Sleeping In and Night Security


The Leadership and Management Standard


This chapter informs staff of the sleeping arrangements and night time security in Childhood First Communities.


Fire Safety
Rostering and Handover Procedures


Section 3, Sleep In and Night Time Supervision and Appendix 1: Communities was updated in May 2018.


  1. A Critical Opportunity
  2. Early Experience
  3. Sleep In and Night Time Supervision
  4. Waking Night Staff
  5. Sleeping in Staff
  6. A Sense of Security
  7. Norms and Boundaries
  8. Suppertime
  9. Night Time Waking
  10. Wake Up Call
  11. Bedrooms
  12. Entering a Child's Bedroom without Permission

    Appendix 1: Communities

1. A Critical Opportunity

Bedtimes are an important time in anybody's day, a transition from the noisy busyness of the day into the quiet time alone; a time to think about the day you have had - reflecting on any difficulties and remembering achievements, and often a time when you start thinking - and often worrying - about what the next day will bring. This is a time of day which can have a significant impact, good or bad on how loved and valued children feel. It is essential that Childhood First staff focus their energies on the opportunities this presents - sometimes hard when staff are tired themselves and want to go home. The most difficult bedtimes may be those when children pick up on the fact that staff would prefer to be elsewhere, and they do all they can to prolong the staff team's stay.

2. Early Experience

For very young children and babies, parents spend a lot of time, thought and energy on the transition into sleep making it as comforting and relaxing as possible, helping their child to feel safe, loved and valued, specially preparing the child for the moment when they will be left alone to cope with the night. Rooms are prepared to be as relaxing as possible, mobiles, music, nightlights, warmth are thought about; soft comfortable familiar bedding is laid out with favourite sleep-suits, pyjamas and teddies etc; settling routines with baths, stories, hot water bottles are planned. All this recognises how important restful sleep is for growth and development right from the start. Children who come to Childhood First centres have often not had such attention to detail at bedtimes and are missing the internal sense of security it brings. The staff group must endeavour in every way possible to ensure detailed attention to every child's bedtime experience. This will help ensure that damage to a sense of confidence and safety can begin to be repaired and foundations can be laid for future confidence to rest and face each night and each new day with hope and resilience. Bedtimes and sleeping are absolutely critical to growth and development and many children may need to re-learn a way of relaxing and resting in order to properly resume their physical and psychological development.

In addition to having missed essential early experiences, children who come to Childhood First communities may have had their night-times disrupted by abusive experiences; neglect may have exacerbated their sense of being able to rest well in the knowledge that their needs will be met and they will not be hurt. Also, traumatic experiences often haunt people when they are alone - most often at night, and nightmares and night terrors may be frequent. For traumatised individuals, being left alone all through the night may be very lonely and frightening. For these reasons, bedtime routines in our communities often need to be tailored to an age which is below the child's chronological age. In addition children in our communities living away from home and often prematurely sexualised may use night-times to liaise sexually with one another. Night-times need to be carefully monitored so that all children feels safe and relaxed.

3. Sleep In and Night Time Supervision

Some of the Childhood First homes who use professional therapeutic staff work in the homes by day and also 'sleep-in ‘at night-time. One of our homes use specially employed waking night staff to remain awake all night, with the therapeutic staff sleeping in the home to be woken if needed. In general the former arrangement is used for younger children and waking night staff for one of the adolescent homes. It is always essential that the majority of the evening team do not go off duty leaving the children to the smaller night time team until the team/shift leader has decided the children are settled enough to do so. This is not a matter which can be decided by the clock. It is critical, whatever the arrangement, that all the staff in the building at night-time work very closely together. Comprehensive handovers between staff who have worked during the day/evening and those responsible for the children at night will help towards achieving this.

