Looked After children or those on a Care Order have access to after care.
So why not young people on criminal court orders?
Why YOT kids may need aftercare…
Despite the valiant efforts of those working to prevent young people from offending, it happens.
Some kids end up offending, being caught, prosecuted and made subject to a criminal court order like a Referral Order or a Youth Rehabilitation Order.
Last year 21,103 young people were given community sentences by the youth courts in England and Wales. (YJB, 2016)
Whilst a court order is partly about punishment, there’s often a lot more to it than that.
For some of these young people the relationship they establish with their YOT worker will be a first. They may never have been able to trust an adult before.
This is where youth justice work moves beyond punishment and into the stuff that really makes a difference – relationship.
If punishment worked, then people would only offend once. They’d be punished and then they’d stop offending.
But, for some kids, punishment alone just doesn’t work. It may make other people feel better – “they’re getting what they deserve” – but it doesn’t stop the offending.
For these young people, the relationship they strike up with YOT staff is the silver lining in the cloud of punishment.
Endings can be tough…
Those kids who get to know, like and eventually trust their worker/s may see the end of their court order as a negative.
Most don’t. The majority are probably glad to see the back of it and get on with their lives. But not all.
Youth justice staff are uniquely placed to spend time with and build trust with some of the country’s most troubled young people.
And when they do, good things can happen.
I’m involved in helping the Youth Justice Board pilot a trauma-informed way of working with just this group.
We’re using the Trauma Recovery Model to deal with the developmental problems that lie behind the offending behaviour.
Central to this is being responsive to young peoples’ needs. Relationship and trust is the only way to do this.
If you’ve never really trusted anyone before, it can be very tough when it all comes to an end.
Why troubled YOT kids need aftercare…
Children who’ve not attached to someone before will find endings difficult. And why wouldn’t they?
So I propose that there should be a statutory duty on youth offending teams to provide aftercare to all young people on court orders, if they choose to take it up.
- Anchored – teenagers in transition to the adult world need to feel anchored. They need to belong to somewhere and someone. Sadly, for the most troubled kids, the YOT may be the nearest thing they have to this. Is it right that the end of a court order should also signal the end of any sense of belonging or stability?…
- Accountable – the mere presence in our lives of key people helps us to keep things on track. We all need some sense of accountability – someone who’ll care if we mess up. And someone who’ll celebrate with us when we succeed. If a YOT worker has become this for a child, then surely we need to continue to provide it beyond the tenure of a YRO or Referral Order?
- Accessible – when we hit a crisis, we often want to turn to someone. So it’s natural for some young people to turn to those they’ve learned to trust – sadly, for some, that’s their YOT worker. All it might take is quick phone call, a flying visit or a quick coffee. This kind of voluntary continued support, after the order has finished, could make all the difference.
If a YOT or a YOT worker becomes a place of security for a child, then they’ve achieved a great deal.
Far from building unhealthy dependence, we’ve set the child up to succeed. If they’ve attached to us, they can attach to someone else. If they can attach and trust they can ask for and receive help and support.
Aftercare – even the simplest of infrequent contacts – can boost a young person’s chances of sustaining positive change for the long term.
So let’s make a legal obligation to provide it, if young people request it of us…
What do you think?…
- What are you thoughts on aftercare for YOT kids? Does your own YOT continue working with young people on a voluntary basis after the order ends?
- Please let me know your thoughts… Leave a comment below or click here.
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© Jonny Matthew 2016