Helping Joe What was the young person’s situation before working with Advocacy Focus? Joe is a 16-year-old male in the care of the Local Authority residing in a Children’s Residential Home. Joe was first referred to Advocacy Focus because he had been reported as ‘missing’ from his residential placement. It soon became apparent that Joe had been going missing from his placement on a frequent basis because he felt he was being picked on by the placement manager. Joe felt that his social worker was not helping or listening to him and as such his engagement with his social worker was limited. Joe’s health declined and he began to suffer with mental ill health. His personal hygiene also declined and his attendance at school became sporadic. He was then simultaneously diagnosed with an attachment disorder and an eating disorder. Joe was then moved out of area without adequate notice, which impacted on his school attendance and community ties. This was reflected in the frequency and duration of Joe’s missing episodes and the increasing risks he was being exposed to whilst missing. He had a limited support network and day-to-day structure which impacted on his mood, which triggered thoughts of self-harm and rendered him unable to make decisions with any sense of optimism. Joe was also distrustful of professionals. What did you do to help the young person? Our Advocate listened to Joe, documented his concerns and put an agreed action plan in place that he was happy with, prioritising his main issues. Joe and his Advocate discussed the services that were available to him and how he could successfully engage with them to get the help he needed. Our Advocate also referred Joe to an external advocacy organisation, which helped Joe raise a complaint against the placement manager in regards bullying allegations and to request a new social worker and change of placement. Our Advocate also referred Joe for trauma focused support and spoke to the children's social care management team to make them aware of the issues that Joe was experiencing, to expedite the necessary support to help him. What was the outcome? Joe has now relocated to a residential setting in his home town, where he is much happier and receiving targeted and specialist support. He now has structure and stability in his life and has a new social worker who he gets on with. Joe’s missing episodes have significantly reduced, along with the risk of harm he was being exposed to. His eating disorder is under control and his mental health has improved significantly. Joe is back at his old school and has a support network he can rely on. How do you think this impacted on the young person? The changes that have happened in Joe’s life have given him an opportunity to re-engage with education; community and family ties; and bring structure and stability to his life with a sense of optimism. The impact of the Return to Care (RTC) process on Joe was two-fold. Firstly, we identified the key issues as to why Joe was going missing, via our established and proven RTC process; establishing why Joe was going missing, identifying the risk of harm he was exposed to and tenaciously bringing these issues to the attention of people in a position to respond to them. Secondly, on a personal level, by being transparent and adopting a non-judgmental approach, we were able to recognise Joe's experiences of feeling isolated and disempowered, and by showing a willingness to help and support him, we established trust and successful outcomes for Joe. Why do you think the return to care interview(s) was so effective? The process gave Joe an opportunity to speak freely to a professional who was independent of children's social care and the police. This allowed him to speak openly and share information that he would not have been otherwise comfortable sharing with other professionals - particularly when he had had a bad experience with other agencies. The interview captured the voice, wishes, feelings and concerns of the young person, which in turn helped put into place recommendations to resolve the ongoing issues and get Joe the support he needed. All whilst understanding the issues that were impacting on his everyday life.