Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) Practice Guidance 1 - Using the National Practice Model

The National Practice Model seeks to support practitioners to consider ways to improve wellbeing outcomes for a child or young person

8. Using the My World Triangle

Practitioners should support children, young people and families to fully participate in discussions about what is happening in a child or young person’s world. Using the ‘My World Triangle’ allows practitioners, together with children, young people and families, to consider:

  • How the child or young person is growing and developing;
  • What the child or young person needs and has a right to from the people who look after them; and
  • The impact of the child or young person’s wider world of family, friends, community and society.

If practitioners are concerned about harm or significant harm related to a child or young person, refer to the Child Protection Guidance (2021).

In all cases, information should be divided into strengths and challenges faced by a child or young person and family. Practitioners should consider all sides of the Triangle in relation to a child or young person, but it may not be necessary to gather detailed information on all sides of the Triangle if this is not proportionate to the issues identified.

Many factors shape children and young people’s development from before birth, throughout childhood, adolescence and beyond. These include a mixture of genetic and individual factors (nature) and the child or young person’s experiences (nurture) in their family environment, learning settings and communities. This includes impacts of poverty, inequality and discrimination. Secure attachments to adult caregivers are crucial for healthy childhood development, future relationships and emotional wellbeing into adulthood. Adverse or traumatic experiences can impact on children’s healthy development and wellbeing. Children and young people can be more vulnerable to the impacts of adversity and trauma (compared to adults) because their brains are still developing.

Studies of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) show that early, effective support is important to support resilience and mitigate the impact of adversity and trauma. Brain adaptability in childhood means children and young people are particularly responsive to healing interventions at this life-stage.

The My World Triangle examines key aspects of the child or young person’s wellbeing across the three sides of the Triangle. These enable practitioners, together with children and young people, to think about what is happening in a child or young person’s whole world.

Using the information to assess a child or young person’s needs: Practitioners routinely gather some of the information across the sides of the My World Triangle through their work with children, young people and families. The information gathered, alongside any assessments undertaken, should determine the need for and right to additional support. It is important to consider that what is happening on one side of the Triangle may have a significant impact on another side. There may be overlap between the different sides of the Triangle. Use of The My World Triangle should be proportionate to the need identified.

Some critical questions for practitioners to consider during the assessment:

  • What are the views of the child, young person and their family?
  • What are the strengths, talents and needs of this child or young person?
  • Which aspects of family relationships promote the child or young person’s development and wellbeing?
  • How can the parent-child relationship be strengthened?
  • What other factors are influencing the child or young person’s wellbeing and development?
  • What would help the parents to support the child or young person to reach their full potential?

A child or young person’s age and stage of development should have a bearing on the assessment of their needs and the planning and actions taken to support them.

Children, young people and families should be supported to fully participate in discussions as the assessment of need is made, and be involved in decision-making, including receiving accessible information on the decisions reached and why.

All children and young people are likely to have strengths and also to face challenges in their lives. The balance between these is important, as is considering the strengths to be built upon and what can be changed to reduce challenges.

Practitioners should take account of factors that may enhance a family’s support, such as the availability of good relationships with extended family, friends or community, and factors promoting personal resilience. When adult services are working with an individual, they should consider how their help can positively impact upon children and young people.

To supplement an assessment of the child or young person’s needs or to explore specific areas of the ‘My World Triangle’ in more depth, practitioners may wish to make use of specialist reports from other professionals, including the third sector. These specialist reports may be made available through the family, or the practitioner may need to discuss with the child, young person and their family the benefits of securing these from specialists.

9. Analysing information using the Resilience Matrix

The Resilience Matrix enables practitioners, together with children, young people and families, to consider characteristics that may cause vulnerability and factors that can contribute to adversity, alongside factors that create a protective environment and resilience within the child or young person.

The aim of this process is to consider the actions needed to support the child or young person by strengthening protective factors and resilience and reducing adversity and vulnerability.

The Resilience Matrix allows the practitioner, child, young person and their family to take the strengths and challenges identified from gathering information using the My World Triangle, along with any specialist assessments, and to group that information within the four headings of resilience, vulnerability, adversity and the protective environment.

The concept of resilience is fundamental to children and young people’s wellbeing and is used in assessments by practitioners from many agencies. Resilience in this context is understood as the process of children and young people adapting well in the face of adversity, stress and trauma. A focus on resilience is not to suggest that adversity can be overcome by individual effort or that children and young people should be able to be resilient in the face of severe abuse and neglect, or multiple adversities; it is rather to recognise children and young people’s achievements despite such experiences.

Evidence shows that a resilience approach should look beyond individual coping characteristics and should focus on changing environmental hazards and stressors, as well as enhancing individual, family and services responses and support. Research has identified a range of protective factors which support resilience, which include: support from a trusted adult, education, safe schools and neighbourhoods, financial security, participation in sports and community activities, and supportive social networks and communities.

‘Resilience’ as described above, is the process of children and young people adapting well in the face of adversity, stress and trauma.

The terms ‘adversity’ and ‘Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)’ encompass various types of challenging and sometimes harmful experiences that can threaten healthy physical and psychological development for a child or young person. However, each child and young person’s response can vary. Trauma is one potential response; it is when a child experiences this adversity as extremely harmful or threatening. Multiple factors influence how children and young people respond, including the type and severity of the event, their existing attachment to trusted adults, available support, and wider systems.

Some children and young people require additional support to reach their full potential. This may be due to challenges they face as a result of poverty, health or other inequalities. Support may be needed to access resources (financial security, participation in community activities, and social networks of support): these are called protective factors.

Making sense of information: In beginning to use the Resilience Matrix, practitioners should understand that any assessment is likely to require information from several sources and a lot of information may be gathered for this purpose. Making sense of that information is a crucial next step before making a plan for action. Analysis can often be missed out in assessments, but it is a critical part of understanding what all the information means. Careful analysis and interpretation of information is essential to enable practitioners:

  • To identify challenges or difficulties;
  • To explain why these have arisen;
  • To understand the impact of strengths and pressures on an individual child or young person;
  • To consider the needs of the child and young person;
  • To consider how these needs relate to the child or young person’s rights;
  • To help children, young people and families to discuss and agree with them what support they can access;
  • To describe desired outcomes and the impact of proposed support, with measurements in place to review over time; and
  • To construct the child’s plan (see glossary).

Many children and young people who need additional help are experiencing difficult conditions. This may relate to their health, their progress at school or what is happening in their family or community. A resilience-based approach fits closely with the aim of GIRFEC to build on the strengths in the child or young person’s whole world, always drawing on what the family, community and universal services can offer.



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