Spotlight on best practice – New parent support group launched in Wales

Carole Bower is a Therapeutic Practitioner for Denbighshire Council and has worked in Social Work for 18 years, specialising in supporting families affected by child sexual exploitation. Carole has been on several different Pace training courses but it was our Level 4 Accredited Award in Child Sexual Exploitation (ASCEP) that really turned things around and, together with two colleagues, Carole launched their first parent support group in November 2020 (delivered virtually due to the current government restrictions surrounding Covid-19).

We caught up with Carole to find out more about her parent support group and how our ASCEP training course helped her…

What has been your experience of Pace and our training?

I attended the Advanced Child Exploitation training course about three years ago. This course gave me the platform to further my training and share my knowledge with our amazing families. I’ve supported children and families through child sexual exploitation for a while now and I’ve always had lots of ideas of where I think, as a service, we could do something different, especially when thinking about how we work together in partnership with our parents and carers to better safeguard both our young people and their families. This was an amazing opportunity within our service to explore bringing together a parent group.

“I have a toolbox with my skills in and there were bits missing. I came to do the ASCEP and had a good idea of what that was going to look like but it was so much more. It was such an amazing journey for me”

The ASCEP was amazing. What really stood out for me were the guest speakers throughout the course. What makes the difference is those real-life stories. It was a privilege to be in the same room as those people who were able to make a difference after everything they had been through. The professional guest speakers who shared what works well and what doesn’t work so well were great. I wanted to use my experience of guest speakers and invite other agency professionals to our parent group to support and educate each other.

Completing the ASCEP, and gaining the qualification, allowed me to be able to do what I’m doing now. I use my learnings from Pace in all of my work.

How did you use the ASCEP training course to change your practice?

Once I had completed the ASCEP course, I was able to recognise what we already did well and how we could build on our practice. There has always been a common theme from all professionals of focusing on the child. And rightly so however, all family members are victims. I’ve seen so many family breakdowns because of child sexual exploitation and often this is due to lack of understanding of services and the language used.

“I came back from doing the ASCEP with a vision that I was going to do something different”

Firstly, along with my colleagues, I carefully identified the parents that we were going to offer the opportunity of joining a group and met with them individually for a number of weeks. We chatted about their experience, their journey, what they felt went well and what didn’t go so well. I shared with them the idea of a group. Every single one of them agreed and thought it was a great idea. My colleagues, Dawn Evans and Dean Forrester, are both Pace trained too so we have an amazing team to best offer this support.

What differences have you seen by having your support group for parents?

We launched our parent group on 9th November 2020 and we meet once a fortnight. We have had great support from other colleagues within services who also advocate for parents as partners.

“We want to have guest speakers from any services that are working with our young people because then we are educating parents on exactly what that role looks like. Quite often these parents aren’t sure what these professionals do and how they can support them and their children”

The guest speakers are so important to our group. We’ve had a range of different speakers who believe in the Relational Safeguarding Model and how important parents are in protecting their children. In this safe environment we have created, parents feel comfortable to ask their questions to these professionals and what exactly their role is in their child’s case.

The group are incredibly supportive of each other and we always check-in on our wellbeing. On the week we don’t run the group, we offer parents the chance to have a chat with one of us in private. The need is there especially if the family is in crisis. Although we only started in November, we have made such a difference for those parents and carers. They feel more supported, listened to and much more educated on a lot of things.

“Our parents are amazing. It is an educational programme and for us, it’s all about safeguarding. Not just the child, but the whole family. The best people to safeguard the child are the parents”

Empowering our parents has made a huge difference. When we don’t have the knowledge and education about things, those things scare us. But this group and the journey we go on enables parents to learn about child sexual exploitation and it means they are better equipped to support and safeguard their children.

What advice would you give to other professionals who may want to set up a parent support group?

If anyone is thinking about setting up their own group, I believe the Relational Safeguarding Model is key. I would highly recommend that you attend the Pace training and believe in that. What really matters is having conversations prior to entering a group setting. Having that one-to-one with that individual and talking about what they want to get from the group and what things will be covered in the group. Having those honest conversations will build the relationship between you and parents and listening to your parents and carers is key. Education helps us to make well informed choices.

I have worked in social services for a long time now and parents have this fear of us and other services. This is a real opportunity for change and it humanises services for parents; we can’t tackle child sexual exploitation in isolation, we have to work together and the key people in that are our parents.

It’s about supporting the entire family. It’s everyone’s trauma.

What is your vision for your parent support group?

Our vision is to eventually have a drop-in – to be run by our parents as a safe place to go. Within this drop-in environment, I’d like to have rooms where parents could have a private conversation with one of us if they needed it. To have arts and crafts and to think about everyone’s wellbeing – just to be able sit in a safe space and have a cup of tea. We have parents who are very proactive and want to do training which is amazing to hear. Our current parent group also has two foster carers and they’ve found the group incredibly helpful so I am hoping we will be able to run sessions for foster carers in the future.

Without these parents, we wouldn’t have such a successful group and be making such a difference – they really do support each other. We can’t stress enough the difference it makes for the parents. It’s a credit to them.

“We have to believe in the capacity that parents have to create change and make a difference. We really value their expertise and learn so much from them. We need to look at parents and recognise the strength they have”