Saturday, 7 March 2015

Building the models for early state interference

At one time children made the transition from home to nursery without the authorities making a fuss about it. In more recent times, a little more thought has been put into it, and mothers, or fathers, will be asked to stay with their children for a couple of hours to see how they settle. That might go on for a week and by that time children have made a smooth transition to nursery. Children quickly adapt to their parents leaving and then returning.

It is very strange that this transition by children is now seen as so fraught with difficulty that there are projects springing up everywhere to involve multi-agency action plans around vulnerable children and their families.

John Bowlby
HEART (How Early Attachment Relationships support Transition) is a mult-agency steering group set up in Glenlee Primary School in South Lanarkshire.
Whilst the vision for HEART emerged from recognition of need in the local area, it also contributes to national and local agendas such as GIRFEC, the Early Years Framework and South Lanarkshire Council’s Children’s Services Plan. Likewise it responds to the recent Scottish Government funded ‘Attachment Mapping Exercise’ (CELCIS Report, 2012) which highlighted significant gaps in the understanding of attachment theory and how the multi-agency group around the vulnerable child and family use attachment informed practice.
Members of the group therefore include ‘like-minded’ professionals from education, social work, health and the voluntary sector. The group is ably supported by a critical friends group which includes professionals across all sectors including the Scottish Government.

Their journey is a work in progress:
We are committed to identifying effective ways of building the knowledge and confidence of early years’ staff in attachment informed practice and are exploring ways to support relationships around the child...The programme is aimed at building the capacity of parents, of children from 0 to 8 years old, to promote resilience for their child through developing the basic building blocks of attachment. It is grounded in attachment and resilience research, and provides a framework for early years’ workers to assess the needs of individual children, reflect on practice and identify appropriate areas for intervention.
Fundamental to the aims of the group, the local social work Family Support Team has allocated a Family Support Worker (FSW) to link directly with Glenlee nursery and support the home to nursery transition. At present we are devising a new procedure where every child enrolled in the nursery will receive a HOME VISIT from the FSW and a member of the nursery staff. The aim of the home visits is to: create a relational link to nursery for the child and parent prior to starting, GATHER INFORMATION that will enable a supportive home to nursery transition, and ASSESS the attachment relationship of the child, all of which will be discussed at a transition planning meeting. It is hoped that this process will inform the nursery of possible vulnerabilities and enable early identification of SUPPORT SYSTEMS.
(1) Home visits
(2) Gathering information
(3) Assessing parent-child relationships
(4) Identifying support systems

A multi-agency team of like-minded professionals from education, social work, health and the voluntary sector have little understanding of attachment theory, which they are merely attempting to formulate, and are unlikely to adequately assess a relationship based on a home visit from a family support worker and a member from the nursery staff, no matter how intimate their questions.

Apart from that, behaviour has many different causal factors and attachment theory is not an uncontested issue. Ignore the many other variables and mistakes will undoubtedly be made.

It is not too difficult to see that HEART is about building the children`s database but will have many negative consequences: mislabelling children with attachment issues and the long-term consequences of doing that, parental stress, undermining parental authority and massive intrusions into family life being some of them.

Changing fads and fashions

It is always well to keep in mind that child development theory keeps changing.

For instance, a lot of bad things have been done in the name of `attachment therapy` and it has to be questioned why `holding therapy` was allowed to go on for so long without outrage from professional bodies.


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