Guide for Young People & their Families

What is Hill House?

Hill House is a home for up to four young people aged between 11 and 18.  It is located in South County Tipperary near the town of Mitchelstown.  Hill House was set up to help young people prepare for adulthood by creating opportunities for them to develop skills and interests that will be helpful in the years to come.

Hill House is different from most children’s homes in a number of ways.  The clearest difference is that the care is provided by a married couple, Apri and Zsuzso, who live in the home with the young people, along with their young daughter. Arpi and Zsuzso see it as their responsibility to create a safe and fun, home environment for the young people to live in and from where they can go to school, to work or whatever activities they are involved in.

Hill House is part of the Galtee Clinic, which is a small farm one field away from Hill House.  The Galtee Clinic helps young people and their families in lots of different ways; one way is for young people and their families to learn about themselves and each other while taking part in the everyday activities on the farm.  The Clinic also tries to provide opportunities for young people to continue their education or get work experience in the local community.  The Galtee Clinic aims to have young people leave our care with practical life skills, ready to be happy and productive members of society.

What does Hill House do for young people?

We hope that Hill House will be a safe and caring home to live in where you can grow, develop, and have fun.  The programme is set up to provide opportunities for you to learn real life skills, have opportunities to continue your education, try many different things and have fun.  Our goal is to introduce you to a large number of activities through which you may develop skills, learn about yourself and the community in which you live.

Where is Hill House?

Hill House is just outside the village of Ballyporeen, in South Tipperary, about ten minutes from the town of Mitchelstown.  It is close to the M8 which is the motorway that runs between Dublin and Cork.  This means that it takes about forty minutes to get to Cork City, about an hour to get to Limerick and about two hours to get to Dublin.  It is, as the name suggests, on the top of a hill with beautiful views of the Galtee Mountains.  Between the home and the mountains are farms and fields of sheep, cattle and crops. We are in the countryside, however, we are not far from bright lights and shops if that is more your thing!

What is Hill House like?

Hill House is a newly built house, with 6 bedrooms, with great views of the surrounding countryside.  Downstairs there is a large sitting room, kitchen, a utility room with a washing machine and dryer, and a large hot press.  There are two bedrooms downstairs each with their own bathroom, and a double room where Arpi and Zsuzso sleep.  Upstairs there is a sitting area on the landing, a small cosy sitting room, and three bedrooms each with their own bathrooms. You will have your own room and bathroom, which you can decorate and organise as you wish.

Who will you be working with?

As we said before, Hill House is a little different from most children’s homes in that, a couple live in the home, all of the time.  The couple, Arpi and Zsuzso, are from Hungary and both have experience in something called Social Pedagogy.  It is a bit hard to explain exactly what Social Pedagogy is, but it is easy to understand that it is the professional training given to social care workers in Europe.  Arpi and Zsuzso do not see themselves as foster parents but more in the role of providing you, with the opportunities to learn and grow, and so are called our House Pedagogues. They are what you might call “teachers of life”.

You will also have your own Activity Therapist, as we like to call them.  Their job is to help you get involved in the things you like to do and other activities outside of the home.  Activity Therapists spend time getting to know you, and they work with you to explore as many activities and experiences as possible to help you find things you like to do and things you might like to learn about.  The Activity Therapists then work with you to create a programme to develop those interests and to find work experience in the community.

Hill House has a Manager whose name is Claire Warren.  Claire has worked with children for a good number of years and she has an important job.  Her job is to make sure that Hill House and those that work there do so in the best way possible, and when problems arise she is there to help find out the reasons for problems and to work with everyone to find solutions.

There is also a Psychologist that works in the Galtee Clinic.  His name is Toby and he has worked for a number of years with young people in Ireland and other places.  His job is to work with you, your family, your social work team and with the Galtee Clinic to help create programmes that will meet your own needs.

What do you do?

