Friday, 29 March 2013

Engaging Clients in Family and Child Service - Anish Alex MSW

Engaging Clients in Family and Child Service

Successfully engaging clients in the helping process is an important task for social work practitioners. There is a close association with the development of helping relationship and positive treatment results (Shrik & Karver, 2003, as cited in Gladstone et al., 2012). A study conducted at ‘Vancouver Family Preservation and Reunification Services’ by Gockel et al., (2008) found that successful social work interventions can create a nurturing environment for children in families. The study further says that healthy worker-client relationship can create a critical awareness about attitudes, beliefs, behaviours and values of both parties. This awareness would possibly help families to take initiatives for change and engage in the helping process successfully. I argue that the way families perceive the relationship with a worker in the family and child services is influencing and shaping the views of the family about the intervention and process. Families involved in the welfare system are often faced multiple challenges includes, “poverty”, “single parenthood”, “violence”, “substance abuse” and/or “mental and physical disabilities” (Gockel, 2008 p.98). These families are also facing a traumatic demoralizing due to the frequent experience of state intervention. Literatures (Russel, Haris, Gockel, & Jessel, 2004; Guterman, 2001; Kapp & Propp, 2002) articulates that due to the experience of frequent state intervention and fear of adverse consequences; the families are reluctant to cooperate with further services and can be defensive of providing information about the family and their parenting.
          The effectiveness of social work interventions are depends on the full and complete participation of the client. According to Dawson & Berry (2002) participation of the clients can be in two ways, “collaboration” and “compliance” (p.296). Collaboration consists of participation and agreement of the service plan, and compliances are the behaviour of the client such as maintaining the appointments, cooperate with agency and worker, and achieving tasks. Collaboration and compliance are very important in client engagement.
     As a primary level engaging, a “non judgemental acceptance” is significant, regardless the responds and initial attitude of the clients (Gockel et al., 2008, p.99). Dawson & Berry (2002) explains that assisting families to define their own problems and providing emotional support by actively pay attention to clients will help both parties to set their goals without difficulty. Responses of the worker towards the family’s experiences are also important. Each family is unique, and each parent responding to their children differently. Worker should recognize the uniqueness of the family and develop an individual responsive approach in a flexible manner. A strength-based intervention can contribute to successful engagement of clients in family and child services. Identify and appreciate the skills and efforts of the family as well as children. Recognize the parenting challenges and assist them to find own best possible solutions.  
          As a secondary engaging strategy, the worker should exhibit a “sense of empathy” and make clear understanding about the various interlocking problems facing by the clients. Client’s own previous personal, social and structural oppressive experience needs to be explored to establish a meaningful relationship with the client. Gockel et al., (2008) argues that client respect the worker’s capacity and expertise to deal with the issues. This attitude will positively influence the effectiveness of intervention. Being flexible and honest to the clients would possibly bring confidence among service users about the intervention.  Workers can build trust by targeting on the real problem rather than individual’s shortcomings. Also demonstrate integrity and openness; motivate clients to follow the action plan and recommendations.
     A democratic use of power in the intervention process will create immense changes in the worker-client relationship. Invite clients to all possible situations to participate in the decision making process. Make awareness about the entire process and empower them by providing all related information and options. Strega & Carriere (2009) argues that clients have the right to know about what is doing for them by the worker and how; in any case, worker should maintain transparency and provide ample opportunity to the clients to involve in the process without fear of worker’s power. Worker needs to respect the boundaries of the rights that clients have as a family and/or a parent. An autocratic approach can affect the confidence of the client and feel despair and powerlessness.
    As a strategic approach assist clients to enhance their existing skills and develop new skills. It will help them to manage their life situations and address their needs effectively. As Strega and Carriere (2009 p.19) explains, the practitioners should recognize the stress and pain of the client encountering “ongoing impacts of colonialism” and “capitalism” in their day-to-day life.  Study conducted by Gockel et al., (2008) illustrates that clients those who acquired knowledge and skills to effectively manage their daily life with the support of a worker demonstrates incredible change in their parenting capacity and problem solving skills.
     Skills and experience of the worker play a vital role in engaging clients in family and child services. Gladstone et al., (2012) found that families involved in the welfare system valued the skill and experience of the workers. Families assumed that experienced workers are able to understand diverse family problems. The same study correspondingly states that the experience is helping workers too, to understand and deal with diverse family problems in a better way. However, there is a relationship between the worker’s perception of family engagement and family’s insight of their own involvement in the helping process. Further understanding is that, client engagement is the process of setting goals collaboratively based on mutual acceptance and trust.
Davies, L. (2004). ‘The difference between child abuse and child protection could be you’: creating a community network of protective adults. Child Abuse Review, 13(6), 426-432. doi:10.1002/car.872
Dawson, K., & Berry, M. (2002). Engaging Families in Child Welfare Services: An Evidence-Based Approach to Best Practice. Child Welfare, 81(2), 293-317.
Dumbrill, G. C. (2006a). Parental experience of child protection intervention: A qualitative study. Child Abuse & Neglect, 30(1), 27-37. doi:10.1016/j.chiabu.2005.08.012
Dumbrill, G.C (2006b). Ontario’s child welfare transformation: another swing of the pendulum? Canadian Social Work Review. 23(1-2), 5-19.
Gladstone, J., Dumbrill, G., Leslie, B., Koster, A., Young, M., & Ismaila, A. (2012). Looking at engagement and outcome from the perspectives of child protection workers and parents. Children & Youth Services Review, 34(1), 112-118. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2011.09.003
Gockel, A., Russell, M., & Harris, B. (2008). Recreating Family: Parents Identify Worker-Client Relationships as Paramount in Family Preservation Programs. Child Welfare, 87(6), 91-113.
Magnuson, D., Patten, N., & Looysen, K. (2012). Negotiation as a style in child protection work. Child & Family Social Work, 17(3), 296-305. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2206.2011.00780.x
Strega Susan and Jeannine Carrière (Eds.). (2009). Walking this path together: anti-racist and anti-oppressive child welfare practice. Halifax, NS: Fernwood Publishing.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Client’s Self-determination in Community Development. Anish Alex MSW

