Sunderland partnership work for children goes international

From left, Kathryn McCabe and Stephanie Hunter.
From left, Kathryn McCabe and Stephanie Hunter.
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A Sunderland partnership is sharing best practice for children at an international level.

The University of Sunderland and Together for Children, which delivers children’s services for Sunderland City Council, have been collaborating on a range of work to ensure young people in the care system are given the best possible support to deal with their diverse needs.

The adoption team here in Sunderland is hugely committed to providing the best possible service

Kathryn McCabe

This work has been praised nationally and as a result of the partnership, Stephanie Hunter, a senior lecturer in the university’s School of Social Sciences, was invited to give a keynote speech by Malta branch of the Association for Child and Adolescent Mental Health (ACAMH).

The organisers asked Stephanie to deliver a workshop on her findings from the evaluation work of Together for Children’s Adoption Team.

ACAMH is keen to improve the standard of Malta’s children’s mental health services and reduce the number of looked after children who receive in-patient mental health care.

The current models of care used in Malta are based on conservative and religious systems. Due to Malta’s size, local children cannot always be adopted by families on the island, as this facility is not yet readily available, and a predominantly residential care model is in place, as a last resort.

Stephanie, alongside Together for Children Adoption Team Manager, Kathryn McCabe, met managers from the island’s Children’s Services who want to develop their provision from its current model.

Stephanie said: “We were so inspired that we’re now looking to formalise a knowledge transfer partnership with Maltese professionals and are considering ways to achieve funding for this.

“There is so much we can also learn from Maltese staff too, I was impressed by the attractive child-centred contact rooms and the warmth of the relationships with children described by staff.”

The ACAMH conference was aimed at attracting all those professionals who work with young people, from teachers and midwives, mental health professionals, to obstetricians and paediatricians.

Stephanie said: “ACAMH Malta wants to continuously improve its children’s services and they were impressed with our own developments locally, especially the Knowledge Transfer Partnership work between the university and Together for Children’s Adoption Team.”

Kathryn said: “The adoption team here in Sunderland is hugely committed to providing the best possible service to the families with whom they work. They have embraced the training opportunities offered to them and are using the skills gained on a daily basis, the feedback from families has been overwhelming.

“The opportunity to develop relations with colleagues overseas has been inspirational. We will continue to work with Stephanie and the University in our aspiration to formalise a knowledge transfer partnership with our colleagues in Malta.”