Ofsted inspection outcomes tell us that outstanding services share certain characteristics. One of those is clear and consistent boundaries.
In one of the Children’s Homes I was sent in to manage, it was difficult to tell who were staff and who were young people, the young people, in this case, being mainly teens.
Anytime I turned up there were both staff and residents in the staff office.
I observed this for a couple of days then asked the staff, ‘why is this happening’ after all the office is a place where personal information lives and they were lounging around eating cheesy wotsits and drinking coke with their key workers.
It all came down to having tried to say no and then having to put up with the limitless pushing of boundaries until they just gave in and the young people would proudly pop their muddy size six boots up on the table while balancing on two legs of the chair.
Now don’t call me matron but it all seemed a little at odds with the example we were supposed to be setting. When it came to boundaries, it was one of a few that needed re-aligning.
I stated my position that allowing the young people to party out in the staff office was no different to the staff team partying out in the young people’s bedrooms.
I ascertained that by leaving all manner of information lying around where it could be accessed, where they could read other people’s information, remove it, talk about it and ensure the whole of Kent knew about it was akin to walking into their rooms when they were butt naked.
In other words, a complete invasion of privacy that should not be happening under any circumstances. They got it, but it didn’t stop there. With the new realisation came a new responsibility.
It was their job to be the difference in the young people’s lives and not let them do as they pleased.
The staff said they didn’t know how.
I positioned myself in the staff office at the desk nearest the door.
I had the handyman re-enforce the hinges on the door.
Every time a young person came to the office when I was in it and tried to walk in I pointed to the door bar and said ‘don’t cross the line please’. I asserted it.
I was called all the Scottish-isms, cave dwelling, Haggis eating, names they could think up, along with many others and the handyman had to strengthen the boot worn door a few times.
Unless they were killing themselves or others, we ignored behaviour designed to get everyone’s attention during the first few weeks. Then I asked the staff to do the same.
After a week or two of this, the break in mob stopped and didn’t even bother trying to cross the boundary.
I had to be firm explaining the consequences to the team as a whole if they gave in even once but let’s be fair, they did.
Every bad habit takes a little time to break.
But, let’s just say this consistent approach, to ‘don’t cross the line ever,’ worked.
There has to be a clear boundary in place that remains in place. Because of the approach being taken, all manner of compliance issues were apparently being broken by the team.
The motto is, ‘stick to your guns!
The young people have a lounge, go and speak to them there, and please take those cheesy wotsits with you.’