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Support Group Discussions - 'Kids on the Edge'

Updated: Jun 29, 2022

At our last foster carer support group, we watched and discussed the 2016 Channel 4 documentary Kids on the Edge, Episode 2: Last Chance School.

This series explores the treatment of complex issues in the nation’s children and young people by looking at NHS-funded specialist centres for children and young people.

Channel 4: Kids on the Edge

The episode is based around Gloucester House, The Tavistock Children's Day Unit -an NHS-funded primary school for children with complex emotional and mental health difficulties, where a specialist team of teachers and Child Psychotherapists work with children who exhibit some of the most challenging behaviours in the country. Most of the pupils, aged 6-12, have faced early trauma such as neglect, abuse, and/or bereavement.

The school operates on the basis that reliving and working through these early traumas allows these children to develop the ability to move on, however, this approach is certainly challenging when the children present violent and aggressive behaviours. The purpose is to educate and treat the pupils so that, in time, they may be able to reintegrate into mainstream secondary education.

The programme was produced in 2016 and a few carers found it interesting to see how much therapeutic care has developed over time.

James, a Red Kite foster carer, has invested heavily in contemporary therapeutic practice over the last year and pointed out several aspects of the environment and care provision that were at odds with current strategies.

There were discussions between the foster carers around many aspects of care, from how the physical environment can influence behaviour to the lack of consistency between educational institutions in terms of knowledge and expertise.

The programme demonstrated many types of behaviours ranging from profane, defiant language and non-compliance to physical aggression and emotional instability. While it makes for uncomfortable viewing, it was balanced by showing the children engaging with the process to improve their outcomes and sometimes just having fun.

We discussed how, for the vast majority of the time, these children are no different from their peers but their extreme reactions to stress or transitional events can easily become the focus of their identity, both internally and by adults around them.

The overall message of the day was that consistency counts.

Therapeutic care is not a guaranteed quick fix. It takes time and requires a significant degree of self-belief and faith in the process to combat the psychological trauma associated with neglect or abuse, but the rewards can last a lifetime.

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