Deana Bates

When I was approached by Professor Andrew Rowland about working on the ‘Not just a thought’… project, I thought I would merely take minutes at meetings and do a bit of typing. Never once did I think I would be encouraged to be an active participant in such a wonderful project!

The aim of the project was to co-design, with children and young people, and produce a psychosocial assessment model for use by children and young people and professionals; enabling the opportunity to disclose activities and behaviours which may indicate a risk, or likely risk, of abuse and/or exploitation particularly sexual abuse and exploitation.

 There are countless different assessment tools and proformas out there for professionals to use in consultations/assessments of children, young people and young adults; however we found a lot were role specific and definitely not children, young people and young adult friendly. Our aim was to create a standardised engagement model in true collaboration with professionals and children, young people and young adults – asking questions that they want to be asked and more importantly, would be happy to answer.

 Coming from a “children should be seen and not heard” era, I wasn’t sure what to expect at our first workshop. I have to say I would have been happy to fade into the background, but when I looked around the room and saw the enthusiasm and commitment the children, young people and young adults showed to the project I was so proud. When they realised that us ‘grown ups’ were serious about encouraging them to make their own decisions and speak up about what they wanted…and that we would listen, they were so enthused they could have carried on talking for a week!

I have never spent time with such confident, eloquent young adults who knew what they wanted, and was certainly not afraid to say it. They just blew me away.

 During this project I have learned that children, young people and young adults are far more resilient and intelligent than we give them credit for.  Children, young people and young adults don’t want to be wrapped in cotton wool, they want us to be honest, to get to the point, and they want to feel like they can truly trust us with their innermost feelings.

 Spending time with the children, young people and young adults involved in the project has really made me change the way I think about lots of things, most importantly about the way they see me and how I present myself down to the simplest things like how I am dressed! Children, young people and young adults will make a decision about you within seconds of meeting you; which could determine as to whether they will engage with you, or shut down.

 The most important thing for me personally, is that this experience has given me the strength, courage and confidence to speak up about my own childhood experiences of CSA, Something I had never done before. I am extremely proud to have been a part of the Not just a thought… project and seeing first-hand the fantastic work taking place around CSA/CSE, so our children and young people can live in a happier, healthier, and safer society.

 Deana Bates