Due Course – The story of a river

This ‘Due Course – The story of a river’ blog article was written by Angela Weller, Senior Manager in the Therapeutic Services team, and Matt Harvey, Therapeutic Specialist in the Canberra Therapeutic Services team, at the Australian Childhood Foundation.

 

Ideas emerge in conversations that both surprise and challenge us, but sometimes lead to new ways of understanding and being in our world. They bring into focus the ways we work and the stories that have meaning for us.

In a recent reflective practice session with the ACT Team, the idea of influence into the professional system, was explored as a way of advocating for vulnerable children. As Therapeutic Specialists it is a fundamental component of the role to educate and shape outcomes for children.

We reflected on: “What is a collective sentence/message/idea about our work with children that we want the system around us to know, believe and integrate? And how can we influence this process?”

Influence in this context was explored as a concept that enables change in professional systems that are at times not open, are inflexible and competitive, and which do not hold central the voices of children. It is about understanding ourselves, what we value, believe in and the effect we have on others. It is the power to have an important impact.

This concept flowed into the metaphor of a river as a symbol of the work we do- the journey we are on and in, with systems, the pathways we create and follow.

A river is always changing, flowing moving. It carries, discovers, weaves and flows through different landscapes. It has tributaries that stretch in different directions. It is both gentle and powerful. Within it are structures, and creatures that give it life, and the potential to change its course. It can lead to new worlds.

It is a beacon of healing and growth.

The river of Influence is many things, carries many stories, but importantly embodies these qualities and intentions.

Relational

It invites threads of connection and care between people as it flows, to work together, to join in an ambition, a hope. An important commitment in the ACT team is “to find delight in every child”.

The influence of relationship, with children, their families and communities is both a valued experience for us but an opportunity to model important experiences of connection such as “delighting in a child”.

When one delights in a child, it gives them the sense that they belong. They are held by this all encompassing and non judgmental river that can carry them, especially when they need that sense of buoyancy.

Is there anything more healing for a child than the experience of someone sharing fun and pleasure with them?

Stories are important in our experience and culture, and in particular the lives of children. Click here to download ‘A Snail Tail’ story.

Gentle

It pauses, reflects, avoids reactivity, and is mindful of its pace in relation to what surrounds it. With its patience it can support a process of long term change and reform. It can also carry waves of power, but without force, create new possibilities

Knowledgeable and wise, whilst creative.

It is contemplative and insightful, in its use of knowledge, experience, wisdom and history.

It knows its course, it has a history of navigation, but with a thirst for new pathways and passages.

In aboriginal culture, there is a relationship, a connection to water that embraces spirit, stories and dreaming. The richness and significance of this meaning is deeply important as a source of wise influence in our work

Protective 

It works to keep children and their stories safe, enabling the system to also see and hold them.

A team member said “we held his story with all of its complexity and pain, and shared it with the system in a way that enabled a deep acceptance and compassion for him”.

This position of care and compassion for children runs deeply through the ideology and practice of the ACT team.

It is the way a river looks after its inhabitants.

Curious with a sense of humility

It has the capacity to with respect, openness and curiosity, unearth and thicken a systems commitment to practices that support good and protective outcomes for children. It perseveres even when a system is unable to enact its commitment to children.

Tenacious

“We are tenacious in our advocacy for children’s rights”.

Tenacity is in the way this team advocates for people who are small in stature or rights or power.

Children

A river can be tenacious, full of steam and energy, determined to find a pathway, a destination, a place to rest or play. It can be strong as it tumbles through a landscape.

This tenacity is at the heart of commitment to children.

Conclusion

We have ideas that turn into metaphors, which turn into stories. They influence and deepen our practice. Our work is richer for them.

Stories are important in our experience and culture, and in particular the lives of children. It seems fitting for this metaphor to have developed into a story for us and for children.

The story is about a snail named “sticky”. She lives in the river with her friends and is part of its life, and its changing journey and its challenges. We have written a story that might inspire adults and children to appreciate and reflect on the kinds of qualities that are important when faced with challenges that feel insurmountable.

Her work like that of the team in ACT has influence, and with that, creates important change for children and those around them.

Download the A Snail’s Tail by clicking here.