At Doncaster School for the Deaf our registered children’s homes provide care through respite, weekly, termly and 52 weeks a year provision. Graded ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted at our latest inspection, we can accommodate up to seven young people in either Dickson House, or the North Flat. We provide a professional and homely environment where young people grow and thrive.

Over the years the number of young people requiring specialist residential provision has declined. Some might argue that this is due to funding cuts, an emphasis on integration into mainstream schools or the negative press that care has received; however, I would strongly advocate that for our young people, the benefits of residential care strongly outweigh this.

All our young people communicate using British Sign Language and/or speech and, whilst in residence, they have the opportunity to develop further and strengthen these skills by engaging with peers and a dedicated staff team who all use British Sign Language to communicate. Creating an environment that allows deaf children to be
themselves and communicate openly and freely helps to improve their deaf identity and improve their self-esteem
and confidence: “He absolutely loves it. It really is a home from home for him. I fell in love with the place the first time I saw it; it blew me away because of the genuine care that the staff give. The care team are fantastic” (parent, boy aged 14).

Sometimes communication can be an issue between our young people and their families, so the staff team are on hand to help out and intervene when necessary. For example, a parent might contact a child’s key worker and
ask them to explain something to their child which might have caused a behaviour or a misunderstanding at home.
They might also ask the key worker to work on a specific target which is impacting on family life at home. By
working effectively together, the care staff can support the family, thus improving the overall life experiences of the
young people involved.

Communication between parents/carers and professionals is fundamental to the work that we do. Communication occurs regularly via the telephone, emails, weekly reports including photographs and the targets they are currently
working on, plus newsletters. By establishing and maintaining positive professional working relationships,the needs of the child come first.

In addition to this, residential care can also help to develop and strengthen a young person’s independent living and social skills which are essential to their development. One parent, who has had two children experience the benefits
of residential care, both past and present, stated that: “He’s made great friends at School, College and Dickson House; it is such a family friendly place. Staying at the children’s home has taught him so many independent
skills. The staff are all so dedicated to making sure that each and every individual has their own plan that suits them; I can’t say how much of a positive difference this has made” (parent of sons, aged 20 and 13).

Furthermore, the children’s home has a mix of deaf and hearing, male and female staff which helps to create a
positive environment whereby goals and aspirations are actively encouraged: ‘they are able to see other deaf
people function within a positive environment, where there are expectations placed on everyone to succeed
and do their best’ (IRO, London). At our children’s homes, deafness holds no barriers.

Young people, parents and professionals who have either been looked after, or with whom we have worked, are full
of praise for the service that we provide. A parent, whose son has been a resident for over three years, sums it up nicely: “Dickson House has been a safe haven for my son and he has learnt some great social skills since he has been staying twice a week. He gets to interact with other deaf children socially, but still being in a supervised surrounding. I feel that Dickson House has been amazing supporting us as a family and when he has his ups and downs, I’m very grateful for the support the staff at Dickson House have given both me and my son, they do an amazing job. I found it very hard at first but now it’s part of our routine we both need time away and I know he is well looked after” (parent of son aged 14).

Residential care can be very beneficial for young deaf people. It can create a safe and nurturing environment
which allows young people to grow, flourish and develop their own self-worth and identity. If you have a young
person whom you feel might benefit from residential care, whether it’s respite, weekly, termly or even yearly, then take a look at the provisions on offer. Residential care can meet the needs of young people that education alone cannot always do. It’s time that the stigma attached to residential care disappeared and that its true benefits can be valued and seen – you only need to look at some of our young people to see how far they have come. If you would like to talk about residential care further, then please do not hesitate to get in touch ([email protected]).

(Article reproduced with the kind permission of BAToD Magazine - March 2018)

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