Step into almost any museum or gallery and you are likely to find a timeline. This could be portraying the history of a recent war or conflict, or showing the lifespan and works of a famous artist or scientist.
Many of us are visual learners and remember more with what we see rather than what we read – hence a timeline is a useful tool to aid learning and understanding in a number of contexts.
Now, imagine we were able to use the timeline as an effective tool for us to step into the shoes of every looked after child. This would enable everyone involved in important decision making on the future of that child - including parents, carers, social workers, panel members and sheriffs - to visually 'see', consider and understand the child's journey through life. At a glance, the timeline would pinpoint significant events in a child's upbringing and their development.
This is exactly what we at CELCIS have already done. We have piloted the use a child's timeline in East Renfrewshire and Dumfries and Galloway. For me, it's been incredible to watch the reaction of colleagues in these local authorities when they first see a child's timeline. You can almost see the penny drop in their eyes!
Children's Panel members in East Renfrewshire have been able to see the child's journey as a snapshot, allowing them to speed up their decision making; and legal services in East Renfrewshire are now using a child's timeline in their submission to court for a Permanence Order. Both local authority teams are also reporting that timelines enable parents with literacy difficulties to visually understand their child's experience to date.
In Scotland, all too often young children are excused from the Children's Hearings System and the focus of attention can shift to addressing the parent's issues, rather than the child's needs. The timeline tool has the potential to keep the child 'visually' at the centre of decision making about their future.
The impact of sharing a timeline is that it can create a sense of urgency for making important decisions about the child's permanent place of residence. This is something that colleagues and I at CELCIS feel passionate about. We are committed to ending the unacceptably long waiting times for a permanent home experienced by so many children, which we know hampers their chances in life.
Using a timeline is a powerful tool in making child-centred decisions about the future of a looked after child. We hold complex and detailed information on our looked after children but it may take a timeline to properly 'see' them and realise what is in their best interests.