4. Waking Night Staff

Currently Childhood First employs Waking Night Staff at Merrywood House. The Waking Night Staff have a specific role within the care task. With the support of the therapeutic staff, they ensure safe keeping and general wellbeing of the children's group throughout the night. This would include:

  • Carrying out a series of regular checks of the house throughout the night and record significant occurrences in the log;
  • Attend to the needs of any children who experience distress or difficulty sleeping etc during the course of the night. Waking Night Staff are expected to call on the Sleeping-in Staff in this regard if require;
  • Dispense medication in line with First Aid, Homely Remedies and Medication Procedure;
  • Undertake relevant training and supervision as directed;
  • Attend specific community meetings as required.

All staff are supervised in their work through regular meetings which have the purpose of continually reflecting on, and thinking about, the overall task, its planning and its integration.

5. Sleeping in Staff

Where there are no Waking Night Staff expectation is that two people (two members of the evening team) will sleep-in and will be responsible for listening out for children and making sure their needs are met during the night. Homes may have special alarms on bedroom doors so that staff can tell quickly which child has left their room and can check whether they are just going to the toilet or if they need further help. There will be some nights which are very busy and sleep-in staff might need to stay up the whole night. Sleep-in staff may need to contact the on-call person for more assistance. Sleep-in staff should not go to bed until the children are really settled.

6. A Sense of Security

Bedtimes are probably the critical transition in the day. A great deal of planning and energy needs to go in to ensuring that each child's routine is followed and they have everything they need to settle and sleep through the night. All children, but especially younger children need to spend time with one or two members of staff, perhaps having a bath or a story or just chatting about the day just gone or the next day. Children are likely to find it difficult when the staff need to leave and great skill is needed by staff to leave children with a sense of emotional security that they are able to settle back to sleep. Different techniques can be helpful for this, ordinary ones of tucking children in, giving them a hot water bottle, reading a story, playing some soothing music. Additionally transitional objects can be used, so that the child has something to hold on to during the night which can remind them that the adults have not disappeared altogether but are thinking of them. Each child will have their personal favourites and it is the responsibility of the staff to know these and to ensure care plans are explicit about the child's bedtime routine. It is of course important to be mindful of the whole group and bedtime, and not to spend hours with one child at the expense of another.

7. Norms and Boundaries

Many of our children have developed disordered sleeping patterns which affect their capacity to function throughout the day. It is important for their physical and emotional health that we succeed in helping them to establish a healthier balance within this area. Bedtime boundaries must be adhered to.

It is important that as well as understanding each child's needs, a norm is established so that every child knows as exactly as possible what each bedtime will be like. This needs to include a clear time for bed which all staff adhere strongly to. There are likely to be attempts to split staff within teams and to split teams about what is and what is not allowed at bedtimes. It will make the children feel ultimately frightened if they are allowed to 'get away with' things they shouldn't at bedtime.

Different homes have different rules about the details at bedtime. These cover specific bedtimes as in Appendix 1: Community - Bedtimes. All staff members are responsible for ensuring they understand these rules, pass them on to new staff. Many conflicts arise at bedtime, as children negotiate their complicated feelings about being left. It is incumbent on all members of staff to ensure these are talked about frequently in their supervisions and consultations and with the children in group meetings and individually. Discussions about the differences between staff will help in the understanding of children's patterns of separation and attachment. Disturbances at night or difficulties sleeping can be caused by all manner of difficulties for individual children or the group, but figuring out these reasons together is part of the staff members' role.

8. Suppertime

It is important too that children do not go to bed hungry or feeling empty and each community will have its own suppertime routine. Whilst in some circumstances staff may feel it is not nutritionally healthy for children to eat near bedtime, years of experience at Childhood First with disturbed children living away from home has shown the beneficial effects of ensuring children do not go to bed feeling empty. For these children, suppertime is more akin to the 'dream feed' or last big feed which young babies need to get them through the night. It symbolises a full comfortable, cared-for feeling and helps children endure the loneliness of the night. Staff members need to take seriously the need to provide comforting nutritious food at supper time.

9. Night Time Waking

Despite all these measures children will wake in the night. Staff should help them to return to their rooms, beds with as little fuss as possible. This will most often require a firm reassuring quietness, and often no more than being tucked in, but sometimes children will need more attention, and possibly a conversation. Although staff need to use their own judgment, all instances need to be discussed so the staff group can ascertain where children are in real need, and where it is important for staff to help children quickly back to sleep rather than encourage habits of night waking.