When you come to Hill House you are supported to spend the first few weeks making a home for yourself, getting to know the other young people, Arpi and Zsuzso and the other people involved in Hill House.  When you feel settled and ready, you are encouraged to spend time on the farm, helping out with the tasks such as looking after the animals.  We like to encourage you to take primary ownership for looking after particular animals of your choice. Depending on your age, the jobs that you do, are seen as the beginning of work experience and you are paid for your time and efforts.

It is really important that you have a say in how Hill House is run.  We have a weekly community meeting which all the young people and staff attend.  These meetings are focussed on issues that come up for you, the other young people and staff and decisions are made about as many things as possible, including the programmes on offer and the activities of the farm.  If you are interested you can also play an active role in the business side of the farm, growing vegetables or rearing animals to sell in the local markets.

How long do young people stay in Hill House?

How long young people stay in Hill House is something that we encourage you to work with your social worker and the Galtee Clinic team to decide.  We want, very much, to help prepare you for becoming an adult and this often means learning about yourself, about relationships with others and the world of school and work.  As long as you, your social worker and the Galtee Clinic feel that progress is being made towards the goals then you can stay in Hill House up until you are 18, or you can move somewhere else, such as home, or a foster home or residential setting.  There are regular meetings with social work teams (called Child in Care Reviews) in which these things can be discussed and we encourage you, and your family, to have an active role in these. You are the most important part of these meetings.

The Galtee Clinic is reasonably new, so currently we only operate Hill House as a home.  Our plan is to open up some more homes around the farm and also, to create a step down programme to support young people in the community after they turn 18.

Can you see your friends and family?

We think that friends and families are very important to people.  Although our first interest is in keeping you safe, we want to create as many opportunities as possible for you to see your family and friends.  When you come to Hill House we work with you and your social worker to put together a plan for contact with friends and family members and we then work our very best to see these plans work.

Can you have a phone in Hill House?

We think it is very important that you keep your connections with important people outside of Hill House and the Galtee Clinic.  We therefore allow older teenagers mobile phones but expect that young people use their phones safely and they do not allow their phones to interfere with their day to day life.  For example we expect young people not to take their phones to bed with them, as we like to encourage everyone to get a good night’s sleep.

Do you get pocket money in Hill House?

Day to day essentials, such as toiletries (toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap etc) are bought as part of the weekly shopping for Hill House.  Outside of this young people are supported to earn money and budget for items that they want and need.  Young people are given some financial assistance when they first come to Hill House after which they can earn money though working on the farm, taking part in their education and having work experiences. 

What sorts of education or work experiences are available to you in Hill House?

We think that education is the best option for young people as this allows for the best opportunities in the future.   For those that are interested in continuing education, there are a choice of National and Secondary Schools in Mitchelstown and surrounding areas and there is a YouthReach in Fermoy (about 15 minutes away).  We do recognise that school is not always for everyone and so Activity Therapists focus on helping you to identify what you would like to do, and then the Activity therapists take on the responsibility for helping these interests come to life.  There is always work to be done on the farm and we also seek out work experience opportunities in the local community.

Who is Hill House for?

Hill House is designed to work with young people who are interested in the programmes on offer in the Galtee Clinic.  We do not work with young people against their will and so think that it is very important that you are given the opportunity to visit Hill House and have an active role in the decision to come here.  We are not set up to meet every young person’s needs and interests and therefore cannot work with all young people.   However we would be very happy to speak to anyone who is interested in what we have to offer and we will try to create a programme that works.

What do young people or families do if they are unhappy with Hill House?

We think it is very important that young people, their families and their social workers are happy with the care and the programmes provided by Hill House and the Galtee Clinic.  We ask for feedback from everyone at regular intervals and we use the feedback to make changes to our programmes.  If someone has a concern or a complaint we ask that they let us know so we can do something about it.  We also have a complaints procedure where Claire, our Manager, looks into the complaint and tries to find answers.  We also encourage young people and their families to access other organisations such as EPIC (Empowering People in Care) or if need be the Ombudsman For Children.