Odd Socks – Putting Children First

Rebecca (OnlyMums) and I have been trying to progress the “Odd Socks” project ever since a young person turned to us (in our office) with the statement “you are all about the parents – what about the kids?”

It is hard to get across to you the “force” of that statement and the effect it had (still has) on us! It did however make us stop what we were doing and think!

A week or so later, we got together a group of young people – gave them an office for a morning – and a few sheets of architect’s paper and some marker pens. All of them had first-hand experience of their parents going through or having been through, divorce and separation. We invited them to pull their thoughts together for a website that would help them and other young people in their position.

At this stage – they quite literally had a blank-sheet of paper.

Not more than 20 minutes later – our own office door burst open. “…we know what it’s going to be called, they yelled…

…Odd Socks!”

They explained their further thinking later that morning – their idea of a website organised and run by children, for children really got us excited. So many of the conversations we have with parents, focus in on the needs and aspirations of children. Many of us know that our own “Odd Socks” say one thing to one parent and quite another thing to the other. We also know, some can get so muddled, they end up in silence. Alone with their thoughts. And worries.

Rebecca and I pulled this concept paper together. We shared it with a number of professionals, individuals, schools, and organisations. All seemed to think it a superb idea and worthy of further exploration. 

Project Summary

To develop (probably in partnership) a web-based support and advice service for young people with parents in conflict – Odd Socks (OS).

OS will be a website where young people interact with young people in a safe and supervised environment.

This not-for-profit service (structure to be agreed) would be governed and guided by a management committee made up of experienced professionals and others to comply fully with the legal structure agreed upon. OS would, under such a management board, continue to be driven and designed by young people of separating parents.

Essentially it will be a service for young people given by young people.

The project will focus on providing appropriate services for four age groups; 7-11, 11-14, 14-16 and 16+.

At the core of the project is the belief in the recognition, acknowledgement and practice of basic human rights for all children.

Goals and Objectives

To give young people of separating and divorced parents a voice and an opportunity for them to tell other young people how it is or was for them – Peer Mentoring; so they can learn from each other and support each other.

To develop a service that is completely safe to use, genuinely youth friendly and accessible to young people nationwide.

To encourage and empower young people to have their voice heard in the future development of the family justice system in the UK.

To provide a comprehensive signposting service for young people presenting with a wide range of issues.

Child Protection

Adult over-sight should be an essential feature of this area of the OS project supported by strict policy and guidelines developed for dealing with the most vulnerable.

At the heart of this project is the belief that OS will offer (especially potentially vulnerable) young people a place of on-line safety and refuge.

Our initial consultations reinforced the facts that current social networking media accessed by young people (Facebook, MSN etc) are completely un-regulated from a child safety perspective – with real names, and pictures being used all the time.

By introducing simple and effective measures into the structure of the OS website, child protection issues can be enhanced markedly.

For example:

  • The use of alias names
  • No photographs
  • Software that prevents the transfer of addresses and telephone numbers.
  • Adults skilled in child protection having oversight of posts appearing on the website with a brief to signpost on to specialist support when any specific post gives cause for concern.
  • Producing and keeping up to date a comprehensive database of organisations’ contact details and weblinks that offer support to young people on a full range of issues.

Outcomes

To offer support and guidance for young people whose families are in conflict.

OS, by retaining and analyising data, could become a recognised body for providing up-to-date and regular information on what key issues young people are facing in their lives, therefore making a positive contribution to future policy on how services for separating families are shaped in the future.

Too Risky?

If the concept of “on-line – child-led – potentially vulnerable young people” all in one sentence – sounds too risky, I would share with you the words of a police officer who has a role in ensuring children are safe on-line…

…”you will probably be told not to do this project because of risks from paedophiles. I say, you should do this project exactly for that reason. On-line predators choose the vulnerable – and this project would give them by far the safest site to use.”

A Personal Reflection

Those young people we engaged with, did not tell us they wanted more “listening ladies” in schools, or leaflets, or booklets, or short films about parents breaking-up. Rather, they asked for a facility to talk amongst themselves and share their problems. As one boy from the group put it “you don’t talk to your mates about this stuff, do you!”

Conclusion

Because of the security implications, we really can’t launch something that is half-baked. It has to be all or nothing! As with so much in life, you do need some resources to even get to the point of launching a thorough scoping study.  

Readers of this blog are some of the most caring and insightful people. Where do we go next with this concept is your question….?

And we will welcome and appreciate all your answers.

