Q. I am working for a new manager who seems to want to micro-manage everything I do. I am used to working on my own initiative and am finding this difficult. How do I tackle this?
Jeanie Lynch: Most people entering new management roles try hard to understand what their new staff deal with day to day in order to offer the best support. This can be misconstrued as being too nosy or over-involved. They will also be keen to impress others with their management skills so may over-scrutinise to begin with.
The reality is that this is your new manager and you are going to have to find a way to work together. It can be hard to suddenly account for your actions but it also allows you opportunities to show what you have achieved, discuss your skills and areas for development.
Use the induction phase to offer support to your new manager while agreeing at supervision how you will work together. In time they will probably have too much to do to micro-manage you. Finding a happy compromise is the key to an effective management relationship, and this needs to come from both of you.
Jeanie Lynch has more than 20 years' experience working as a senior manager developing support for vulnerable children and young people
Q. I want to encourage my nursery staff to do more gardening with the children. Where do I start?
June O'Sullivan: There are strong links between gardening and wellbeing - all the more important in a time when mental stress among children is on the increase.
Busy staff are more likely to do activities if they are in the daily routine so build gardening into regular outdoor time.
Start with simple planting. Grow some annuals that bring colour to the nursery such as geraniums, violas, petunias and fuchsia. Plant up a box of herbs using mint, parsley, chives and rosemary. If you have space you could have a small vegetable plot. Other great gardening activities include growing and measuring sunflowers.
Gardening is a great way to involve parents. Organise an open day to tidy up the nursery garden. Build in fun activities to show parents what children can learn from gardening.
June O'Sullivan is chief executive of the childcare charity and social enterprise, the London Early Years Foundation
Q. I am working with a boy who came into care as the result of neglect by his alcoholic parents. Mum now seems to have tackled her alcohol problem and we're looking at the possibility of returning the child home. How do I know if this is the right plan?
Colin Green: The foundation of a successful return home is a well-considered decision based on a good multi-disciplinary assessment. This must fully explore the child and family history, the reasons why the child entered care, what the child's needs are and the parent or parents' capacity to meet those needs. It must also look at whether the parents have addressed the problems that led to the child entering care, their motivation and ability to work with professionals and use community and wider family support.
Consistent authoritative and empathetic case management and social work throughout the process is also vital, including sustaining that engagement for as long as is needed after any return home. Finally, it is important to ensure there are services in place to address the needs of the child and parents - including support prior to the child returning home - with support continuing as long as is needed. The NSPCC has produced a framework for reunification practice which reflects the research and good practice.
Colin Green has been a social work practitioner, manager and leader, including director of children's services, in six local authorities
Q. I work in a children's home. One of our new girls is vegan and this has caused consternation among staff who worry it is a fad diet and are not sure how to cater for her. Any advice?
Tracie Trimmer-Platman: Veganism is not a fad diet and generally revolves around ethical considerations. Vegan food can be tasty and simple to prepare. A good way of getting everyone on board is to engage the young woman in menu choices - find out what she likes, what she can cook and get her involved in preparing food.
There are numerous websites and blogs where staff can learn about vegan food and living. Meanwhile the young woman may be interested in checking out the teen vegan network.
Tracie Trimmer-Platman is senior lecturer in youth and community work at the University of East London
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