Supporting a Young Person who Served a Custodial Sentence

History of the Young Person

The young person (JW) had been known to Children’s Services for 3 years and was now 16 years of age. JW was adopted at 2 years old after some sustained physical abuse – his birth mother (White Irish) had a drug addiction and his birth father (White Irish) had died when he was a new born. His mother had entered in a relationship with an Asian male. The step father would physically chastise JW and a decision was made to have him adopted. His mother and step father later had two daughters, both of which stayed in the family home with no further concerns were raised. JW was adopted into a strong Irish family and his childhood was far from idyllic. At the age of 13, JW began to act out at school and at home and his adopted Parents struggled to keep him safe from harm. He was involved in petty crime and shoplifting and it was at this time he discovered illicit substances. JW stole illicit substances from a local gang and when they found him they stripped him naked and beat him with a baseball bat. JW spent 3 weeks in hospital recovering from his injuries, however, this did not deter him from this lifestyle. His adoptive parents felt unsupported and unaware of how to manage a young person like JW. JW reported to us that his punishments became stronger, which he was struggling to either understand or accept. JW received a custodial sentence at a Youth Offender Institution (YOI) and his adoptive parents then disowned him – they said they were not able to look after him or parent him anymore. JW had stolen multiple times from the family home, he had taken possessions from his brother and his adoptive parent’s jewellery.

Moving to LCS

Prior to JW’s release from custody, the Local Authority approached LCS to see if we could offer a support package along with accommodation. To determine if we were able to support JW’s need we visited him at the YOI. During this initial assessment JW was a polite young person, his communication skills were excellent and he had a glowing report from his personal officer. There was evidence from JW of attachment disorder and he was desperately seeking a family who would love him. LCS have a proven track record of placement stability, with experienced and skilled workers who will always go that extra mile to support young people to move positively towards independence. The relationships that staff have with the young people are built on trust and respect and once a key worker is allocated to a young person they will work with them to encourage them in meeting their aspirations for the future. JW’s accommodation consisted of a standalone property with high needs support. We provided 15 hours of key working per week to help support him during this most challenging time. He presented with an extremely traumatic past and it was of paramount importance to build JW’s trust in making and maintaining relationships with others. We were initially struck by how he coped with a positive role model. JW would flinch if you came too close, he would cause an argument and smash things rather than talk about his feelings and would shout out racist comments when driving in the car or walking in the street. His shoplifting was out of control and whilst out with his Keyworker he would steal from a shop with the Keyworker having no idea until they returned home.

How we worked

Over a sustained period of time, work was completed with JW to support him at his own pace. It was felt that having a female worker would benefit JW as he felt less threatened. Maintaining firm and consistent boundaries was key in moving JW forwards and a trip to the shops meant JW had to keep his hands in his pockets at all times until a level of trust had been developed. Racist remarks and outbursts were challenged by staff at all times. It stated on all paperwork provided to us how racist JW could be, however, no interventions had been done to support JW through a time where he was abused physically and mentally by an Asian male. He needed to have the opportunity to work through this period in his life and accept that not all people from one race or religion can be judged the same. JW needed a lot of therapeutic intervention and management around his emotions – talking about his past took him nearly 13 months. Within this time period we also focussed on rebuilding the relationship with his adopted parents and arranged some contact via letters. This naturally developed into phone contact and longer term face to face contact. Sadly, this relationship was not an easy one – reluctantly they withdraw all contact again just before he turned 18yrs of age. We also spent time supporting JW to enable him to talk about his early years – he was angry, sad and confused. For JW to accept that the past is not able to be changed was a huge step forwards when addressing his mental health. JW is not racist and very quickly was able to prevent these outbursts and accept people as individuals. During the period of his time with LCS, JW did return to YOI on two different occasions – with each custodial sentence LCS continued to support with visits. This was key in reinforcing the trust and the relationship. JW preferred to be in custody as he was not alone, he felt looked after and enjoyed the routine and social aspect. When JW returned to placement it became key to securing some kind of education, training and employment for him. He was in a good place emotionally and was coming to terms with the face that he was on his own but that he had a good support network. JW needed to accept that positive changes were about him embracing and investing in his future. JW was skilled with people and had a keen interest in cars – we supported JW in visiting multiple mechanics asking if they would accept him onto a mechanic’s apprenticeship. JW secured an employer and then begun his apprenticeship - this was short lived though as he stole from his employer, resulting in him losing his place on the course. When JW turned 18 he was eligible for his own Local Authority housing but made the decision not to access his permanent housing. He states he was not ready and he knew that he would lose the tenancy due to his prolific offending. JW chose to support himself until a time he felt able to access his housing safely.

Positive Outcomes

JW was able to accept and understand his past, he had moved forward and begun to control his emotions. He was able to see and experience a healthy relationship and a secure attachment – he understood more about trust and respect. JW had the opportunity to reflect on his childhood, have contact with his adoptive parents and family – he decided for himself that he just did not fit into their world. When JW came to LCS he was not ready to engage and succeed in a programme of education and training. He needed to learn how to build trusting relationships in his life in order to support him to come to terms with his past, control and regulate his emotions and accept his future. JW is now 22 years of age and would like to complete a college course in plumbing as well as work for a company that supports young people in care.


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