This part of the toolkit discusses the advantages of using peer to peer support in your work as a guardian – and how to organise it.
Joining peer groups or starting one with colleagues is very helpful for protecting your psychological and emotional well-being. Sharing experiences, comparing problems and finding solutions together within informal network structures ensures that useful information is distributed and good practices enhanced.
You could also consider joining informal groups (mutual support groups, networks) or joining an official group set up by an organisation. For example, a group within an association of guardians or social workers. Many people feel awkward about discussing certain issues with their direct colleagues. They sometimes find it easier to talk about them with other professionals at regional, national or transnational meetings.
Other tips for getting support:
- take part in training that involves other guardians. These are opportunities to create and strengthen working relationships. Introductory or initial training for guardians is very important from this point of view and should achieve two goals: skill and knowledge acquisition and links with other guardians;
- promote and take part in meetings between experienced guardians and new guardians to share experiences and practices and to discuss relevant issues. An experienced guardian could also become a new guardian’s coach, functioning as a guide and a point of reference.
Italy: network of guardians
Networks of guardians (at regional, national or transnational level) offer opportunities to discuss issues from a broader perspective. The Veneto region promoted the creation of a network of guardians. This network provides training and meetings as an opportunity to share knowledge and experiences and to enhance relationships and mutual support. During these meetings, guardians are encouraged to get to know each other and to establish working relationships. Exchanging contact details is also encouraged (e.g. mailing lists) and dinners are organised too.
The Netherlands: working in small teams
In 2016, Nidos introduced the concept of working in small teams. Guardians work from a regional office within a team of about 15 guardians. This team consists of several smaller teams, the so-called ‘core teams’. A small team consists of 6-8 guardians. The teams are small in order to ensure a sense of belonging and shared responsibility. But also to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. The bigger the team, the less involved and responsible a team member will feel.
The members of a small team are responsible for:
- Assigning cases to each other (keeping a healthy and balanced workload in mind);
- Discussing the results of safety checks;
- Preparing core decisions;
- General monitoring continuity in cases of individual guardians;
- Assessing safety risks and reflecting on incidents that have taken place;
- Approving the care plan for vulnerable children in the digital file system;
- Arranging availability and coordinating holiday leave to ensure replacement by colleagues during absence;
- Carrying out the work within the framework defined for this purpose;
- Implementing new policies;
- Contributing to the execution of audits;
- The cooperation and functioning of the small team itself;
- Discussing the vitality of the small team and its members.
Members of the small teams are expected to be critical of the results of each other’s work. They should give other team members clear, focused feedback based on the indicators for professional conduct, the protocols and policy agreements used within Nidos, the Nidos professional statute, youth care guidelines and the code of professional standards.
Experts such as psychologists and legal advisors from the Nidos behavioural and legal departments are consulted if necessary. For certain ‘core’ decisions, calling in the expertise of a psychologist, legal advisor or other expert is obligatory. For example, in response to signs of unsafety and when considering the transfer of a child to another reception location due to worries about the child’s development.