Focus Family - Children Who Need Help

As can be seen from the Children Requiring Help and Support page of the Family Outcome Plan (below) a wide range of factors can be considered for a family to meet this criterion. The plans focus on priority areas of a child who is in receipt of a Child Protection Plan, Child in Need or Early Help support, children and young people at risk of Childhood Sexual Exploitation and Young Carers.

The aim of the work is twofold; to put support in that will keep families out of specialist services and to help families who are already in receipt of high level support to maintain improvements that would see them move toward more universal provision.

Some useful things to consider are:

  • To safeguard Children and Young People, ensure that Cumbria is a great place to grow up.

  • Children and Young People have good relationships with their family, have security, stability, and are cared for.

  • Children and Young People`s families are safe from harm.

  • Children and Young People`s families believe in themselves, have higher aspiration, confidence and self esteem.

What difference will this approach make?

Focus Family is a way of working that aims to improve families' experience when they need additional help. A benefit of this is that it will support service reform through reduced duplication of services, reduced demand on and re-referrals to acute services. Many of the families identified as meeting Focus Family criteria have intergenerational, complex issues with agencies involved at an individual level. It is important for families to receive a holistic support package and to ensure this is the case it is expected this work will be joined up as a Team around the Family (TAF).

The Focus Family ethos is outlined in the Family Outcome Plan Guidance (185.76 kb PDF)

Research has shown that families most likely to benefit from co-ordinated support have multiple challenges such as unemployment, poor school attendance, domestic abuse, involved with crime and poor health. These are all aspects linked with children who require additional help and support.

If you recognise your own family as meeting any of the criteria below, or you are working with a family who meet criteria, please read the information to help guide you through the process section for more advice.

If you would like to know more about the Focus Family work please go to the About Focus Family

If you would like more support please see the provided range of useful websites.

Theme 4: Children Requiring Help and Support
Indicator/Family Problem Identified IssuesSignificant Progress (and/or outcome measure)Sustained Progress
A child in the family is in receipt of support at Child Protection Plan level

Child and family are stepped down with successful support at non-statutory levels

Child does not become looked after

Child and family are in receipt of support to maintain a safe environment

No re-entry to service in 12 months
This includes statutory and Early Help support

Child`s needs do not escalate to child protection levels

Child does not become looked after

Child and family are in receipt of support to maintain a safe environment

Child identified as at risk of Childhood Sexual ExploitationChild no longer classed as at risk of CSE.  No missing person or vulnerable child reportsIn last 6 months of the intervention
A child in the family is recognised as being a Young Carer

Child`s school attendance is above 90%.  Child reports settled and healthy home environment

Family maintain safe environment as evidenced by achieving all other Focus Family outcome measures

A child nominated by professionals as having problems of equivalent concern to the indicators above

This family had a mother and primary school age child. The mother had previously suffered physical abuse, emotional abuse and neglect as a young child. She had faced tragedy with the loss of her parent and she suffered from depression, resulting in her son being cared for by a friend of the family.

The child, now age 7 years, was taken into foster care after the school alerted social care to abuse and neglect he was suffering in the placement with family friend. Care proceedings were undertaken and the boy was placed in a short tern and then longer term foster placement.

The child's behaviour was extreme, distressing to him and to those around him and he needed a lot of support. His infant school provided consistency throughout the changes and a sense of belonging.

During the court proceedings the mother began to seek support for herself, including counselling and she put in an application to have him returned to her care. After a long process of assessment and therapeutic work the child was returned to his mother.

The mother was supported to understand the child's behaviour and how to respond helpfully to him as well as helped to accept ongoing support for her own emotional needs.

The child needed to trust that he will not be moved again. He had challenging behaviour at home and at school and had low self -esteem. He was at risk of emotional difficulties due to his experiences of trauma, separation and abuse and at risk of being excluded from school due to his challenging and bizarre behaviour.

The mother was unemployed and wished to train and get a job. However, she was also at risk of experiencing depression due to stress in learning to cope with parenting again, particularly in light of his challenging behaviour.

A whole family assessment was completed that captured the mother's and child's own goals. Regular review meetings were held with the class teacher to share learning, plan next steps and support good working relationships.

The biggest challenge has been providing the right support for the child to begin to feel more secure and less anxious and traumatised, and to help his mum to understand his behaviour within this context. To address these issues the child took part in play therapy and the mother accessed support through one to one and by building relationships with other parents at social events.

The success of this work has been due to several features including:

  • The close working with school and mother, which helped to build an alliance between school teacher and mother.
  • Further success in engaging mother with social events that were held for families and parents.
  • Recently mother has taken on a voluntary role.
  • Mother's increased understanding of her child's behaviour and emotional well being.
  • Mother's increased confidence and ability to manage her sons' behaviour.
  • Decrease in number of child's angry explosions at home and at school.
  • Child now feels as though he is liked at school and has friendships.
  • Increased trust in child's relationship with his mum.
  • The family wish to remain involved with community events and mother's voluntary role.

The success has been measured through identification of mother's and child's goals at outset, which were reviewed at regular meetings.