Turning Children’s Lives Around

At our latest Best Practice Forum in June 2018, our keynote speakers Richard Cross (Head of Assessment & Therapy for Five Rivers Child Care) and Alison Hodgetts (a Registered Clinical Psychologist) gave a talk entitled “Turning Children’s Lives Around” – overcoming the impact of childhood adversity through therapeutically focused integrated care.

The presentation focused on the Five Rivers model of ‘trauma and attachment informed care’ and the knowledge, organisational structures and supports that are required to ensure good outcomes.

Five Rivers Child Care is a social enterprise that has been dedicated to addressing the impact of abuse, trauma and neglect for almost three decades.

The care provider has made significant investments into developing knowledge and understanding about what works in accurately identifying the needs of the child or young person. This has ensured the right therapeutic environment to meet the needs of children and young people who have experienced trauma.

Richard shared how this unique approach was embedded across Five Rivers Integrated services of Education, Care and Assessment & Therapy – and how a partnership with researchers from University College London and The Anna Freud Centre was successfully developed.

Richard and Alison further explained how Five Rivers Integrated case management maximises the use of the assessment comprising “three key strands” (attachment, trauma and disassociation). The approach aims to transform and maximise the impact in responding to the emotional needs of the child or young person.

Fountain House, a Five Rivers residential facility, has developed an attachment and trauma informed residential therapeutic environment. Richard explained that this approach has demonstrated how it can ‘transform children’s lives’ by minimising the impact of their traumatic experiences as they develop’.

Concluding the talk, Richard made an important point to the audience, that ‘the integrated model provides the glue and a shared understanding helps people to connect’. Summing up the necessary steps to develop an integrated service, he stated that the following key areas were essential to successfully delivering this model:

1. Develop a relationship-based therapeutic model
2. Capture the hearts and minds of the workforce
3. Help children and staff to understand what is happening
4. Provide training and a toolkit for staff
5. Develop a supportive culture for staff
6. Undertake a full assessment of the child/young person’s past experiences and current issues to identify their needs

The Earl of Listowel thanked them for their presentation and the audience then took the opportunity to ask questions.

Our Speakers

Richard Cross is Head of Assessment & Therapy for Five Rivers Child Care – an innovative and progressive social enterprise dedicated to ‘Turning children’s lives around’ who have experienced trauma, abuse and neglect. His focus is on ensuring the development of effective identification of need (assessment) and deliverer of therapeutic interventions that make the difference.

He is a UKCP, EAP, WCP registered Psychotherapist and Child Psychotherapist who has worked with children, young people and adults who have experienced trauma since 1991. He has sought to support the development of a range of relationally based therapeutic programs to improve outcomes for maltreated children e.g. New Zealand advanced EQUIP program (2002), Adapted SOTP for adolescents (1998) and piloted a trauma informed approach across 16 residential homes (2007 – The Sanctuary Model). He is a member of the European Society for Trauma & Dissociation (ESTD) and a member of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation (ISSTD).

Alison Hodgetts is a Registered Clinical Psychologist who has worked with children, young people and their families over the last 10 years, both in the NHS and privately. The focus of her clinical work has been with children and young people who are fostered or adopted; providing assessments, therapy and consultation, as well as training carers, parents and professionals.

Her professional interests include Attachment Theory, Developmental Trauma and attachment-based psychotherapy. She has completed her Level 2 Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP) training and is working towards completing the DDP practicum. Alison joined Five Rivers 12 months ago and works with the Fostering teams in the West Country.


Attachment Aware/Trauma Informed Practice in School

I am very fortunate that my office is three doors away from the school counsellor.  I say fortunate because I am able to speak relatively regularly to her, and not only gain incredible insight from her comments but also to recognise and celebrate the unique and positive impact she has upon the school community.  I am proud that she, and our attempt to support children through difficult times, is not hidden away in a cupboard or as an adjunct to the ‘SEN zone’ or similar.  It is on a main thoroughfare of the school, and easily identifiable by all students as a very important place.

In one of our semi-regular conversations, the counsellor spoke to me about a year seven girl she had been supporting.  This student had recently lost a younger sibling, and was now enduring the terminal diagnosis of a step-parent.  As a school, we had mobilised the troops to support her and her older sister, and the school counselling service is a big part of that.

‘I’m so glad I came to Trinity’, the young girl had said.  She continued, ‘I was so worried that I would have to change when I came to high school, but here, everyone just makes sure that you fit’.

When I reflect on how we support children through traumatic episodes, but also help them recover from trauma, this statement has a special resonance.   We can never expect that the ‘mainstream’ school approaches of numbers on the doors and bells on the hour will suffice.  We have to consciously cushion our support around the child, and, for a short time at least, prioritise their recovery over all else.  Of course, the journey towards a Trauma Aware School is a slow one, and the goal of a child centred approach influencing curriculum and pedagogy must not be lost sight of.  The work we are developing alongside the Virtual Headteacher is key here and rightly identified as a local and regional priority.

In the interim though, my focus is on leading a school in which we are proud of the vocal, open and deliberate way that we discuss our support for children.  It is a central platform of our school ethos, cannot be divorced from my personal convictions and, of greatest importance, is the best way to support children and young people in a school setting.

I see the IRCT as being key to this.  It is only through effective research and discussion by committed professionals that we can achieve meaningful and lasting change that will support all children, but particularly the most hurt.

Chris Gabbett.

IRCT Trustee
Principal – TRINITY CATHOLIC SCHOOL, Leamington Spa.