Helping Katie

What was Katie’s situation before working with Advocacy Focus?

Katie is a 12 year old girl diagnosed with a learning disability, she attends a specialist school to support her with her education.  Due to Katie’s learning disability, professionals have indicated that based on their assessment they believe her to have the understanding of a much younger person.

Katie has four siblings under 18, who are all subject to a child protection plan, due to the risk of sexual abuse. The plan was put in place as Katie’s younger sibling alleged that their older brother had committed an offence against them, and while this was being investigated by the police, he had to live away from the family home and couldn’t have unsupervised contact with the children.  Katie’s mum did not believe the allegation of abuse and this had negatively impacted on relationships within the family, between the siblings and Katie’s mum and the child who had made the allegation. Consequently, Katie’s siblings did not believe their brother had done anything wrong and missed him greatly. 

The Covid-19 restrictions meant that supervised contact between Katie and her brother had stopped because of staffing difficulties.

Katie was being supported by an Independent Advocate in relation to the child protection plan, so that her views and wishes were listened to and her voice was heard during the process.

What did Advocacy Focus do to help her?

Our Independent Advocate met with Katie twice at her school before lockdown.  It was established that it was necessary for her advocate to try creative techniques and methods to promote engagement and enable Katie to open up about her wishes and feelings. On the first meeting with Katie, our advocate used the “Three Houses” tool. This involved Katie writing and drawing pictures about the things she would put in the “house of good things”, the “house of worries” and the “house of dreams”.  Katie was then able to attend a core group meeting, and with her advocate’s support, talked through the contents of the three houses with professionals.

Subsequently, lockdown prevented our advocate from being able to attend Katie’s school and initially they offered support to Katie over the phone. Katie indicated that she found telephone conversations quite difficult because of her learning disability, so our advocate had to consider more creative ways of working with Katie to try and find out her views and wishes.  It was established that for Katie to fully benefit from the support of independent advocacy, steps needed to be taken to complete an essential visit with her. 

Following some easing of restrictions, and with clear safety processes in place, our advocate was able to meet Katie in her garden. Katie’s advocate encouraged her to draw pictures of her family members and then asked her to write three words about that person.  In this way, Katie was able to talk about how much she missed seeing her brother and what she liked about being with him.  Katie was also able to talk about her sibling, who had made the allegations against her brother.  She was also able to tell her advocate that her mum didn’t really want her talking about her siblings.  Our advocate essentially, was able to gain much more information from Katie face to face using alternative communication methods, as remote means had proved difficult and of little value.  Meeting Katie made all the difference in regards to gaining her views, wishes and feelings.

What was the outcome?

Katie’s advocate was subsequently able to present a fuller account of her wishes and feelings at the Review Child Protection Conference (RCPC).  Katie’s wishes and feelings were consistent with those of one of her other siblings, who was supported by another advocate from our team to maintain objectivity.  The Independent Reviewing Officer (IRO) gave great weight to these wishes and feelings and made it an action in the care plan, that supervised contact with her brother must be restarted as soon as possible.

How do you think this impacted Katie?

Katie will now be able to have supervised and safe contact with her brother that she wished to have.

Why do you think advocacy support was so effective?

The Independent Advocate was able to use a creative approach to encourage Katie to communicate effectively about how she was feeling and what she wanted to happen.  This was achieved by carefully arranging a ‘Covid-safe’ home visit to enable a more suitable face to face approach to be taken. The wishes and feelings expressed by Katie, supported the wishes and feelings which were expressed by her sibling and were consequently given weight by the IRO, leading to a clear action plan with the outcome that Katie was hoping for.

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