When Kids Go Missing

Let me start this post, by saying that at our school, we have robust procedures that are followed, when ever a pupil in our care goes missing. However, there is not enough awareness of runaways and why they do it and I hope this post will help to give an incite into why kids runaway and as a school, how we deal with such issues.

Young People go missing for several reasons. Sometimes an argument causes youngsters to run away, sometimes it can be caused by bullying, sometimes it’s an act of rebellion and sometimes, kids just go missing for the thrill of it. When any of the kids in our care go missing, We as a school, have a “duty of care” and part of that duty, it is paramount that we act quickly and professionally and that the boy in question is found quickly.

So what do we do when one of our Young People go missing?

The 1st thing we do, is to do an extensive search of the school grounds, including the unit the young person is on and the main school as needed. We also put an alert out to all staff via staff radios. If a search brings no results, we ask the Boarders on his the unit, if they had seen the boarder in question. (Sometimes telling us about a den in the grounds or somewhere the boarders go when they want to be along, helps us to find the young person.) We also will try the young person’s mobile to make contact. (Each Unit has a list of young people’s mobile numbers.

If that doesn’t bring any results, I will get a phone call. I could be out with the kids or in the bath, but it means I need to get over to school ASAP. I will then be handed information about what has happened, at what time and those involved. Next, I call the Police (999)  and report the young person as missing. Meanwhile staff will search the Young Person’s room, to see if they have left any clues to where they are going. Meanwhile, I will go to Sam’s office and view the CCTV footage, to see which way the young person left the site and which direction he went.  I then have the wonderful job of phoning the boy in question’s Parents and informing them that their son is missing and  we have the Police out looking for him. I also have to contact Karen (our Head Teacher) and brief her. I then will ring the boy’s Social Worker (or the Emergency Duty Team if in the evening or at weekends or a Bank Holiday)

The Police will search his room, as well as speaking to pupils and staff, look at the CCTV and  circulate the information about the boy in question.  Meanwhile a spare member of staff will take the school car and drive around the local area. Sometimes it’s possible to find the boy in question, quite easily. I also will go through the browsing history on the unit PC’s as sometimes that gives us a clue on where they may have gone. I can get this from the Server for the networked PC’s in J Block,  which keeps a log of EVERY site they visit, even if they think they can be crafty and delete the browsing history on the PC. (The server is actually in the Server Room next to my office, so I can get to it quite easily if needed. Our Network interfaces the main school network and uses Community Connect. It means that the kids can access their files from school, via the same network.

Sometimes the Police bring the Young Person back and sometimes they come back on their own. When they return, a member of staff will call me and I will come back over to school. (Unless I am working, as I will already be on site.  A member of staff will remain with the boy in question, while I undertake a “return interview”. The return interview is not about telling the boy off for going missing. Instead it is about establishing why he went missing and how we can further support him. Of course, I will mention how dangerous going missing is. I remind the boy in question that he can come to me or any member of staff, if something is bothering them. If he wants to talk to me and I am not on shift, he can write a note and ask a member of staff to put it in my pigeon hole in the post room, on the ground floor of J Block; or use the computers on the units and send me a email. (Above the computers on the units is a poster, which has my work email address on it.) When I am back on shift, I will happily have a chat over a cup of tea. Of course, if one of the boys is distressed, I can be called and I will happily drive over to school. (In my Morris Minor of course!)

Finally, I have alot of paperwork to do when a boy goes missing, which is placed in his file, which is locked in the unit office filing cabinet.

When a boy is offsite, our staff are trained not to give chase. As stated above, a member of staff will drive round to try and locate the boy in question, while the group Leader will use their school mobile, to phone me. The police will be involved, if the boy in question is not found quickly and usual procedures will be followed.

I have only ever had to deal with a runaway once in all the time I have worked for the school. However, I think it is something that should be highlighted and that was why I wrote this article.

Rooftop Emergency: Pupil Threatens to Jump!

Update: The Year 9 Pupil is now back at school and read me a special letter (he had written while in Hospital) at Friday afternoon assembly. I got a massive round of applause and I got a big hug off the lad too!

I was told that “I went above and beyond to help a Pupil in crisis” and in his hour of need, I listened to him, I supported him all the way through it, and I showed him that I care, not because I am paid to, but because I want to care and that I care about each and every Pupil, no matter if they are naughty or nice, if they give me verbal abuse or put pins on my chair. Finally as stated by our Head Teacher, I have a heart of gold and that shines a beacon of light, which gives comfort to our pupils. They know they are not alone and what ever they are going through, they don’t have to go through it alone. Staff are always there to listen, to help pupils work through what ever it is that is bothering them and find a solution to that problem. Our school motto is “if you can’t help yourself, there will always someone will always help you”, which is very true.

