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Two Perspectives on Love Barrow families and ‘Magic Dust’

    Trina Robson & Wayne McCormack

    This blog came about through some conversations that Trina and I have been having over the past year about Love Barrow families , what it meant to us and what it was that made such a difference to my own family and the other families who took part. Trina and I met each other when I was referred to Love Barrow families (LBf’s) and Trina was the Project Lead.

    When Love Barrow families first began in 2013 we chose a name that challenged the thinking about “troubled families” and instead conveyed the pride and love that exists here in Barrow.  Our approach to loving work with families was to sprinkle magic dust. The ingredients of magic dust were trusting relationships, understanding, creating a safe place, not judging or labelling and expecting that everyone has unique gifts to share with others. One of the key elements is that once created, magic dust can be sprinkled, spread and left to work it’s magic quietly in a myriad of ways leading to outcomes that may not be measurable but are fundamental to change.

    Wayne: My first meeting with Trina was when she came to see me in prison in 2013. It meant a lot to me because of the effort that LBf’s went to for me to be included.

    Over this least year I have presented at Research in Practice to talk about my perspective as a parent on what worked at LBf’s. Along with Trina and another parent I also did a podcast and when Trina talked about magic dust in our podcast it made me think about what was different about LBf’s and what it was that helped me to change my path in life. I realised that during that first visit in prison I felt that there was something genuine about Trina and her colleague which was different to the way that professionals usually reacted to me. This was the start of what has been a long journey with LBf’s and an important relationship with Trina.

    Looking back at what worked for me, these are some of my reflections and things that contributed towards our “magic dust”

    Building good strong relationships-finding each person is different and will bring new skills to the table.

    Giving parents chance to talk is how we can learn and will also give us chance to listen, why? Because someone might say something you didn’t know so it is always good to listen to everyone.

    Helping others to find their passion in life, help them look into what matters to each man or woman, what training they need to make a start on a new pathway.

    Identify aims and goals one at a time, we can take small steps to a goal we want to achieve by a certain time, 1 year or 3 years, be realistic on time frame

    Show kindness to each other no matter who we are is the way forward, helping someone else and show others how life can be and what we want it to be or what they want it to be

    Being creative in every way we can

    Making time scales of any orders so people can do stuff to change what’s asked before a next meeting or visit to the home

    One step at a time, one day at a time we can build the structure to a better life for our self

    Trina: Wayne’s reflections and ways of understanding and describing what we did in LBf’s resonates with my belief in relationships and the co-production values that were so important at the outset. In addition to this he also provides a different perspective that adds to mine and to the evaluation of LBf’s. As a team that were working with families subject to child protection and care proceedings we were tied into the recording and assessment systems used by our local authority. We realised after about a year that identifying aspirations and goals was something that we had missed and which parents themselves brought to our attention. Although we knew from our evaluation that the sense of belonging created for families was central to everything we had not considered what this might mean, particularly for the men who came to us and with whom we had a lot of success. Wayne articulates the significance of role modelling, learning and enabling people to take their next steps, the steps that pushed him a little bit further but not so far that he stumbled or failed. 

     It was during our podcast that I started to think about different perspectives, languages and ways of understanding and seeing the world. I was asked to describe magic dust and I told the story about where it came from and why it was so important to us. It was clear from Wayne that something that I had said or the way that I said it had resonated to the extent that it was like a penny dropping.  It was an aha moment, for Wayne because he finally got what I had been going on about for years and for me because I realised that I had never had the deep listening conversation with him about what magic dust looks and feels like. I was left reflecting on why this was so and feeling a bit uncomfortable and challenged that his interpretation and perspective had not filtered through in spite of the co- production values that we enthused about. If I had to guess I would say that our differences, the way that we see the world, the fact that he is male and I am female, the way in which we met one another-he as a “service user” and me as a “service provider” meant that we described the same thing often from a different and equally valuable perspective. It has made me think about what we can learn from one another if we are really prepared to be open hearted and listen deeply.