First Annual Conference: How Can We Really Work Together to Improve Mental Health and Educational Outcomes? Prioritising Parent Understanding and Competence
The seeds of this conference started a long time ago from a sense of confusion and overwhelm experienced in response to the ever rising tide of need I have seen in day to day practice in health and education settings over my career of the last 20 years. How do you turn frustration into something constructive, how do you turn this sense of overwhelm and hopelessness into something that feels worth doing?
The final trigger for this particular conference taking shape was a sense of exasperation about the NHS Future in Mind and 'transformation' process. Then the exasperation became an idea. So why not run a conference sharing what my colleagues and I really think? And we did it! The I Matter Project in partnership with the Centre for Adoption Support (CFAS) ran a half day conference in Lancaster on the 8th October 2015. It took us 2 1/2 weeks from idea to reality with lots of really good conversations, and a final diverse turn out of colleagues from education and health from both North Lancs and South Lakes for the event itself.
I felt we were on track when just prior to the conference when I was sent a list by a local teacher describing the Y5/Y6 pupils in her local lancashire apparently privileged school. Of 34 pupils only 6 had uncomplicated home circumstances. The rest were facing a catalogue of challenges in their home lives involving child protection investigations, parent alcohol, and drug abuse, complex divorce cases.
I guess this confirmed in black and white my concern about the scale of the challenges that I have been observing in day to day practice. The professional and personal challenge is how to respond. It is easy to grumble about what is not happening, and much more challenging to work out how to do something positive. This conference therefore set out to offer a critique of the current rhetoric on outcomes and evidence based practice in services to children and families with a view to offering a small glimpse of what a future 'really evidence based vision' might be. My belief is that we are failing to see the wood for the trees. The scale of the unmet need for children and families is in my view enormous but the biggest contributing factor in poor mental health and educational outcomes is not poor services per se but a collective failure to recognise the critical importance of child development, brain development and the adult role.
I believe that the only way to really shift this is to give these issues much more value in the fabric of how we make policy and practice decisions. And for this a clear educational approach is needed and a clear strategy.
Somehow if we are serious about helping children, we have to get to grips with the important role of the adult. We need to start to develop strong shared understandings and we need to think strategically
This first annual conference was a satisfying start. Click here for one of the Conference Handouts. If you are interested in working with others to tackle these issues, please get in touch!
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The summer term is starting already and things are moving forward at a steady pace.
Successes since the March newsletter:
1. The Intermediate class has been successfully trialled!
2. The Research Circle has been progressing well with different schools pursuing varied directions - as off -shoots to our exploration of the missing issue of child development and the question of how to engage parents.
3. There are now 3 schools who are members of the I Matter Project with exclusive access to the ever-growing range of I Matter practice tools.
4. The I Matter Project will have a new administrative base starting this week and a new administrator.
5. We have also just finished a very successful trial of an online group coaching tool. Watch this space!
Do get in touch if you would like to take part in an online class! It's not too late for the summer term!
It's been a busy and exciting month! And it looks as if next month is going to be busy and exciting too.
One of the most important ideas that I have learned in the process of developing the I Matter Project, is that whatever the issue, it is important to get REALLY clear about what you want most. Then it is best to write these wants down so that you can come back to review your wants regularly to see if any adjustments are needed. You then have to head off in the direction of your wants knowing that some of what you want may not happen straight away.
I started this process several years back and this month I realised that a good number of those hopes and dreams have actually started to materialise. I have finally replaced my own confusion with a lot more clarity (this was one of my top wants!) People are enjoying and valuing the training I am offering. I am working with some very interesting and very committed people. It looks as if I have found a perfect place for an administrative base and the business management side of things is finally beginning to make more sense to me. I love getting what I want!
This coming week I will meet with the 7 other members of the I Matter Action Research Group - to continue to explore our findings about the impact of a gap between developmental and chronological age on mental health and educational outcomes. We are looking at the nitty gritty details of child development and I am looking forward to sharing some fascinating video clips about joint attention in typical babies and in complex children. It is a real pleasure to work with people who are interested in such matters.