The School, the staff and pupils are very lucky to have someone like me and I in turn, am very lucky to work at such a wonderful school, full of kids who are special, not because they have special needs, but because they are very special kids.

 

I have just managed to get home, I am very tired and honestly, rather disappointed. Right, lemme go to the beginning and explain what happened…

One of the pupils in my school, suffered a “Psychotic Episode”. (psychosis is where one hears, sees or feels things or have thoughts that someone is going to harm them.) This Year 9 Pupil, (who I cannot name for legal reasons) climbed onto the roof of the Gym in D Block. I was first alerted by someone in the office, who spotted someone on the roof of the Gym. Of course I followed emergency procedures and used my radio to put out an urgent message to the office. I used my mobile in the meantime, to phone the Fire Brigade. Sam was able to get me up onto the flat roof of C Block, (via a access door in B Block) which is not as high as D Block, so I could speak to him and try to defuse the situation. By now, me on the rooftop drama had got half the school’s attention and unfortunately, we ended up with a crowd on the playground, even though they were told to  stay back.

To cut a long story short, through me talking to the pupil in question and talk him down. I told the Police that I know the lad better than anyone and I knew I could get him to come down with a little time and patience.  It took 2 and a half hours to talk him down. With assistance from Durham Fire and Rescue, we got the lad down off the roof and into an ambulance. I went with him to the Hospital, where we sat for a staggering 10 hours! I am sorry, but for someone in crisis, that is far too long to be sat in A&E and the waiting room was not the best or appropriate place to spend half the time,  as he was very anxious. Finally, Mental Health Liaison came to see us and he is now in the care of  the Hospital.

More money needs to be invested in Mental Health services. I know A&E is busy, I get there are lots of very sick people in the department, but Mental Health crisis should not be pushed down the queue. People who are poorly because of mental health, should not have to wait more than 2 hours to see a Mental Health Professional in A&E. Tomorrow, I am going to write to my MP, because the stigma with mental health needs to stop and better care needs to be out there and not just a “postcode lottery”.

I went above and beyond for a pupil and I didn’t need to do so. I reached out to someone who was  in a crisis. In this job, you have to wear many hats. I’m not just the Head of Care, I am a friend the kids can always come to when they are feeling down. The kids know my office door is always open for a private chat and if I am not at work, they know they can turn to any member of staff for help. If needed, I can always be called and I will come into work to help a young person, regardless if it’s 3:30pm on a Sunday afternoon or 3:30 am on a Wednesday morning.

The kids know they can talk to me and they know if they want one, a hug is always something I am willing to give. From kids who are homesick and miss mum and dad, to kids who feel they are struggling to cope, I am here to listen and I will not judge them or tell them what to do. I will always explore ways to resolve the problem and they know that they can confide in me. They also know when I have a “legal duty” to speak to break confidentiality, if they or someone else may be in danger. However, I always make sure that I explain why I have to break confidentiality and will always continue to support them through this process.

Today was incident to reflect on and made me think that as a school, we need to be more eagle eyed to spot when things are getting out of hand and to to intervene. I am not blaming anyone at school, but we need to work harder to prevent something like this happening again.

I was always taught by my mum to “not dwell on the what if’s) and this is the same when you think about today. If we had of got this pupil in to see the School Doctor, before a roof top drama started, the outcome would of been the same. The same outcome regardless, would of been a trip to A&E, as we cannot keep a young person safe from himself or keep other people in school safe. A&E was the appropriate place for him to receive help and when he comes out of hospital, he will be welcomed back to school, with no bad feelings and he will not be told off. It is not the way things are done at our school!

I have been told he will get after care and he will get plenty of help in school as well. All his friends and the staff just want the best for him and I think that he is very lucky to have so many people who care about him.

Right, time for bed, I am back at work tomorrow! G’nite 🙂

Special Care

Today, we had a new arrival to the family. His name is William, (But we all call him Will) he’s 13 and been put into long term care with us, after serving 2 years for drug offences in a Young Offenders Unit. Originally, he was to be released to the care of the Foxes Unit, which is a secure care unit. However, I managed to persuade the powers that be, that a more family based environment would be better. This took a lot of meetings and visits with Will, Social Workers, Youth Offending Team (YOT) staff, Prison Parole Teams and his Mental Health Workers. This happened over several months, dating back to February, when the planning of his release was being formulated. Will had said that he had been to Children’s Home after Children’s Home and had not been properly understood and that his actions were due to his mental health. While inside, Will did get mental health support and he was finally given a diagnosis, with the correct support. (Medication and therapies and also support to stop him messing with drugs again)

Sam and I are probably the 1st Foster Carers to ever directly take on a young person released from Young Offenders, but we are not being left in the dark. Will has been made an appointment to see his Youth Offending Worker every week and he is also being fast tracked to receive community mental health support. He is also tagged and is not allowed out after 7pm. (But he can go in our garden)  We also have Social Services support and we have the number of his Parole Officer if we are concerned about him.  He will be attending out school as a day pupil, but for the 1st few weeks; he will be taught on the Day unit on Sick Bay, while he gets used to being out in the community.

