Welcome to our Ashdale Care Community

I began my career in Social Work in 1995, having attended University of Ulster and achieved my BSc Hons in Social Work with CQSW.  During my student years, I was fortunate to have secured a post in a Voluntary Children’s home for two years. My experiences within, provoked my passion and insight into the traumatic circumstances that some children in society find themselves in, and the expectations placed on them, to not only survive their experiences, but to conform.  Often these young people become marginalised in society, accepting a life where they have no choice or control, over a system of care that is reactive, and not responsive to helping them manage and recover from their trauma.

My experiences in different settings in the field of Social Work only served to entrench my understanding that these children had no voice, no choice, no control over their life pathway.  This only caused them further trauma and reinforced their negative view of the world and their sense of worthlessness, hopelessness and no sense of belonging.

I was determined to make it different.  I was determined to become their advocate and to provide a resource within which they would feel valued, respected and cared for.  An environment within which they would be supported by adults who understood their pain based behaviours.  Adults who responded by supporting them in understanding their pain and trauma, in a place where they could begin to recover and begin to feel a sense of self-worth.  A place where their voice would be heard and responded to.

It was a challenge.

Our society was made up of institutions to care for these children.  Children needing care were living in large groups, in institutionalised ‘scary’ buildings which dictated routine and ‘sanctions’ as the response to perceived needs. These children were not ‘inclusive’ of society.

I wanted to change this response and this view of how their ‘needs’ should be met.

I came back to Ireland in 1998, at a time when Residential Care for children and young people was provided by the Statutory and Voluntary sector.  There was no independent sector.  The timing was good, as recent legislation had culminated in a massive retraction in the voluntary sector leaving a huge deficit in services.

I worked with the then regulator, to facilitate new Guidance and Standards for Independent provision of Residential Childcare.  Many struggles pursued as should have been expected when trying to bring about change.
But change did happen.

The greatest struggle for change was introducing the concept of smaller, familial type homes in ‘normal’ domestic type properties.  My belief was very much driven by the concept of ensuring the environment lent itself to supporting children being comfortable and safe in an environment that was homely and conducive to a positive daily familial routine.  All children have a right to a space that feels safe and comfortable within which they feel valued and respected.  The environment was crucial.

I introduced this concept in Ireland in 2001 and opened the first Independent Residential Home for up to four children.
Now the ‘ice’ had been broken and a new era was commencing, the greater task was to develop a greater understanding by all of the true needs of these children, taking into account their trauma and attachment experiences and their pain based behaviours.

I was so fortunate on my journey to meet so many like minded professionals from different disciplines who educated me, and my team, on the significant impact of trauma and attachment on a child and on their development.  These people were also passionate about the needs of these children and were committed to making a difference.  They taught me, and continue to teach me, so much and have worked within our Ashdale Services from the outset to create the Model of Care we now operate.

We understood that this model must support and educate our staff as they are vitally important in the task.  They must have the passion, commitment, resilience, knowledge, skills and compassion to create an environment that is supportive, caring, understanding and respectful of our children’s experiences.  They have to create the therapeutic milieu that is necessary to support them in managing their trauma and associated pain, and help them develop a pathway that will take them on a journey, to full integration and participation in a society where they feel loved, valued and respected.

So, we developed our ‘Hubs’, safe spaces for our people where we educate and provide the tools necessary for their positive interventions and where they feel supported and cared for.  To care for others, they too must feel cared for and feel part of the journey.  We can still do better for our people, our Ashdale community of care.  All our people have organically grown into our Directors, Regional Managers, Therapeutic Leads, Consultants, Managers, Deputy Managers and Senior Practitioners.  We have been able to reach more children on the island of Ireland through our people’s commitment to grow and learn, and thus create more ‘homes’ to care for and be ‘crazy’ about more young people.

We have now embarked on a journey in association with Cornell University. We are the first organisation in Europe, and third in the world, to have achieved Therapeutic Crisis Intervention Fidelity status through Cornell.  We have also commenced the CARE Project with Cornell and have trained seventeen of our people to become Educators in CARE, a principal-based model that will enhance the ingredients within our entrenched ethos.

I have met the most amazing young people on this journey who have also taught me so much, and I have been humbled by their abilities and resilience, and their capacity for love.  Their survival and success must be celebrated.  They are amazing.  They are survivors and they are truly at the core of everything we do.

My aspirations are to reach even more young people and to continue to transform lives and transcend care as we know it.
Our young people are the future.  Their journey will shape that future.

Interested in joining our team?

Make A Referral

We accept referrals through the National Private Placement Team in ROI and via direct referral from the Health and Social Care Trust in NI. Please contact Ashdale House on 048 85567755 from ROI or 028 85567755 from NI to speak directly to one of our Referrals Team for further information on our facilities and services.

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