Keeping the Promise means taking a new approach to the stories we hold

It’s fair to say that the first report from the Promise Oversight Board outlining the progress made over the last two years towards Scotland keeping The Promise, that wherever it is safe to do so children will stay with their families and families will be actively supported to stay together, is strong on hope but tinged with frustration. 

The Oversight Board explore the continuing challenge of capturing the evidence needed to bring about transformational change in the way we support families to keep their children safe. The acknowledgment in the report about what the word “data” represents is vitally important.  At Children 1st, we are at a key point in transforming the way that we gather information and record the difference that our support makes in families’ lives. 

As a charity that’s been around since 1875, we can see the changes in practice reflected in the language used to record children and families’ journeys. All too often, like many organisations, we’ve recorded what matters to us, our funders and our partners, with less focus on gathering a meaningful story to help children make sense of and better understand their experiences in childhood. All too often, statistics are reported in a way which seeks to show proof of progress towards a goal instead of also using this precious information to tell the story of change that has happened in the lives of children and their families.

We’ve taken our responsibility to reflect on how we capture information in a rights-based, thoughtful and relational way with the utmost care.  When, years later, a person we’ve supported in childhood comes to us to try and piece together their story, our historical records can tell them what challenges their family faced, how many professional meetings took place about them and how many times we met with them.  But, we’re unable to help them fill in the gaps of their childhood story – to remind them of the name of their best friend when they were six, or  what their hopes and dreams were for what they might become as an adult.

Through the Children 1st Relationships, Impact and Stories Project we are transforming the approach that we take when we are gathering information about children and their families for our records. We are developing a new approach where children and their families are active agents in the crafting and telling of the stories of their lives. This approach is rooted in children’s human rights, building trusting and supportive relationships with the children and families we work alongside, and continually challenging what information we hold, and for what purpose.

Alongside the children and families we work with, we are thoughtfully and kindly seeking to record the important points that help people to make sense of their lives now and in the future, moving beyond recording activities and tasks to an approach which better reflects our values by carefully capturing the quality of relationships and, more importantly, what difference those relationships make.

Mary Glasgow, Chief Executive, Children 1st