Georgia is one of the youth support workers operating from Picabeen. The story below illustrates how Picabeen’s services are a catalyst for support and for change. In some sense, the youth workers act as a ‘guardian’ for a young person, advocating for their care. Here is one such case:
I have been referred a young woman, Bonny (not her real name) who is attending a school in North Brisbane. Due to her family circumstances, Bonny often acts out her anger at school and exhibits other behaviour that teachers and other students find challenging. As part of my role in supporting Bonny, I have been liaising with the school Guidance Counsellor. This Counsellor expressed her frustrations about other staff members within the school, because they have been resistant to treating Bonny in a way that is sympathetic to her circumstances. Rather than engage with Bonny as a whole person, they are more inclined to react to her behaviour, and often inconsistently. As a result of the different responses by different teachers, Bonny’s behaviour shows no improvement. Further, as well as impacting negatively on her own learning, her behaviour (and the teachers’ inconsistent responses) also impact negatively on her fellow classmates. And that leads to increased social isolation for Bonny.
The Guidance Counsellor and I considered how Bonny’s case appears symptomatic of a broader cultural reluctance within the school to share the complexities of a young person’s story across all of her teachers and other stakeholders, to understand how a student’s circumstances gives rise to their disruptive behaviour, and how the varied and inconsistent responses of different teachers only led to continued deterioration in the troubled student’s behaviour.
What came out of this discussion with the School Guidance Counsellor was a plan to arrange a “case panel” meeting on behalf of Bonny, involving the Guidance Counsellor, the Deputy, the teachers who are involved in this young person’s curriculum and other external supports (including myself and the young person’s Child and Youth Mental Health Service worker).
At this meeting, we discussed the complexity of Bonny’s situation, so that all of her educational professionals had a shared understanding of what is happening in Bonny’s life at the moment. This had not occurred before. Once equipped with this shared understanding, it was relatively straightforward to determine appropriate, compassionate, and constructive ways by which all of those who worked with her could respond consistently to Bonny’s behaviour.
This cohesive and co-ordinated support plan within the school environment has had a marked effect on Bonny. Though her home life is still turbulent, her school life no longer is. The consistency of response to her now diminishing behavioural outbursts has provided her with the degree of structure and support that any young person needs in their lives. The external limitations on her inappropriate behaviour help Bonny develop her own internal more positive thinking. An, this shift in Bonny’s behaviour has altered, in a positive way, how other students respond to her.