I am involved in a project to set up and open a home for children and young people in North Kent. This will provide exceptional facilities and opportunities for those who are selected to come and make their home with us. The people who have commissioned me and other professionals to complete this task wish for the best outcome for each child and young person who is invited to join our community. Each month I will write a progress report.
The house already exists as a care home for adults with learning and health needs. It will require some adjustment, not least because it is so well appointed in that each suite of rooms has a well equipped kitchen as well as bathroom and large bedroom. We had an unofficial inspection to let us know what would need to be altered. There will be some slight physical alterations necessary, but despite the inspector’s assumption that these children and young people do not need their own bathroom or privacy, we have planned to offer everyone a bedroom, study and bathroom which they will learn to keep clean and reasonably tidy.
There will be a communal dining room where everyone will sit and eat at least in the evening. Food will be prepared by those living in the house and we plan to invite local chefs to come in to help train and guide the youngsters. Cleaning will also be carried out by those whose house it is and everyone WILL do their share. Whilst we wish for this to have the feel of a permanent home, we are very aware that the majority of these kids are already vulnerable either through their borderline criminal activities, inability to conform, quick violent tempers or experience of abuse and rejection. We do not underestimate the task we set ourselves. In light of this, everyone living in the house will have a busy timetable every day and especially at weekends.
Most children’s homes anticipate that a percentage of their residents will run away. Our intention is to use preventative methods to disable that behaviour. It may be the norm for adolescents to ‘chill’ all weekend in their beds and then go out with friends at night; our children cannot do that. They will already have come to the attention of the police and some may have been in protective custody. This is not a normal situation for most of them. We will be introducing a different lifestyle and different attitudes. Some of these youngsters will be unable to adapt, but our wish is that a majority will break through the barrier of no hope and face a better, more optimistic future.
Where possible, we will be encouraging our children to attend their designated educational facilities. Eventually, our plan is to offer learning opportunities in a way that promotes learning and motives a thirst for knowledge. This may not be in a formal educational setting. I fail to understand why, after what may be a seven-year history of refusal to attend school, lack of interest and unwillingness to learn, the state system insists that everyone must be brought in line. It fails so many children. We want our children to be so hooked on learning that they demand more. Whatever we have to do to get this – provided it is legal and safe- we want to do. Not everyone who can’t read is dyslexic. Some have just been badly taught.
Entry and acceptance as a member of our new family will be guided by specific criteria. There are some young people whom we will not accept from the outset because their behaviour is already too violent or disruptive or they have been identified as sexual predators even at this stage in their lives or they have a diagnosed mental health condition which makes them dangerous to others.
We have still to work our way through the barriers we may have to enforce. We will consider each one on an individual basis, but this is a group setting and they will have to develop social skills and empathy under the skilful and vigilant guidance of specially selected workers.
I am looking forward to the challenge and invite you to check out the group discussions on www.facebook.com or contact me direct at valerie@