The Directors, Kevin and Danielle Epps, met in 1988 whilst working at Orchard Lodge Regional Resource Centre, in Penge, South London. This centre provided open and secure accommodation to around 40 boys with behavioural/emotional difficulties, often associated with serious offending behaviour. Danielle was employed full-time at the centre as a Residential Care Worker and Deputy Unit Manager, although her background was in general nursing and recruitment. Kevin was employed by the University of London as a Lecturer in Clinical Psychology, based at the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP), with an Honorary clinical contract with the Bethlem and Maudsley Special Health Authority. His clinical time was split between the Adolescent Unit at the Bethlem Royal Hospital (Beckenham); the Child Psychiatry Department at the Maudsley Hospital (Camberwell); and Orchard Lodge. Kevin had undertaken his clinical training at the IoP, where he completed training in applied child psychology under the supervision of Professor William Yule.
Kevin’s involvement with the troubled and troublesome boys at Orchard Lodge inspired his clinical and research interests in the management and treatment of children and young people with serious behavioural, emotional and conduct problems. In truth, he was struck by the extremely high levels of emotional distress and trauma in the boys at Orchard Lodge and the lack of mental health service provision. Many of the boys exhibited extreme levels of emotional distress, sometimes associated with self-mutilation, attempted suicide, and serious violence to people and property. There was a failure to recognise that physical and sexual violence in young people is often a response to past abuse and trauma. His MPhil clinical thesis explored the relationship between depression and offending behaviour in adolescent boys.
In 1989 Kevin and Danielle (who had just given birth to their first child) relocated to Birmingham to work at the Department of Health’s Glenthorne Youth Treatment Centre (GYTC). This was one of only two centre’s providing secure and open accommodation to Britain’s most challenging and troubled young people, many of whom had committed grave offences, including murder, rape, and arson. Glenthorne provided a structured evidence-based approach to the care, management and treatment of the young people at the centre, with strong links to the Universities of Leicester and Birmingham.
Whilst working full-time as a Residential Group Worker (and having another child along the way) Danielle gained her Diploma in Social Work in 1999. Kevin, in his full-time role as Principal Clinical Psychologist, commenced several research and writing projects devoted to developing a greater understanding of the young people at GYTC, resulting in publications and conference presentations on various subjects including fire-setting; violent offending, anger; sexual offending; sexual abuse; deliberate self-harm; and risk assessment and management. Kevin subsequently gained registration as a Forensic Psychologist. Under the supervision of Professor Clive Hollin (University of Leicester) he completed a large comparative study of young people with a history of serious sexual and violent offending, gaining his PhD in 2000 at the University of Birmingham.
In 2000 the government of the day decided to close the Youth Treatment Centres. Over a number of months negotiation took place with the prison service, mental health services, and social services department’s across the county to move the young people at Glenthorne YTC to other locations, leaving four young people who were deemed too difficult, complex and dangerous for any other service. Eventually, three of these were moved, leaving one girl, effectively preventing closure of the centre. Danielle and Kevin, along with two colleagues, formed a company, Positive Experiences Limited (PEL), to provide care-in-the community for this 16-year old girl. A small team of mainly ex-GYTC staff were recruited to look after her on a 2:1 staffing ratio in a normal residential house in a busy suburban area. In those days it was much easier to establish a children’s home! This single placement resulted in other Local Authorities making referrals, leading to expansion and the establishment of several children’s homes and supported accommodation houses for young people with particularly challenging and complex needs. Alongside this Kevin continued to work independently as a clinical and forensic psychologist until, in 2002, he was recruited to manage and lead the psychology service at the newly established West Midlands Regional Forensic CAMHS. This service was initially based at Reaside Clinic (South Birmingham) but moved into the new Ardenleigh Hospital on the old Glenthorne YTC site in 2003. In addition to providing in-patient beds and out-patient/community assessment and consultation, the service also provided in-reach services to two Local Authority secure accommodation units and a Young Offender Institution.
In 2005 Kevin decided to leave the West Midlands Forensic CAMHS to return to PEL, which had expanded and required additional support. There was also more scope for creativity and flexibility than in a hospital-based setting and closer links to the community. When PEL demerged in 2010 Kevin and Danielle formed Positive Pathways Limited (PPL), focussing on the provision of high-quality therapeutic children’s homes for children and young people. The PEL Finance Manager (Liz Dolan) also joined the new company and has continued to play a major role in the day-to-day and strategic operation of Positive Pathways as part of the Senior Management Team. The creation of a new company identity provided an exciting opportunity to start from ‘top down’ to establish a strong value base focused on integrity and the provision of compassionate child-centred care, enshrined in our Mission Statement. The company has since flourished and has developed a reputation for its open and transparent practice and ability to bring knowledge and understanding to the care and management of the young people in its care.
In summary, Danielle and Kevin have now spent 30+ years working in services caring for troubled and troublesome children and young people and bring their wealth of knowledge and experience to the work undertaken by Positive Pathways. In addition to her role as co-Director, Danielle has been a Registered Manager since 2000. In 2017 she managed two 3-bedded children’s homes which were both judged as Outstanding by Ofsted, one of which was newly registered. Kevin has continued to provide external consultancy and expert-witness services, thereby maintaining links with the wider service network and staying abreast of research and policy developments in this field of work, although more recently has devoted most of his time and effort to Positive Pathways.