Client’s Self-determination in Community Development

     The right of making decision about a person’s own life is the cornerstone philosophy of social work profession. Client’s self-determination is defined as the capacity of an individual to make decision on their lives, actively play a vital role in the helping process and/or the right to lead a life according to their personal choices (Weick & Pope, 1988, as cited in Wong, 2000). This conviction has ascribed value to the social work profession through the official forms of code of ethics promoted by professional bodies (Furlong, 2003). In the community development sector, client self-determination is a collective right. It is the power and responsibility taken by the community for their own lives and development. It covers the perception of freedom in the socio-economic, political, cultural and the context of existence in which people live, socialize, raise families, participate in the community activities, vote, work, and relate to each other. The concept of community self-determination is the empowerment of the community to organize for social rights and justice for themselves and their peers.
     Furlong (2003) explains that even though client self-determination is the fundamental principle of the profession; well canvassed limitations are there to exercise it. When I was working as an outreach anti-poverty program coordinator for people living in poverty in a south Asian pluralistic community, I faced numerous challenges in the context of client self-determination. I had to implement various anti-poverty programs in a community which was totally different belief and value system from me in terms of religious and political ideology.  For instance, government introduced a provincial employment program as part of economic development of disadvantaged communities. The provincial government identified fifty high-risk neighbourhoods and planned to open meat processing and packing units in each community. The program was designed to support the unemployed members of the community. As I was involved in different stages of planning, I was convinced about the potential of the program to enhance the economic development of the local community within the ‘poverty pockets’ areas. I anticipated that the project would be helpful for my clients to earn good income. I was so proud to announce the project to the community with an assumption that I know their problems better and the project would be a solution for their problems. But majority in the community were reluctant to welcome the project because they believed that the meat processing and packing unit is not an appropriate place to work according to their religious belief. I became confused that the pilot projects were a success in other communities. After few weeks of indecision I realized that I should respect my client’s decision as they owned the right to decide what kind of work they want to do and how to lead their own life. I reported the decision of the community to the government.
     As a critical self reflection, I was trying to impose the mainstream social and political ideology in the form of employment program without considering the client’s capacity to determine their choice of life. I appreciate that the community possess their unique interpretations for their decision. However as Wong (2000) argued in his article it is a “moral constraint” up on workers.  Even though the community’s decision was contrary to my belief and genuine interest to support them; I should understand and respect the cultural and religious value system possessed by the community. I need to accept their decision just because it was their choice of employment (Wong, 2000).
     Moreover, my professional knowledge and the mainstream discourses about the needs of the community is not greater than the community’s unique experiences of their life situations (Wong, 2000).  As a helping professional I should constantly confront the oppressive factors which restricts the self-determination/collective right of my clients in the context of micro and macro level of practices, indeed, it will add more value in to community development interventions.