Our birthday present for practitioners: our new Keeping myself safe resource

145 years ago a young homeless boy living on the streets in Waterloo asked our founder if he could ‘do what you can for us, Sir’. Thomas Bowman Stephenson listened. He set up National Children’s Homes to get homeless children off the streets and into a safe, caring environment where they could learn the essential skills which would enable them to thrive.

Since then, Action for Children has undergone all sorts of changes as we’ve moved with the times, not least a change of name. But we still hold the same values. We provide care for vulnerable children and young people and aim to give them a voice throughout this journey, particularly through our campaigns, research and policy work.

This has never been more important. Today, children who spend time in care are still more likely to experience poor outcomes. They are more likely to be teenage parents, end up unemployed, or be homeless. But we know that when the care system works well, children and young people are empowered to develop the resilience and self-efficacy needed to eventually live independent lives, make positive choices and to keep themselves safe.

To inform our new Keeping myself safe practitioner’s toolkit, we spoke to young people at our residential services about what makes them feel safe and where they might look for help and support. We asked them what skills and qualities practitioners should have if they are going to develop good professional relationships.

The young people we spoke to highlighted the most important things that Action for Children staff do to help keep them safe. They are:

  • Build our trust.
  • Develop respect and our feeling of self-worth.
  • Accept what we have been through and understand why we might take risks.
  • Provide a stable and consistent relationship .
  • Involve us in decision making and problem solving.
  • Listen to us and communicate effectively.
  • Set appropriate boundaries but also support and challenge us to manage risk ourselves.
  • Help us to develop and maintain our relationships and social networks.

Our new toolkit explores these issues and gives practitioner’s practical guidance and every-day examples. It’s so important that young people are empowered to make their voices heard in discussions around the care they receive. The toolkit shows the value that’s added to these discussions and the resources made to guide practitioners when we take time to listen to what young people say they want and need from the people who take care of them.

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