Two Decades of Providing Care, Kindness and Support to Children in Care

24th March 2023
Denise McCauley

This is what I was always meant to do and I still love it all these years later.” Heartfelt words from Residential Childcare Worker, Denise McCauley who has just celebrated 20 years’ service in Cuan Court children’s home based in Downpatrick.

Denise started her career in Children’s Services as a Speech & Language Assistant but felt drawn to be more involved with each child’s individual care, an opportunity arose when a position was advertised as a Residential Childcare Worker in Apple Tree House (Cuan Court’s former name), Denise applied and the rest is history.

Reflecting on her career, Denise remarked, “It’s amazing to have been part of the many positive changes that have been implemented into children’s services over the years.

When I started my career we were very focused on directing the children that we cared for away from criminal behaviour by implementing strict routines and boundaries. While this still plays an important part in some elements of care, it is refreshing to see the change in our approach now. We are more focused on each individual child’s experiences and understand how trauma has impacted their lives. This has made a huge difference in the way that we provide services and allows us to support our young people by acknowledging their individual emotions and educate them about coping strategies to help them to choose better ways to express their feelings at difficult times of their lives.

“New and innovative ideas are welcomed in my area of work and I have enjoyed being able to pursue and coordinate these for the children, one of my favourites has been Donkey Therapy which aims to help the children in our care to understand their own feelings and behaviours by taking care of and spending time with donkeys, who mirror teenage behaviour very well.

“Giving the children the responsibility to meet each donkey’s needs has instilled calming and self-care behaviour, along with leadership skills. It has been amazing to see the difference in them.

“Working with young people in this new holistic way and being such a big part of their lives is a real privilege. I have my meals with them, support them with their schoolwork, take them shopping for new clothes and tuck them into bed at night. The children in my care need safety and security.

“Being able to be a stable influence in their lives and build a trusting relationship with them isn’t always easy but it is so important. I am an anchor for them when they are experiencing issues in their lives and someone that they can share the good things with when they come their way.

“Over the years I have met the children who have grown up and passed through my care. Hearing about their new lives and being introduced to their partners and children has brought me a lot of joy. It is wonderful to see them happy and thriving and lovely to know that they still recognise me after all this time. I look forward to many more happy years in Cuan Court and seeing how the children that I have had the joy of working with grow and develop into their future selves.”