REACH is a conceptual framework based on resilience theory, attachment theory and aspects of social pedagogy which supports and underpins the Compass practice approach by which children can be helped to move towards a sense of security and improve their emotional well-being.
The REACH approach has been developed in order to provide Compass staff and adults with a holistic framework for childcare and maintaining well-being. The 5 aspects are as follows: Resilience, Education, Acceptance, Child Centred and Holistic.
It is fundamental to adopt the belief that people are fundamentally good and that unconditional positive regard is the most powerful mechanism for change. The underpinning philosophy or belief that all people are doing the best they can to be the best they can be within their own frame of reference is highlighted within all the support systems and training sessions. There is no such thing as perfection. All we can do is to be the very best that we can be and do the very best that we can do and maintain the belief that change is always possible – even when the situation is extremely challenging.
This optimistic and pragmatic framework is based upon the following beliefs:
- Change can and may come through supportive relationships
- Change can and may begin in one small part of a person’s life
- Changes can and may come through new ways of thinking about problems and possibilities
- Change can and may grow from the ordinary and the everyday. It does not have to come from specialist or clinical services
- Change can and may come from a single opportunity or positive turning point which leads on to other good things
- Change can and may come from tapping into strengths in a child’s circumstances strengths that may have long gone unrecognised
- Change comes from getting something right
- The child/young person can be an agent of change and development in their own life
- Complex problems rarely have single answers – progress often lies in attention to a whole series of smaller steps which interact with each other in a positive (sometimes unseen) way
- One size fits all solutions are unlikely to work – positive change is more likely to flow from approaches that are tailored to the circumstances and experience of each individual child
Building a resilient care giver and who can, in turn, build resilience in the child is clearly pivotal to this approach. It is essential that the adult’s capacity to care and nurture a child even when they are hostile and rejecting is built and consistently nurtured. This can be described as ‘Stickability’ in terms of them not giving up in the process of providing the child with trust, a sense of self-worth and self-acceptance – even when the situation becomes very challenging. Adults need to be available to the child/young person both emotionally and physically and have the resilience themselves in order to be able to ‘bounce back’ when things may have gone wrong.
‘Education of the adults’ is also an essential component of this approach. The process of changing the mind and behaviour of the child begins in the mind of the care giver. Adults need to be able to reflect upon and understand their own drivers/expectations and behaviours and understand their parenting styles and how this impacts on the children/young people that they care for. They need to fully understand how attachments are both formed and damaged and the practical approaches that they can use in order to meet the physical, sensory and emotional needs of the child/young person with a history of trauma and resulting damage.
Learning how to use and adopt solution focussed tools and approaches which emanate from Positive
Psychology alongside developing reflective practice within a supportive network is also a part of this educational journey.
Part of this journey also involves developing the adults ability to accept the child as they are. A key aim is to build the child’s self-esteem and provide creative opportunities for the child to ‘accept’ and like themselves – even when they may be under stress. The focus on recognising and building strengths and the notion of ‘happy habits’ underpins the element of acceptance and further supports the development of a positive self-identity and self-concept.
A key objective is also to ensure a child centred approach on a consistent basis. It is vital that adults can and do recognise and empathise with the child/young person’s feelings. Developing core skills of emotional literacy are clearly an essential here. To do this, the carer needs to accept, process and understand their own feelings and then be able to reflect/manage and positively respond to the child/young person’s feelings and behaviours. To support this process, structures such as peer supervision and Compass consultation are made available to both adults and social workers on an on-going basis.
Providing a wrap-around service of this nature means that all involve must adopt a holistic approach. It is essential to provide the child with a sense of belonging to the family, to their own birth family and wider social and community network. This sense of belonging and permanence will help to support individual child/young person to accept who they are and to manage their complex relationships in both the short and long term