10. Wake Up Call

Getting up in the morning is also a major daily transition. It is to be anticipated that the children may exhibit reluctance to 'face the day' and will require significant input from the adults. Plenty of time needs to be given to helping the children to wake, dress, eat breakfast and prepare for the day. Many children will find it very difficult to get up, especially those who may be depressed. If possible it is helpful to wake up as naturally as possible, and staff should start the routine by moving around the building so children can hear them. They will then need to knock on each child's door, and say ‘good morning’. Each child will then need a different amount of support - some may need a bath running, or clothes fetching, or a short chat. Some will prefer their curtains opening sooner rather than later; others will need a lot of firm encouragement to face the day, and may try all sorts of things to avoid it. Placement plans and experienced staff should be consulted. Unless very obviously unwell staff should endeavour to get all the children up for breakfast, as making it this far will often be the key to managing the rest of the day. Some homes, especially for younger children may meet together in their pyjamas for a morning drink or slow coming to together before they begin the day.

11. Bedrooms

Bedrooms are the personal spaces for children living in a very public way and as such must be carefully respected. Staff should be aware that they represent the child's own personal space and integrity. Therefore they should not be intruded into or burst in upon. While children are encouraged to personalize their bed space it is recognised that for some children this will be very difficult and take some time. The way children leave their bedroom is often indicative of how they are feeling and can be an important means of communication. Some children who feel neglected may thus leave their space neglected and bare; staff can help attend to the child's neglect by looking after the bedroom, but should also be aware that children may reject these efforts, for example by messing it all up again or destroying things. Staff should also take care not to obliterate the child's communication by changing the nature of the bed space too dramatically. However, as with the rest of the house, when children destroy their furniture efforts must be made to repair or replace them as soon as possible. Staff must report broken things using the appropriate system as soon as it is noticed. Children need to be helped to look after their bed space and on the whole should be encouraged not to invite other children into their space - different communities may have different rules about this.

Most homes have a system whereby children have their own key to bedrooms and staff have a master key. Staff members must always knock before they enter a child's bedroom. Children must never be locked in bedrooms (or indeed in any other room). Staff must respect the child's possessions and come to know where they belong and which it is alright to put away and which should be left as they are found. In order to achieve this understanding, children's bedrooms should be looked after by staff working with the children rather than by cleaners. On the whole, people who do not know the child should not be invited into children's bedrooms, and children should be supervised when they choose to show their bedrooms to people they do not know well.

12. Entering a Child's Bedroom without Permission

On the whole staff members should knock on the door and wait for permission to enter a child's bedroom. Where a child is inside their room and it is clear there is a risk of them harming themselves, or is breaking objects, a member of staff may enter without the child's permission to prevent this behaviour. The staff member should call out to the child and request that he/she stops and if the behaviour continues the staff member should inform the child that it will be necessary to enter the room. In this case an incident report will need to be completed with the statement made that it was necessary to enter the child's room without permission.

Also see: Searching Children/Bedrooms Procedure.

Appendix 1: Communities

Earthsea House

Guidance Notes on the Premises that Require Locking for Security Reasons

The following doors should be kept locked at all times when not in use :

  • The Reception Office, Home's Manager's Office and both school buildings;
  • The Pump Room, Plant Room and Bike Shed;
  • Both Oil Tanks and the Gas Cage behind the Portakabin;
  • The Knife drawer and Laundry Room cupboards;
  • The Staff Office (including the Key Cupboard and the Medication Cupboard) and Home's Manager's Office;
  • Internal Storage and the Archive Room;
  • The Sleep-in Rooms;
  • The Art Room.

In addition the children's rooms are out of bounds to all other children unless agreed by an adult.

Bed Time Lock Up

The Shift Leader is responsible for the locking up of the premises at night time. The following procedure should be followed:

  • All downstairs windows closed;
  • All external doors locked;
  • All internal fire doors closed;
  • All children's bedroom doors closed and door alarm system operated.