On Friday I have been asked to speak about the I Matter Project at a conference organised by Adoption Matters NW and Caritas Care entitled What does Excellence in Post-Adoption Support look Like?. I feel really energised by this work and it has been a privilege to work with the professionals and the adoptive families who are involved.
Another big excitement this month has been drawing together the outline of an I Matter Certification Scheme for Individuals and Schools and Organisations. It seems absurdly grandiose to set out such a scheme (who am I to do this?), but the truth is I do feel passionately that our schools and organisations are significantly blinded/off track when it comes to child development and parenting confidence - to the severe disadvantage of children and families who are already disadvantaged. So it feels good to be able to act on the issues I feel strongly about - especially when the theoretical base is now so persuasive.
I will also soon be taking on an administrator and taking enrolments for the Foundation courses that start after the Easter break.
So two things to think about
i) What do YOU want most? And what small steps are you taking in that direction?
ii) Do you know anyone who could be interested in I Matter Training? If so, please pass these details onto them.
Cathy Betoin Training Ltd is a limited company, registration number 07570100, that I set up to administer the work of the I Matter Project.
In November 2014 Cathy Betoin Training Ltd formally and legally became a social enterprise. As someone who has trained within the public sector and been deeply committed to the public sector values this was a transition that was dear to my heart.
A Social Enterprise is defined according to 3 criteria:
i) There is a social mission - the mission of this project is to provide mental health education for professionals, parents, and young people
ii) More than 50% of income is earned through trading products and services
iii) Profits are reinvested in the work of the business.
I hope that this important status will reassure those who are considering work with this project to feel reassured about the value base on which this work is progressing.
Still not very keen on the name itself so maybe I can change that one day.
Yay! The e-learning Foundation I Matter Class trial is finally running! I am excited that there are 12 participants - most of them professionals from the Kendal and North Lancs area who work in mainstream settings but are nonetheless in touch on a daily basis with one or more (often many more) young people with complex social-emotional needs.
The class will take place over the next 7 weeks and will I hope give participants an opportunity to step back and think about some important - and fascinating - issues.
What is clear is that the experience of very challenging behaviour in regular settings is very widespread indeed.
I really look forward to your feedback over coming weeks and your ideas about how to improve and develop this resource to help you in your challenging roles.
Places on the Free Trial of I Matter Online are going fast! I am very excited to have got a great mixed group of professionals who have signed up to work through the online course as an extension to their studies at Kendal College. And even someone in Devon! Distance learning can be very exciiting as a medium!
Free places are now almost taken up, but it seems a pity to disappoint people, so I have decided that though I cannot offer any more free places, I am going to offer some REDUCED PRICE places for the same trial period (just £95pp) for an intensive 6 weeks of relevant engaging content.
Closing date for these places is 20th December 2013
Time is running out to register to take part in the first I Matter Online Training Course running in the first half term of 2014.
Due to level of expressed interest, I have decided to open some additional reduced fee places - still offered in exchange for good quality feedback - just £95 per person for a full 6 week plus 1 study course including access to weekly phone Q and A
On completion of the course participants will:
1. Understand what is meant by a complex child, and what is meant by well-being in the I Matter Project
2. Demonstrate a deeper awareness of why complex children behave the way they do.
3. Have a practical back to basics integration of well-established theory and practices to support decision making.
4. Demonstrate awareness of the impact of their own attitudes and behaviours on the well-being and outcomes for complex children.
5. Demonstrate increased understanding of why self-awareness, and self-care is essential for those who live or work with complex children.
Don't hang about! Click here to apply; Closing date 15th December for Free places and 20th December for reduced fee places.
Dr Cathy Betoin
Dr Cathy Betoin
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How do we improve the educational and mental health outcomes of our children?
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