We spoke with John Buskell, the Parent Mentor Coordinator at Pan-London FDAC, about the role of the Parent Mentor within the Family Drug and Alcohol Courts (FDAC).
Parent mentoring is increasingly recognised as an influential factor in the generation of positive outcomes for families in receipt of professional interventions. What is an FDAC parent mentor?
A parent mentor is a volunteer who offers support to parents through their FDAC journey. Parent mentors provide a non-professional perspective and are able to meet parents at a relatable level. It is often someone with a similar experience for example, a personal knowledge of care proceedings. Where possible we have volunteers who have had positive outcomes but this may not always be the case. We try to recruit graduates and publicise the role using information leaflets. We often ask people if they would like to be a parent mentor after FDAC.
As the coordinator of the Pan-London FDAC, what does your role entail?
It is a new position and I am new to the role. My aim is to get the programme up and running, as it has been a long time since a dedicated parent mentor has been in place. Previously, the position was delivered by the substance misuse worker. I think it is important to re-establish the role as the role of the parent mentor is long-standing and was first introduced in 2010. As the coordinator, I am responsible for supervision, managing expenses and training. I support the parent mentors and offer supervision. They also receive training and have a thorough induction. My role includes rebranding, publicity, administrative duties, recruiting and rolling out the programme. There is a clear long-term plan and it is steady progress.
Families who have experienced proceedings before can often feel powerless, angry, defended and without direction. How do you see the role of the parent mentor being able to support parents who might be feeling this way?
Parent mentors offer a holistic approach. It is not work in isolation and involves the team manager and help from the other professional within the team to help enable parents to gain a better understanding of the court process. Parent Mentors offer lived experiences, shared experiences and can use their own experience of what helped them through their difficulties. They encourage parents and help to explain what is going on.
Why do you think parent mentoring is an important aspect of FDAC?
They are the bridge between the family and the team. The parent mentor can meet parents on a more relatable level. They have real lived experience whether through care proceedings and/or substance misuse. They offer the right words and right information based on their experience. They use hindsight of what they could have benefitted from, they offer a different perspective and add what was missing from their own journey. Parent mentors can provide hope if it has been a positive outcome. They can offer positive achievements and outcomes, which are difficult to visualise at the start of the journey.
What skills do you think are required to be an effective parent mentor?
You have to be a good listener, be reliable, consistent and trustworthy with the team and parent. You need to be a good communicator, able to read situations, open minded, patience, empathetic and have a level of confidence. The parent mentor must have trust in the FDAC process to be an effective mentor and relay that to the parents they are working with to promote participation and engagement.
What types of support is offered to parents?
A wide range of support is offered to parents. Parent mentors attend court; sit with and support parents helping people process and digest information by ‘breaking it down’. Care proceedings are a challenging and traumatic time; the additional help of a parent mentor can often support parents to address the issues they face because they explain the process and make it more understandable, which helps people sit with their emotions. Parent mentors attend fellowship meetings and parenting groups; community outreach and play groups. They can assist with employment, housing and post proceedings support. Parent mentor support involves matching needs presented at the time and helping.
What challenges does the role present?
There have been administrative challenges as it has taken quite a bit of time since getting the role and undertaking training and being inducted. Other challenges are things like parents not turning up for an appointment, engaging people to IT. There are practical and emotional challenges, as the work can be ‘triggering’ to be back around the same process. A big part of the role is supporting and managing these emotions well and supervising the parent mentors.
What goals do you have for the future in terms of programme delivery?
Streamlining work with regards to training, developing clear actions, developing links and establishing professional relationships with other FDAC parent mentor coordinators. Our goal is to be able to offer every parent a mentor to work with by expanding and re-establishing the role.