Merrywood House

Guidance Notes on Parts of the Premises that Require Locking for Security Reasons

The following doors should be kept locked at all times when not in use:

  • The main office and staff office due to confidential files, medication and the money tin;
  • The cupboard under the stairs due to hazardous materials;
  • Garage and bike shed, due to valuable items inside;
  • Oil tank gates for safety reasons;
  • Pantry, due to sharp knives etc.

In addition the children's rooms are out of bounds to other children unless agreed and supervised.

Bed Time Lock Up

The senior on shift is responsible for locking up each evening. The following procedure should be followed :

  • All downstairs windows closed;
  • The garage checked and heater turned off;
  • All outside doors locked - closing checks in freezer shed done;
  • Offices locked when staff go to bed;
  • All indoor doors shut and lights turned out;
  • Alarm for children's bedroom doors turned on.

Greenfields House

Guidance Notes on Parts of the Premises that Require Locking for Security Reasons

The following doors should be kept locked at all times when not in use:

  • The utility room (due to the hazardous materials that are kept there);
  • The main office (due to confidential files). Within this the filing cabinets must be locked;
  • The cupboard under the stairs (due to staff personal belongings being stored there);
  • Empty bedrooms (due to any items that may be stored there);
  • Workshop (due to dangerous tools);
  • Boiler cupboard (for safety reasons);
  • Front door (to keep the children safe).

In addition the following areas are out of bounds to the children:

  • The downstairs passageway to the therapy room and sleeping-in room (except for proper usage of attending therapy or using as a fire exit);
  • The sleeping in rooms;
  • The outside fire exit (except for its proper use);
  • The upstairs meeting room (except by invitation);
  • Other children's bedrooms.

Bedroom doors, the lounge door and the playroom door also have locks; however these doors can only be locked with a key from the outside. It is not possible for a child to be inadvertently or deliberately locked inside a room. Bedroom doors should only be locked to prevent entry when empty, or by the child from inside, and children must never be locked in from the outside.

Risk assessments have been completed on children's bedroom doors where there are locks present. It is also important to note that no fire exit is blocked in any way by a door which may be locked.

Children are given the choice as to whether a lock is incorporated into his/her door.

Evening Locking Up

The senior on shift is responsible for locking up each evening. The following procedure should be followed:

  • All downstairs windows closed and fastened;
  • The play shed locked;
  • The outside gates closed and padlocked;
  • The outside doors locked (2 backdoors), the front door shut and the chain secured;
  • The office curtains closed and the light switched off;
  • Office locked;
  • The fire exit doors closed (this MUST be checked in the summer months when they may be open to air the building);
  • The inside kitchen door closed;
  • All lights dimmed.

The senior must take the key to the gate padlocks to the sleeping in room. This is in case there is a fire and to ensure that a fire engine has access if necessary.

Gables House

Guidance notes on Parts of the Premises that Require Locking for Security Reasons

The following doors should be kept locked at all times when not in use:

  • The utility room (due to the hazardous materials that are kept there);
  • Staff Room (due to confidential files);
  • The cupboard under the stairs (due to staff personal belongings being stored in there);
  • Empty bedrooms;
  • Sleeping in rooms;
  • The classroom;
  • Pool house (currently being used to store children’s bikes);
  • Gates within the boundary fence at the back of the garden;
  • Knife Cupboard.

Evening Lockup

The shift leader is responsible for locking up each evening. The following procedure should be followed:

  • All downstairs windows closed and fastened;
  • The outside gates closed and padlocked;
  • The external doors locked (backdoor in the kitchen, patio doors in the lounge, side door to the meeting room and two front doors);
  • Internal fire doors to the lounge and kitchen shut and boundary door to lounge and kitchen to be locked;
  • All children’s door are shut and door alarm system on.

Children do not currently have keys to their bedroom doors.

Within the children’s living space there is only one door that can be locked (to kitchen and lounge and can only be locked by a key.

Out of bounds is the sleeping in rooms and others children’s bedrooms.