10. How can the Resilience Matrix be used in GIRFEC?
In some cases, it can be helpful to use the Resilience Matrix as a mind map to help practitioners, together with children, young people and their families, make sense of the information they have gathered and to plan what needs to happen next to improve a child or young person’s wellbeing. It is important to see every child or young person in a family as an individual because they may experience the same conditions in a very different way. For other children or young people who are experiencing more complex difficulties, practitioners have often found it helpful to make sense of information to identify characteristics associated with both resilience and vulnerability, as well as adverse and protective factors by placing particular details of the information gathered in each heading of the matrix.
Assessing resilience and vulnerability: Practitioners generally find that the individual characteristics that enable a child or young person to grow up to be resilient (e.g. self-worth, problem-solving skills, self-esteem), are so intertwined with their experiences of parents, families (e.g. attachments, harmony, consistency) and wider environments (e.g. schools, neighbourhoods and friendships) that it is difficult to disentangle these.
Assessing adversity and protective factors/environment: It is emphasised that a resilience approach should look beyond individual coping characteristics and should focus on changing environmental hazards and stressors, as well as enhancing individual and family responses to adversities (Dodds, S. Health and early years, children and young people, a GCPH synthesis, Glasgow Centre for Population Health, 2016, URL: https://www.gcph.co.uk/assets/0000/5914/Health_and_Early_Years_web.pdf).
Therefore, practitioners should explore the extent to which the environment is adverse or protective for the child or young person; assessing the factors that can be located from the My World Triangle that are concerned with wider family, school and community.
Children and family centred strengths-based approach: Focusing on the positives and the strengths in a child or young person’s life is likely to help to improve outcomes by building a protective network (Daniel, B and Wassell, S. Assessing and Promoting Resilience in Vulnerable Children Vols. 1, 2 & 3, London & Philadelphia, Jessica Kingsley Publishers Ltd., 2002). The information gathered and categorised under the four matrix headings by the practitioner can be dynamic and will change over time. For example, children and young people’s resilience will be affected by the situations faced by the adults with whom they live. It will, therefore, be important to try to predict how changes affecting caregiving adults may affect a child or young person. Predicting possible trajectories for a child or young person will help to make sure contingencies are built in to preserve their protective environment. If these contingencies are not considered, a child or young person’s resilience could be weakened by subsequent adverse events.
Daniel and Wassell (2002) point out that resilience is a complex issue and that nothing can be taken for granted when assessing the resilience of a child or young person. It is not always possible to gauge how well a child or young person is coping when faced with difficult experiences (Hill, M, Stafford, A, Seaman, P, Ross, N and Daniel, B, Parenting and resilience, 2007, URL: https://www.jrf.org.uk/sites/default/files/jrf/migrated/files/parenting-resilience-children.pdf). A child or young person who appears to be coping well outwardly may be suffering internal distress and developing unhelpful coping strategies and defences. This has been termed ‘apparent resilience’. Lifespan research has emphasised that there is always the potential for developmental change and, therefore, an ‘outcome’ is an ongoing process rather than an end point.
This is why it is essential to get to know a child or young person during the process of assessment. There are many factors associated with resilience, but Gilligan (1997) suggests that there are three fundamental building blocks of resilience (Gilligan, R. ‘Beyond Permanence? The importance of resilience in child placement practice and planning’, Adoption and Fostering, 2,1,12-20, 1997):
- A secure base whereby the child feels a sense of belonging and security.
- Good self-esteem – that is, an internal sense of worth and competence.
- A sense of self efficacy – that is, a sense of mastery and control, along with an accurate understanding of personal strengths and limitations.
Using professional judgement and curiosity: There are some factors which may be both protective and also contribute to vulnerability or adversity. Practitioners need to exercise their professional judgement about how to make sense of these different aspects of information and weigh the competing influences. It will also be helpful to look at the interactions between factors because this may also influence whether the impact is negative or positive.
Attention to and curiosity about the experience of the child or young person and family from their perspective is also essential to this consideration. Practitioners will be supported by professional standards and line management structures in reaching decisions which rely on the combination of curiosity and judgement. Once an assessment has been made, it will be possible to consider what scaffolding of support should be put in place for the child or young person and family in order to strengthen protective factors and resilience, and reduce adversity and vulnerabilities.
Together with the child or young person, information should be positioned under the four headings of the matrix and thought given to the child or young person’s needs and the desired outcomes. These details should then be considered against the eight wellbeing indicators of safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible and included. Action may be needed against only some or against every indicator and it is crucial to ensure these actions are proportionate to the issues identified.
This analysis then forms the basis for decision-making with the child or young person and family and other practitioners on whether a child’s plan is needed. If it is agreed that compiling a plan is appropriate, there should be a discussion about what should go in it, including consideration of what actions need to take place to improve protective factors and resilience, what needs to happen to reduce adversity and vulnerability and who is going to carry out those actions.
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