Sam and I decided that it was best that he arrived without the other kids being around, so that he could have 2 or 3 hours to relax and to get to know his way around the house and for Sam and I to get to know him outside the . (We sent the kids bowling with Jenny. We have not told the kids about his background, but we have said he has been in trouble with the Police and is currently on curfew. We have not said anything else and we are letting Will tell the others, if and when he feels ready. He seems to be getting on really well with the other boys and already seems to be finding himself part of the family.

Hopefuilly we can help him to stay clean and stay out of trouble. Sam has said that if he goes to all his YOT meetings, therapy sessions and stays clean off the drugs (Possession of Coke was what he was sent down for) and complies with his curfews and house rules, Sam has said he will buy Will a decent Mountain Bike, which is a good way to help him stay on the straight and narrow, as he has something to focus towards.

Lets hope he does 🙂

Why Do We Care?

I often get asked, why do you Foster? This is not a simple answer, but the long and the short of it, is that there are not enough loving families to protect and support Children and Young People. On top of this, there are not enough Foster Families who are able to support the most vulnerable people in today’s society. (These are children and young people who have either been through trauma, or have enduring mental health problems.

The kids keep us on our toes! They can be a lively bunch, “crazy as a box of frogs, but good at heart. This is why there are 3 of us at home; to help care and protect the kids in our care. Kyle Jenny and I do a pretty good job of keeping the kids happy, safe and well. (We also have extra support on weekends, from my mum. (Linda) My mum used to work as a Unit Leader , on the Birds Unit at work; until she retired.

The kids with mental health  issues, (which is 3 of the kids) are the most demanding. As you can probably imagine, all the sharp knives are locked away, as well as locking up cleaning chemicals and that the kids have safety scissors. Also, because we foster kids who are under Police \ Child Protection orders, we have to be careful who can come in and out the house. The main front door is always locked and requires Kyle, Jenny or I to open the door release button in the study. (The door to the study is also always locked, as the kids have a habit of going in there and spilling their drinks on my desk and my PC. The garden is walled in and is safe for our kids.

The kids know  they can come to one of us, 24 hours a day. It does not matter if it’s 4am and Kyle, Jenny or I are fast asleep. We are always there, if the kids need a private chat or just need a cuddle. We encourage the kids to talk to us, any time. Talking helps the kids and helps to deal with their problems. Of course, we have to deal with the ups as well as the downs, such as when the kids get certificates at school) But when it all goes wrong, we are always there to pick up the pieces.

You know, Fostering is one of the greatest of life’s journeys. You get to learn a lot about yourself and the kids you look after.  You share the smiles, the tears and the tantrums, as well as sharing birthdays, christmas’ holidays and family activities. So If you have a spare room and could offer a child a new start in life, contact your local Social Services Department or a Fostering agency. I’ve had over 20 kids go in and out my house. (Most are either emergency placements or on respite care.) I have 2 on long term placement, as well.

Oh, before I forget… We’ve found out which of the boys flooded the bathroom. That’s got the kids off the hook, except for the person responsible. This person is now grounded for a month and will be paying for the damage to the ceiling.

One of those nights!

Well, it’s 02:42 and I am up again, because Kyrlo is having one of those nights again, where he’s had a very bad nightmare and has been really distressed. I have just got him back to sleep and hes fast asleep on the settee in mine and Sam’s Study.

The poor wee lad has been to hell and back but he is slowly getting there. We are teaching him grounding techniques, which help him to deal with flashbacks.  Also he has periods where he stares into outer space and will not respond to you speaking him. So we have been shown another technique, where we hold his hand and say in very calm voice, “Kyrlo it’s Kyle, you are safe and you are at home. I am not going anywhere until I know your are OK. If you can hear me, squeeze my hand”. It does work and it  helps him to safely come out from a flashback, which usually is terrifying.

The top priority is to make sure Kyrlo is safe and that he knows we are there to support and protect him. The other kids know to look for the signs of Kyrlo having a flashback and to find one of us right away. Recovery for someone who has suffered such severe and prolonged trauma is slow, but with the support Kyrlo gets, I know he will be fine; even if it takes years of therapy until the end of his teenage years!)

