What to record and how to store it?

What to record and how to store it?

By Rosie and Jo’s mum.

I think I would have really benefited, in the early days, from someone warning me of two things. The first was how much paperwork you accumulate when you have a child with additional needs. The second was how important it is too keep good, clear easily accessible records so you can refer back and remind people of what has been agreed in the past.

By the time I realised that I needed a decent filing system, there was a mountain of paperwork to sort through and the task felt too big to tackle in amongst all the crisis management we were having to do each day. I was also struggling because agreements that had been made in meetings, face to face conversations and phone calls were not being carried through into actions and I needed written records to back me up.

Over the years, I’ve learned a few things. Some the hard way, like don’t ever take an overfilled lever arch file out of the house. Always have one spare so there is never any danger of you spilling hundreds of carefully filed pieces of paper all over the floor.

Other things I’ve learned include:

Keep copies of emails from professionals in their own folders in your inbox, then, when you think “I’m sure the OT sent me that”, you have fewer emails to look through.

Print off reports when you get them, correct any significant errors and send them back asking for the document to be amended and reissued. If you don’t, the incorrect information may appear in other important documents. Once something is recorded as fact, it is very difficult to change it.

Keep lever arch folders of letters and reports using marked dividers to split them into different services or professions, e.g. CAMHS, OT and write the date of every letter and report on the top right corner of the front page. Keep each section in date order, most recent at the front, to make filing new reports away easier and keeping the more up to date information most accessible.

Send an email confirming every conversation and meeting. Short and concise is best and request a read receipt. I find that this is a helpful format to use.

Dear Mrs Grey
Thank you for meeting me today with…..
My understanding of the conversation is that…..
You expressed the view that…….
Mr Pink told us that he had observed…..
I explained that my son feels…….
I understand that……
I remain concerned that……
We agreed that I will …… and you will……
You told me that you will refer my son to xxxx service within x weeks
We agreed to meet again in x weeks/months or on xth of May to review the situation.
If my understanding of our meeting/conversation is different from your in any way, please let me know so we can clarify the matter.
Best wishes,

If you attend a meeting where there is an agenda, print the agenda with large gaps between items where you can make notes. Write up those notes ASAP, preferably within a day of the meeting. If you are unsure of what has been agree, ask everyone to help you decide what to write down.

When raising a concern by email, start by listing on how many occasions you have previously raised the same issue, e.g. “Dear Mr X, this is the third email I have sent to you to express concern about….. in the last three months.”

If you receive a paper report, ask for an electronic version too because that makes it much easier to copy and paste and to share it with other professionals. Local authorities can use only providing paper documents as a way of making it harder for you to request amendments to documents. They will have a way to send you encrypted files, if you request it, although it can be a little more of a long-winded process.

Look back through any relevant reports just before meetings to remind yourself of recommendations that have already been made by professionals. This will be really easy if they are filed together in date order. I know of several parents who, when called into school to discuss a problem behaviour, have asked the teacher whether they are implementing previously recommended strategies. It often turns out that they aren’t and, once they are reinstated, the problem is resolved. This is much better than the child being blamed or time and money being spent on an unnecessary new report.

Don’t assume that all the professionals working with your child have seen all the reports about them. Offer to send electronic copies where you think the content it important.

If meetings are held without you present, request copies of minutes and action plans. Unless there is a child-protection concern or other children have been discussed at the same time, there should be no reason why you can’t have these.

Think about the way you label the files, especially if they are on an open shelf. Your child may not want their friends to see the files with their name on and ask what they are about or have a snoop while left alone in the room for a few minutes.

Consider carefully allowing your child to read the information you store about them. It can be helpful for them to know how professionals interpret what they do and say and I believe they have a right to know what is recorded about them and be given the opportunity to challenge it. They can also give you a different perspective on some situations recorded in reports which you can then pass on to those professionals if appropriate. Obviously it also depends on the age and stage of development of the child concerned. There is also an argument that some of the information recorded about them would be unhelpful for a vulnerable child to see so it’s your call, as their parent, to work out what is best for your particular child.

I know that some other parents prefer to store all their files electronically, carefully backed up so if you’re happy to share hints and tips on that or any other ways to record and store information, please feel free to add them in the comments.

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5 thoughts on “What to record and how to store it?

  1. Such good advice, thank you. I am in a perpetual state of near-chaos with all the paperwork I have for my three sons, and have definitely learnt the hard way a number of times – e.g. finding myself scrabbling around searching for a key document on the day of a meeting.

    One thing that has been worth its weight in gold is a decent scanner with sheet feeder. I now try to scan (& date) everything I need to keep as soon as it arrives. It helps to know I can quickly find everything on my computer, even if I can’t immediately lay my hands on the paper copy! It also made a huge difference for our recent appeal – allowing me to easily and quickly scan in the hard copies that the LA insisted on sending – which I could then easily make available to our witnesses etc – and it was much easier for preparing our evidence for tribunal – e.g. I could scan multiple disparate documents into a single pdf for each appendix.

    Another thing I don’t do very well – if at all – is talking in a meeting at the same time as finding the print-out backing up what I am saying. However, I have recently started using the plastic tab page markers that you can write on. It’s early days, and I need to develop a system (any advice?!), but they certainly help a lot.

    The other thing I battle with is finding the time to log everything, and not ending up with notes all over the place, or things simply not getting logged (these days, my memory does not always serve me well…). I’ve got a single Word document per son which I sporadically add dated entries to, but I’m wondering if I should just send myself emails at the time things happen. If their difficulties were more acknowledged at school, this would not be such an issue. Any suggestions to help keep up with the logging? I occasionally wonder whether I should make more use of a voice recorder.

    Thank you again, Rosie and Jo’s mum, I shall be referring to this blog again for sure.

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    1. What great ideas!
      A decent scanner would have really helped us with tribunal. I was lucky with photocopying in that a friendly school allowed me to use their copier at cost price which saved a huge amount of time and money.
      I love the idea of emailing yourself to create a timed and dated record. One of the other mums has also used a Facebook chat to look back and work out the dates of certain events.
      Thank you for sharing your suggestions.

      Like

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