Meet Panda Phelan – Bounce Back 4 Kids Senior Support Worker

Panda Phelan is the Senior Support Worker for Bounce Back 4 Kids (BB4K) which supports families affected by domestic abuse, once the perpetrator of the abuse has left the family home. She writes a monthly BB4K Positive Newsletter which you can sign up for here.

Tell us about BB4K and your role…

BB4K is a therapeutic support service to assist families in healing from trauma. To be able to receive a therapeutic intervention families must be safe physically and emotionally ready to access support. The key aims of the BB4K service are:

  • To understand the cycle of domestic abuse.
  • To understand and heal from trauma.
  • Provide families with the tools to enable them to keep safe.
  • To validate and empower children and their parent/main carer.
  • To give parents the opportunity to see domestic abuse through the eyes of their child.
  • To strengthen positive and healthy attachments between children and their parent/main carer.
  • To raise children’s self-esteem whilst giving them an opportunity to explore and express their feelings through fun, child-focused activities in a safe therapeutic way.
  • To improve children’s school attendance, learning and development.

My role is to assess referrals, and find the best plan of support for the whole family to best suit their needs whilst keeping the whole family safe. I communicate with all professionals and families weekly. Communication is of key importance to nurture and reassure any worries or fears they may have about moving forward and reaching out for help, as abuse does not end when the relationship does. I support families with court, housing, substance misuse, mental health and other difficulties they may be having and join up work with other professionals when safe to do so.

Presently I am running three BB4K groups face to face (following government guidelines and Covid restrictions ) with parents and children from Reading, West Berkshire and Oxfordshire. I hold a fortnightly Zoom webinar workshop where we discuss different subjects such as internet and social media safety.

In the first lockdown, I decided to write a positive newsletter containing advice and information for the whole family. The newsletter’s purpose is a positive view on what had been an incredibly challenging time, with the unknown pushing and pulling us in all directions. The newsletter helps to explain situations to children while trying to understand the topsy turvy world ourselves. This is mailed to more than 200 recipients in many counties.

Describe a typical working day for you…

No day is the same, but a day could begin with a team meeting to discuss and share concerns around the most vulnerable clients, followed by telephone or Zoom calls to clients to enquire about their wellbeing, mental health, children’s behaviours, and emotional needs.

Then I may run a BB4K group which will consist of parents discussing their children’s needs and behaviours and helping them to understand these and strengthen their relationship. Meanwhile the children are engaging in some games, art therapy, play and discussions around their feelings and actions, and trying to understand them better.

We are always seeking funding and I’m constantly having to make difficult decisions about which families we can support immediately and which will have to wait. Due to coronavirus, there are a number of new funding opportunities but most have to be applied for quickly.

What’s the most challenging part of your job?

Heart-breaking stories, listening to children’s memories and wanting to take their pain away. Covid restrictions have added complications for most families including my own homework/child care balance.

What’s the best part of your job?

Working with incredible families who are brave enough to work through their difficulties, ask for help and support their children in the toughest of times. Seeing the outcomes of survivors thriving and moving forwards. Coping with court cases, children’s bravery and watching relationships between parents and their children blossom and grow with confidence and courage. My colleagues at PACT, the organisation which runs BB4K, who have encouraged, supported and empowered me to help these families throughout lockdown and thereafter. Being nominated for a High Sherriff Award.

Tell us a little about yourself and your background…

I previously worked for children’s services prior to joining the PACT family. I have worked with children, and families, including perpetrators, for more than 20 years. I am incredibly passionate about my BB4K role and supporting all survivors of domestic abuse. As well as training as many people as possible in the awareness of domestic abuse and its impact on children, who do not have to be present when abuse occurs to be affected.

I am grateful for my supportive family as home-schooling, working from home and juggling isolations and family life has been the standard! We make precious memories Geo-caching, attending festivals and seaside trips.