I am off back to bed now, so I am gonna carry the wee lad back to bed and hopefully get some shut eye, as I am at work at 7am!

K.R.I.S Protocol

As you know, my youngest son Kyrylo has Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, also known as PSTD. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an anxiety disorder that can occur after a person has been through a traumatic event. Kyrylo experienced such traumas while he was still in Ukraine and when he came to the UK with his parents, he unfortunately was sexually abused by them. I have had Kyrylo in my care for the last 4 years. (Since he was 2) He was first on a Police Protection Order, then a Child Protection Order. Kyle and I fostered him for the duration and was recommended to adopt him 2 years ago. It’s been a hard 4 years, with the amount of therapy he has been through and several attendances to A&E, when he is that traumatised that we have had to call for an ambulance, when he’s been at his worse.

He is getting better, which is good. However, we needed to find a way for staff at school, to identify when he is having a flashback or an attack of his PTSD. Last Thursday, he had an attack, where he could see his abusers (even though they were not there) and became very frightened and aggressive. He knocked over pencil pots on the tables, sent books flying etc and ran out the classroom screeching “leave me alone!” He also sent foam all over the place when he was running, by letting off a fire extinguisher. Thankfully, his 1 – 1 Helper used the phone on the wall by the whiteboard and asked reception to page me. I found Kyrylo in the toilets near the Canteen, where he was extremely exhausted by the trauma, that he had fallen asleep; sat leaning against the divide by the door. I carried him to Sick Bay, where he could rest and get over the attack. A couple of hours later, I went up to Sick Bay to see him. He’d just woken up and was really confused of how he got to Sick Bay. He could not remember the attack when I asked him about it. It was then, I realised we needed to think of a way, so that if he feels an attack coming on, we can get him the best care.

So that’s where the K.R.I.S Protocol (Kyrylo Requires Immediate Support) come into play. If he feels an attack coming on, he can raise his hand and say that he does not feel well and may he go to Sick Bay. Then his 1 – 1 helper will escort him to Sick Bay where he can be properly monitored. If a Teacher or a Teaching Assistant notices that Kyrylo is figgity or is staring into space, or is acting out of character, they will ask Kyrylo if he feels he needs to Sick Bay. If he feels he needs to leave class, he will be escorted as normal. Either way, if he goes to Sick Bay and he is in distress, either myself, Kyle or Jenny will be called. All staff are aware of the protocol and know how to implement it, if required.

Kyrylo already has what is called a “Day Bed” in A Bay on Sick Bay, because of his Narcolepsy. (A condition where he falls asleep  suddenly)  Special arrangements have been made, so he does 2 hours in the Classroom and the rest of the day is done in Sick bay, with his One to One. We have this arrangement with our school SENCO,  (Special Educational Needs Co-ordinator) Kyrylo, The Head Of Care (Kyle) and the Head. it means that Kyrylo can do his work, but if he falls asleep suddenly, he can be laid down to rest and be kept an eye on, at the same time. Of course, the main things is, that this arrangement takes into account his physical health needs and keeping him safe. he does not have a fixed time when he is up on Sick Bay. For most lessons, we are flexible, where he has the choice of Sick Bay or the Classroom. (However, this is restricted to 2 hours, so that he can rest if needed. He goes outside for playtime, with his 1 – 1, but unfortunately, he has to sit in a wheelchair to do this; to prevent injury if he suddenly fell asleep, fell and seriously injured himself in the process. He can access his “day bed” from 8am – 6p m Monday to Friday and this is an “open access” arrangement.

At home, he has a much earlier bedtime that the rest of the boys, (which he does not mind) and we have had to restrict some activities, where it needs 2  on 1 support. (IE: Swimming, where there is the higher risk of drowning)

Kyrylo requires a lot of support, as he has literally been to hell and back. He is lucky though, because he has 2 great parents, a family who love him very much and a school that is not there because the kids who attend have special needs, but because it is full of very special children, in a school that is full of love and understanding, where we care and share. It’s a lovely thought, don’t you think?

I am now going to a rehearsal for the Annual School Summer Talent Show, (which is being held at the end of term. That is not far away, only a few weeks!) I am doing a duet with my oldest son Josh. (The song is not a duet as such, but to help his confidence, I am singing it with him.)  The Talent Show is really good and has all sorts of acts, from juggling, magic acts, singers, dancers and much more! Josh and I are singing a track by The Cranberries, called Zombie. If you have never heard the song before, have a look at the below video.