Chelsea Bryan, a Residential Manager from Five Rivers Child Care was highly commended in the Children’s Home Manager (South) category at the national Children and Young People Awards in September. Chelsea manages the Orchard, a children’s home run by Five Rivers Child Care based in Somerset.
Chelsea joined Five Rivers Child Care as a Team Leader at their Leeds-based children’s home, Fountain House in 2014. Chelsea’s positivity, creativity and approach to the team and the children meant she progressed to become the Deputy Manger a year after joining. Chelsea was then promoted to be the Registered Manager at Fountain House, where she helped achieve an ‘outstanding’ Ofsted rating for the home. Chelsea recently relocated to become the Residential Manager at The Orchard in 2020, where she currently works.
Chelsea is delighted to have received this recognition but doesn’t do her job to receive awards. “It’s difficult for me to register, as personally, I don’t do my job to be commended, I do my job because I love to change children’s lives. It’s not a ‘job’ for me, it’s the way I choose to live my life. I am thrilled, and really pleased that the judges could see the passion I have for my role and why it is I do what I do.”
Chelsea has been instrumental in developing a positive, nurturing culture at The Orchard. “When I joined The Orchard, I focused on building up the team’s confidence. I listened to what ideas they had, and changes they wanted to make. I might be the ‘Manager’, but I don’t know everything, and I don’t have all the ideas. You have to empower your team because you’re only as good as the team you’re working with. We’re more than just a team though, we’re a family, and we are the children’s family, albeit a slightly unconventional one, but family is what we are.”
There can be some challenging moments when working in residential care, but Chelsea has come up with ways to help her team cope during the hard times. “I think it’s really important that you debrief, which doesn’t always mean sitting in a room and speaking with one another.
“A few years ago, I introduced a section on the back of our handover sheets that we fill in at the end of each day. It asks the team, ‘how has your day been?’, ‘what was the worst part of your day?’, and ‘what was the best part of your day?’ Sometimes the most challenging moments in your day can be the funniest moments, and if you pull out the positives and leave for the day feeling good about what you’ve done, you’ll feel positive about coming into work the next day. This seems to work well, as expressing those feelings on the day and in the moment, rather than stewing on them all week, changes how you feel towards an incident or a day.”
The Children and Young People judges commented on Chelsea’s attitude towards play in their feedback. “Play is really important, and we do it in absolutely everything we do. If children want to run around in costumes, and it’s helping them learn and thrive, that’s what we do.”
“Play is also a form of communication, as this is how a lot of children will communicate their traumatic experiences, which then in turn helps us work meanignfully with them. At The Orchard, there are toys and games everywhere! We are so lucky to also have an amazing outdoor space where we have a mud kitchen, football pitch, sensory garden, and allotments. This year, I want us to focus on getting the children outdoors as much as possible and making use of the space we have. My hope is that we can have celebrations and festivals with our other homes, and children this year.”
Five Rivers Child Care is currently recruiting new residential staff for its homes across the country. To be a good residential worker, Chelsea thinks it’s important to have these particular traits. “You’ve got to be playful, open-minded, and resilient. You’ve got to understand that you’ll be learning to love children that might never have been ‘loved’ before. You can’t come to work and close off from the kids, this doesn’t work. If you genuinely care and you want to work with the children, then you’ve got to want to join their world, because they’re not going to join you in yours. The support and the training we receive from Five Rivers Child Care is fantastic and they have helped to develop me in my roles. Five Rivers is a social enterprise which supports its staff and is committed to helping us to develop in our roles and progress in our careers.”