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The journey of Juno - Q&A with Sophie Clarke

Juno started as an idea, which developed into a concept with lots of input from care-experienced young people. Back in 2020, it went from the research stage into this most recent chapter of our story – developing Juno, the not-for-profit organisation.

Ahead of opening our first children’s residential care home, we asked Juno’s Managing Director Sophie Clarke to reflect on some of the major changes and achievements of this part of our story.

What have been the most significant developments within the Juno team?

Juno relies on the people that we bring on board to become a success. Over the last year and a half, the biggest focus has been finding the right people and creating the team that will build Juno.

One of the most significant achievements for us has been finding Jaci, our Director of Care – somebody with 40 years of experience in children’s social care, who matches our values. Jaci had set up and run a non-profit children’s home in the area before and had a deep understanding of trauma-informed practice, Social Pedagogy, and social work, which is exactly what we need. Soon after that, we appointed our first Registered Manager, Nina, who also had lots of experience leading children’s residential care teams and felt like a brilliant cultural fit. Bringing in these members of the team has really strengthened what we’re doing.

How has that changed the approach to care?

Juno has benefited so much from their experience both in terms of refining our approach to care and our operational readiness. Jaci had operated one of the first social pedagogy-based homes in the UK and knew exactly what parts of it worked well in the UK, but also knew that it’s not a silver bullet – there are other areas we needed to consider carefully to ensure we provide the best quality care.

This has led to more work around trauma-informed practice in Juno. We’ve appointed a clinical psychologist to work primarily with the staff team to ensure that everyone is thinking and working in a way that places children’s underlying needs as our focus, rather than the behaviours that they might display.

What about the changes in other parts of the team?

Alongside the people side are the operational things – to run a residential care home you need safe properties and a fair amount of money to be able to open. This is where Paul Simon and his experience have been fantastic – he has led a lot of work around finding the properties and working alongside partners like The Regenda Group to support us in what we’re doing. These property partnerships have been absolutely key to making Juno happen.

As for the care team, we’re at the point where we’re recruiting the last of our social care practitioners, and it’s a challenge, especially in the North West which has a quarter of the country’s care homes. However, the calibre and the commitment of the people that we have found have been outstanding. A portion of the team is new to residential care, but they aren’t new to working with children, and their values and outlook on caring for children really align with ours. I feel we have created a supportive and ambitious team culture and I’m looking forward to seeing how we evolve, and how the team develops and changes.

One of our biggest strengths in the recruitment process has been the input of the Young Leaders. Their participation has strengthened the way we understand our applicants, it has allowed us to see people from different perspectives. The next chapter will bring more leadership for the Young Leaders, particularly in relation to our evaluation work with UCLan. The Young Leaders are working with Lowis Charfe to design an approach that helps us understand what is really working in Juno homes, informing how we develop in the future. The care, insight, and commitment that each Young Leader brings to the team are fantastic, with a healthy balance of support and challenge along the way!

Our governance has also strengthened over the past twelve months– the Juno Board offers a brilliant balance of experience, encouragement, scrutiny and direction. Their experience in the sector is invaluable as we move from the development to the delivery phase.

How has the property been developed?

At the start of this journey, we listened closely to what care-experienced young people thought children’s homes should look and feel like, and what sort of problems we could solve through design. Following a long re-development phase, it feels incredible to stand in our first home and see that vision play out in reality. Everyone who has visited our first home has commented on the physical environment – how homely, inviting, spacious and non-institutional it feels. With work now underway on our second home in Wallasey, I feel we have a much clearer sense now of what we need to consider from a design perspective, and a strong network of partners helping make this happen.

What do you think the next chapter will look like?

The next chapter will undoubtedly bring surprise, delight, and its fair share of challenges, but our team are so excited to get there. Seeing the recruitment process and how many brilliant people share our ambition and are willing to change their careers and work in a very different way to support children, that’s been so motivating. We’ll keep sharing the progress of how we all get on!

Interested in joining us? Find out more and apply here.

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