Making Memories… Giving Hope

Referring children for a CHICKS break


Jayne is Head of Pastoral Care at a primary school in Derbyshire and has been referring children from her school to our Derbyshire retreat for a respite break since it opened.

She originally found out about CHICKS and our respite breaks via a colleague after the retreat was spoken about at a local event.

Jayne’s role at her school involves the early help, identification and intervention of children at risk. The school has a robust internal referral scheme and support system in place offering pastoral support for the children of families experiencing difficulties.

The support system at Jayne’s school includes one-to-one work, group work, parental / family support and forest school experiences.

An important part of Jayne’s role is to ensure the parents of children referred understand the reasons why their child has been referred. She works with families to explain that a CHICKS break is a positive thing, what the reasons are for their child being referred, how their child will benefit and how the family might benefit.

An important point she notes is that none of us is immune to a change of circumstances that means we might need a bit more support than before. Many of us have different coping mechanisms and support networks around us – but not everyone has this – which is when a school might step in and become the support a family in crisis needs. For some families short term support might be all that’s needed, whereas for other families, there may be longer-term support plans in place.

Children are referred for a CHICKS respite break for many reasons including:

  • Bullying
  • Neglect
  • Abuse
  • Poverty / financial
  • Confidence issues
  • Family breakups
  • Family difficulties
  • Bereavement
  • Health issues

Referrers like Jayne recognise that a CHICKS respite break is part of an holistic form of support, usually within a support plan already in place for a child and their family.

The emotions and feelings children experience when offered a place on a respite break with CHICKS range from looking forward to it and massively excited, through to nervous, worried, scared, apprehensive … so in order to ensure the children she refers have a positive experience whilst on break, Jayne helps prepare them via the in-school support they’re already receiving. This will include ways to help build their confidence, self-esteem and self-resilience. It’s really important to recognise that it can be a scary proposition for some children to spend even a short period of time away from their family home and school no matter what the family circumstances are.

For many of the children, being on a CHICKS break isn’t actually about the activities or workshops, it’s about being with kind, supportive, trustworthy adults. It’s about having some quality time and attention focused on them and importantly, about having someone listen to them. But it’s also about them spending quality time with other children and discovering new skills and talents through the activities and challenges they’re encouraged to join in with.

Jayne sees the positive effects a CHICKS break has on children: “Children come back positive and we see that back in the classroom. They’re buzzing and excited. It’s not a short-lived outcome – as a CHICKS break provides a very different experience to the in-school support and intervention we can offer.”

In order to ensure a positive experience for a child referred to CHICKS for a respite break, and that they get the most out of a break, there are some important considerations:

  • How have you identified this child as needing a break?
  • What support is the child already receiving in-school?
  • How are you already working with the child and their family?
  • How long have you been working with the family?
  • What are the main difficulties that the child and family are experiencing?
  • How will you prepare the child for a CHICKS break emotionally?

If you would like to know more about referring a child for a CHICKS break, please visit our ‘Refer a Child’ page.

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