mum said this was in Essex, England and showed me a map of how far I had travelled from Ireland. I was with lots of other dogs and it was at Dogs Trust that I was given the name Speckles. They also gave me a birthday- 10th March.

The humans at Dogs Trust were very nice to me. They took me for long walks in the sun, gave me toys and a cosy bed and blanket and the food was delicious. Despite this, I Couldn't bring myself to trust them in case they gave up on me too. They told me that they were looking for a family for me. They put my picture online and waited...... (This was my Dogs Trust mugshot to get me a family)

.......and waited is what I did. There was a special Dog Doctor at Dogs Trust who wanted to help me feel better about life. To make it a little less scary and to help me cope. The Doctor gave me a medicine called Fluoxetine. I still take this now.

During my time at Dogs Trust, four families came to see me, but when they saw how scared I was, they left. I was too broken for them. That made me feel even worse because I was so desperate to have a family. I had lots of selling points, like did you know that I was potty trained? well I am and I promised not to make a mess in the house. I am good at chasing birds so they wouldn't eat your grass seeds and I am good at being quiet. Despite this, the families came and went.

After nine months at Dogs Trust, that's when my mum came and found me. This is the good part of my story because my best-est ever memory was when she brought me chicken and laid down on the floor near me so I wouldn't be so scared. I will look for the photos to show you what I mean but for now, I am calling it a day- afternoon nap time 🐢🐢, plus my mum wants to look on amazon, I sure do hope shes ordering my favourite Jumbone's.

For my next post, I will show you the pictures of me meeting mum for the first time, and tell you all about the meetings- all 22 of them.............

Until next time...

Love Speckles xxx

The Money Tree- How I learnt to budget the hard way

There has been a lot of attention towards saving money of late, what with Lloyd's Bank, "talk about money" campaign and the recent television advert regarding saving money on payday, but why has this suddenly come around?

It is no secret Money is a complicated, stress related, life controlling and daily occurrence for us all. Even those with multiple noughts after a few digits in their bank accounts I imagine struggle with money some of the time.

We have all experienced that moment when you press “show balance” at the cash machine, or log in to your online banking and are greeted by single figures, zeros or minus signs and your anxiously wondering how many days are left until payday.

Similarly, if your anything like me, you’ve counted how may weeks there are until the next payday on payday. You’ve just received that pay-cheque and your already wishing the next month away in anticipation of more money. Money related worries most certainly increase stress levels. There is tones of literature out there that highlights the facts and figures around how stressed money can make us, including that of the Mental Health Foundation who surveyed a little over four and a half thousand Brits, and found that three out of four people have been so stressed about money at least once (2017-2018) that they have felt overwhelmed or unable to cope.

For me, the question is; How do we prevent this?

My Answer: Budgeting.

I have experienced financial issues throughout my adult life and even now, I still work within a strict budget. This was not an easy task to take on, having spent my teenage years binging, over spending and not having any insight in to the value of money. It was a hard hitting habit that needed to be broken. For me, real issues began during my second year of university when I was no longer working and had to live the whole year on student loans, which are means tested and limited. Problems began early on in the year and I needed help from family who, gave me the best solution by teaching me how to budget. By taking budgeting as a step by step process, and using some of the tips below, I quickly found myself back on my feet.  

How I learnt to Budget: This works for monthly or weekly paydays. 
  1. Add up all of your outgoings for the month/ week. Your Rent, water and electric bills, council tax, phone bill. If you have debts, make a note of them and keep that to the side for now, we will come back to debts a little later. 
  2. Take this away from you monthly/ weekly wages. 
  3. With whats left, divide this by how many weeks/ days until your next payday. This will then give you your budget for the week/ day. 
  4. Then, you can start deducting travel exercises (petrol, bus or train tickets) and food. 
  5. If you have debts, you will need to pay these off and by incorporating it in to your budget, the debts are already less overwhelming. With what every money is left over after all your bills, food and travel expenses have been taken out, you can set aside the money needed to put towards your debt. 
  6. If you are able to, saving some money each time you are paid is really beneficial, even if's its only a few pence a week, this soon adds up.  Skintdad (8th July 2019) highlights the genius concept of saving just 1p a day and then increase the amount you save each day by 1p. Example, day 1= 1p, day 2= 2p, day 3= 3p. This could be done in weeks rather then days also. Over a 12 month period, we are talking between £667.00 and £671.00 saved. Yours. NO catch, just your reward. Think about what you could do with this? A few days away? maybe pay off some more debts? perhaps you've been thinking about a new sofa or decorating your bedroom. What ever it is, that money is yours and boy, doesn't it feel good? <br> Skintdad has some really useful ideas around the 1p challenge, along with free printouts, so be sure to check it out at : 
Whats left from your weekly/ daily allowance, if yours to enjoy yourself. Maybe a once a month cinema trip? a new pair of trainers? or lunch at a pub? whatever you choose, it's really important that you reward yourself, so you feel like you have a reason to carry on working. 

In the world of organisation, this is something I also had to learn. Organising money, saving it, keeping it separate and knowing where every penny is.

Some useful tips: 

  1.  Use jam jars or envelopes to keep money separate. Food allowance, petrol fund, bus ticket, pocket money. If you don't fancy old school methods, some banks (i know Natwest do) allow you to open instant savers for free. I have some of these and nicknamed them, transfer the money and leave it alone until you need it. This prevents over spreading. <br>
  2. Avoid spending loose change. For me, I collect 20p coins or less, put them in a bottle bank and let the "rainy day fund" grow. There have been a number of times in the past where i have needed to reach for the rainy day fund. If 20p and below is a stretch for you, use a lower limit, such as 2p's. The money soon grows and you'll be surprised how much you can save without realising it using this method. <br>
  3. Write your own weekly menu to avoid over spending on food. By working to a menu, I often come home with change which, you've guess it, goes in to my rainy day fund. If your worried about getting board of eating the same meals every week, great two or three menus and rotate them each week. There are loads of healthy food options out there that you can make without over spending- they taste great too. 
  4. keep a note book of what your spending, or if you like working on computers, keep a spreadsheet. This will give you accuracy of how much money is being spent and on what. 

Whether your new to saving money or have experience, it can be a minefield and breaking old habits to make room for new ones can be a hard challenge. AI have tried and tested all of the points I have raised today and found them all to be helpful. As you become more familiar and confident with saving and budgeting, you can tweak the ideas to suit your needs or, come up with some of your own- be sure to share your knowledge to help others. 

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...