We changed how we write daily case notes and record key times sessions a number of years ago now. We used to write about the young person, rather than to them and described their day in a formal manner that was more intended for other adults to read than for the young person. It wasn’t intentional but the case notes seemed to focus on what the young person hadn’t done, or their negative feelings as opposed to their achievements and the positive aspects of their day, which generally far outweigh any challenges.
There were some minor hurdles in making the change to writing records to the young person, as old habits can be hard to break. There were concerns that the “new “way of writing would seem unprofessional and questions as to how it would be viewed by Social Workers and other professionals. Some people felt a bit vulnerable as they could be writing how they felt about situations, so the accounts of the day were much more personal to that young person and it was clear who had written it.
As always, the best way to convince people that the change was positive, necessary and the right thing to do was to ask those that we were writing about- the young people. Some didn’t really have a view but others were clear that this was a step in the right direction and were happy to be involved in training sessions for staff, and attend workshops at conferences. If we as the “adults” were unable to sway people’s opinion the young people managed it in a few minutes by explaining what a difference they felt something as simple as changing the writing style made.
A few of the comments we captured from young people are: -
Writing to the young person is now well embedded in all of our services. Records evidence the positive relationships young people and staff have and hold a wealth of memories for the young person to look back on in years to come. They choose to either take copies of records with them when they leave or request them at a later date. An increasing number of people with care experience are requesting access to their files years after leaving and this may be all they have to show for their time with us. It is important that they can tell they were genuinely cared about and loved by those of us fortunate enough to have been part of their growing up years.