A young man from Wigan and his new foster carer have spent a weekend in the wilderness together to trial a new type of outdoor therapy.
Jack, 14, and his foster carer, Deb Clayton, hiked, climbed, and camped together in difficult weather conditions, and with only basic necessities.
The expedition in the Lake District was overseen by John Rocks, director of the outdoor adventure company, My Expedition Rocks, and aimed to take Jack and Deb out of their comfort zones so that they could face different challenges, spend time together, and bond as a new fostering family.
Paul Andrews, a child and family systemic psychotherapist from Wigan CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services), who accompanied Jack and Deb on the trip, said:
“Outdoor expeditions like this can have so many benefits, especially when young people are involved, as lots of younger people don’t want to engage in therapy in a traditional indoor clinical setting.
“This type of therapy is also perfect to run during the pandemic as therapeutic work outdoors was still permitted at the time.
“Being alongside one another in the outdoors offers an opportunity for different types of conversation and overcoming some of the physical challenges the environment presents means everyone involved can build their problem-solving skills together.
“Jack and Deb will now be able to draw on the success of the experience and the skills they used to overcome challenges, if different problems occur in the future.”
Deb became Jack’s full time foster carer in October after taking the bold step to give up her job as a staff member at one of Wigan Council’s residential homes for children in care, where she first met Jack, to become his foster carer.
“I’d worked for Wigan Council for 19 years, so it wasn’t an easy decision to leave but it was also the best decision as it meant I could focus on family life and being Jack’s foster carer.
“This trip was important as I think it helped Jack to see me as his foster carer and not as a worker.
“I thought we knew each other well anyway but the trip was fascinating as it brought out his really caring side. On the walk there were a few parts where the ground was really slippy and he kept checking in on me and making sure I was ok.
“I feel like it’s solidified our relationship.”
This week, Jack was presented with achievement certificates for his hard work and positive attitude on the trip.
“The hardest part was all the walking as a lot of it was uphill and the weather was really cold and wet.
“The best part was bonding with Deb.
“I think I might have changed a little bit.
“I’ve learned never to give up on something and that you’re more likely to achieve something if you have the right mindset.”
The success of Jack and Deb’s experience means that CAMHS, Wigan Council and Wigan Borough CCG are now looking at ways to be able to offer the outdoor expedition therapy to other families in the borough.
Service manager at Wigan Council, Steve Swinhoe, who presented Jack with his certificates of achievement, said:
“I’m delighted that this experience worked so well for Jack and Deb and that Jack has found a place he can call home.
“Deb is an experienced practitioner and had already built a strong relationship with Jack, which made offering Jack a home with her family an exciting prospect.
“Jack and Deb have had support from their social workers and other local services to make sure Jack can have permanence.
“Well done Jack and Deb, I’m looking forward to hearing all about your family life and the great opportunities I’m sure you will have in your futures.”