Bob Greig and Rebecca Giraud

 

 
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About onlydads

Single Dad living near Totnes in Devon. I founded www.onlydads.org in 2007 and live with my daughters Priya, 14 and Anya 11. I write about single parenting, work, overcoming trials and tribulations and sometimes not overcoming trials and tribulations.
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10 Responses to Odd Socks – Putting Children First

  1. I there is no identity/location given out and there is no private messaging facility. Then it sounds safer than some other websites, where children can be accessed privately. It is a lot to take on responsibilty for. Kids do need to be able to have an anonymous voice, in a place where others are experiencing similar to them. How will you know if they are genuine children & not someone posing as a child, to gain access? Would be my first concern. (or did I miss reading something up there).

    I totally agree with you, Bob. You can’t launch something half baked. Maybe speaking to someone re online child safety, would be a starting point? Are there any legals on Twitter who could give any advice?

    I may be barking up the wrong tree there, as not sure where one would get such advice, to be honest. Just milling thoughts around & typing them.

    • onlydads says:

      Thank you for comments

      The essense of this initiative is that it offers young people a safer platform for “peer mentoring” than that that currently exists.

      We have taken advice – and it seems there is a lot of software than can be deployed to enhance on-line safety. Coupled with the fact that the site will receive professional monitoring, we feel this project (if we can get it off the ground) will be of real benefit to young people.

      …we shall do our best!

      Bob

      • You’re welcome.

        I’m sure a safe platform for young people will be *very* much appreciated and beneficial. I do hope it all comes together for you (and them). It’s a wonderful idea, Bob.

        Good news re the software and the professional monitoring. Reassuring in this day and age!

        Evie

  2. Menznet says:

    Like the idea and think it has legs. Kids need more mutual support at such difficult times. Fully behind idea on all aspects except as voice for governmental policy type intervention. i.e. When you mention “To encourage and empower young people to have their voice heard in the future development of the family justice system in the UK.”

    For us veterans of trying to achieve exactly this for over a decade I’d suggest that the voice of kids is intentionally ignored, but well known / understood. Our family justice system generates / spends something in the region of £37b per year (check IDS figures if you doubt this) and closer to £100b indirectly from associated services. It is for this reason that even senior politicians such as IDS are largely unable to change things as they are – too many vested interests. I mention not to moan (am getting on with trying to change things as are others) but too (a) save wasted effort, (b) not raise children’s expectations when it’s 99.9% sure they will be ignored and (c) not to raise your head above a parapet which will likely have it shot at by those who would rather such efforts were quashed.

    All said and dine, if you have the means to make that work then go for it, but be aware. I do hope it can work but have seen too many previous efforts wither and die when the reality of family justice corruption hits home. Re kids mutual support – very much needed. Go for it!

    • onlydads says:

      Thanks for your comment. Not sure if this will have “legs” or not.We pushed it out onto the net to see if it gets anywhere.

      Watch this space 🙂

      Bob

  3. That was meant to say ‘If there is…’
    not ‘I there is…’

    My bad :\

  4. This is a brilliant idea. From my perspective I think it would be worth getting sponsorship from those lawyers who work with families when they split up. There are a few obvious places to go: The Association of Lawyers for Children, The Family Law Bar Association, Resolution etc. I wouldn’t mind helping if I can and would gladly try and flag this up with them. Let me know if I can assist.

    I originally posted this on Flawbord before realising I should have come straight to you. Feel free to e-mail me and we can try and discuss further.

  5. onlydads says:

    Scott – this reply has lifted the spirit.

    Can we fix up a time to have a quick chat through the possibilities?

    Bob

  6. How on earth did I miss this post? Thanks for giving me a nudge.

    A fabulous idea and in an era where social media is the lifeblood of many a child’s waking hour, there are lots of ways of making this a well utilised resource.

    We consistently find that it’s the “community” that appeals to the kids about our trips and holidays. They appreciate the fact that they’re surrounded by families “just like their’s” rather than being the odd one out amongst lots of traditional families. They realise that families come in all shapes and sizes, they converse with other kids who’ve been through the same issues as they have – and come out of it ok in the end. It’s comforting for them, it gives them a sense of belonging but also a ray of hope that life does return to normal (and can even be fun). Divorce and separation is unlikely to be discussed with school mates unless they’ve been through the same and even then, it’s probably not cool.

    Whilst adults find help and advice in online communities, children are even more internet savvy and, in this case needy. I don’t know if any already exist in this field but there’s definitely a need.

    I’m not entirely clear how the professionals will be involved in this, there’s a thin line between them proving useful or proving a turn off – will kids chat openly if there are adults (openly) on the site?

    As huge percentages of children use Facebook I wouldn’t discount Odd Socks in some way linking up to FB, perhaps as an app that could be used without giving access to names or profiles….?

    A great idea Bob, I’m definitely interested to see where it goes – best of luck x

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