WEEK 8 READING 1 - Engagement with families involved in the statutory…
WEEK 8 READING 1 - Engagement with families involved in the statutory system:
Yes these children need to be made safe, but they also have a deep need to belong, to have stability and... to know that you matter just like any other child.
Building relationships with children and listening to what they want and need is the basis of a strengths-based approach that will also engage their family.
Involves speaking respectfully about difficult things, the wise use of authority and being transparent
It also means 'hanging in there' through stormy times, sensitively responding to need, and celebrating and enjoying the steps forward.
It looks for what people do despite problems, how they have tried to overcome their problems and what they do well.
It explores their dreams and hopes for their children.
Children in the statutory system:
They need to have the same developmental opportunities as 'any other child' in our community
They need access supports to catch up on their learning and development - often impacted by the trauma they have endured.
Their recovery process is dependent on the strengths and commitment of their family that practitioners forming strong partnerships and engaging with the family are critical to good practice.
The child may have been hurt within the family context but still fantasises and aches for family to provide them comfort.
Family work in a statutory context is not soft, it is intellectually rigorous and interpersonally challenging, as there are multiple agendas and layers of experience and truth.
The expectations are high, while initially the family's hopes are often low. Workers should have 'grounded hopefulness' - where you keep it real but also positive.
Careful assessment should take place to discern the level of safety that would enable safe contact to take place between child and family.
Successful engagement of statutory clients is not dependent on or constrained by their involuntary status but rather by the skill and respectful approach taken by the worker.
While the work can be complex, the essence of good practice is simple: it is about the relationships.
Engage people in change
Will look creatively with families for solutions that will make a difference.
Have warmth and are non-judgemental
Are curious about the experience of each family member
Initial engagement is often fragile and workers need to 'earn their stripes' before families will believe they can be trusted.
The process of engagement is dependent on building relationships with children and families, and this helped by the worker being respectful and courteous at all times.
It requires the use of self - providing sensitive and empathetic attunement to the experience of others.
Workers should aim to strengthen their emotional intelligence and ability to connect with others, especially children.
Exposing the child over and over to developmentally appropriate experiences is they key. With adequate repetition, this therapeutic healing process will influence those parts of the brain altered by developmental trauma.
ENGAGEMENT INFORMED BY A MULTI-THEORETICAL PERSPECTIVE:
Trauma and child development
Engage the young person in connecting with others
TRAUMA AND CHILD DEVELOPMENT:
The child's experience of traumatic events is influenced by many factors, including their individual characteristics and the subsequent level of stability and support, offering an explanation as to why the impact of adversity differs between children.
The effect of trauma in early development stages negatively impacts upon the maturation of the child's stress coping systems and the architecture of the brain, significantly increasing their vulnerability to a range of behavioural and emotional disturbances and learning difficulties, which can overwhelm the most resilient child.
When threatened by overwhelming events, the child's freeze, flight, fight response is activated; biochemical changes then occur and they can remain stuck in this dysregulated and hyper-vigilant state, which in turn impacts on their brain development and future behaviour.
Experienced workers have observed the 'frozen watchfulness' of a traumatised infant, the irritable hyperactive child, the self-harming and dissociative high-risk adolescent and the depressed or volatile parent.
An understanding of the trauma theory helps to make sense of these distressing behaviours and to engage the children and their parents in understanding that they are not 'mad or bad', but rather they are having normal and predictable responses to trauma that is abnormal and overwhelming.
It is an incredible relief and very engaging for families to be told by a worker that they are normal, in the context of adversity and social exclusion they have experienced, and that recovery and change are entirely possible.
Externalising the behaviour from the child's personality allows for a more hopeful and positive engagement of the family, without condoning or minimising the risks.
ENGAGE THE YOUNG PERSON IN CONNECTING WITH OTHERS:
Connection builds resilience and attachment mediates the impact of trauma. This requires a care-team approach with the child and family at the centre, and Child Protection, family service workers, teachers, therapists and significant others providing consistent support, respite and leadership when needed.
While working with or caring for young people who have suffered severe cumulative harm is not for the faint-hearted, witnessing and participating in their recovery is a wonderful experience.
The relationship between engagement and authority, or change and coercion, are not simple. Rather than seeing anger and hostility as resistance, the wise use of authority entails acknowledging these emotions and working with the client through the different perspectives that are at the heart of the matter.
Establish a process with the client that allows you to:
Acknowledge the position of the client - making sure they feel heard and understood, collaborate with the person not the abuse.
Be clear about your professional assessment - communicate the reasons for your concerns and what needs to happen to resolve these worries.
Establish and maintain clear bottom lines based on what is required, to best ensure the child's safety and wellbeing - allows options and choice about different courses of action and about how to negotiate different positions.
Ensure the client is aware of the different review processes to pursue justice if he or she feels unheard.
Young people who have been victimised repeatedly can become stuck on the classic triangle of victim, perpetrator and rescuer. It is critical not to view them in these ways. They need to be called by their name and we need to understand the unique individual they are.
They possess enormous strengths and potential and should not be defined by the abuse they have suffered or re-enacted.
Clearly explain your role and purpose
Be courteous and respectful at all times, even in the face of parental anger, hostility, frustration or disinterest - These are responses that need to be understood and worked through, often before information-gathering and assessment has begun. The worker needs to be interested in hearing about these feelings, and it is helpful to acknowledge and empathise with them.
Look for opportunities to join the parents through empathetic responses in their reactions.
Be curious about and actively seek information from the family about their experience - take the time to listen carefully to their story and be attentive to detail.
Listen and then listen some more. Paraphrase so that they know you are listening to them and be genuine in your interest and concern.
In the information-gathering process, don't be afraid to comment on family strengths in the context of difficulties.
Find something that is neutral such as the football or a popular TV show, so that you build an easy rapport. Getting to know the family and finding ways to connect with them conveys that you are someone who is down to earth and able to help people relax.
Help families lower their defences and trust you, so that the family is much more likely to work with you on issues rather than get into a battle.
Be clear and honest about the bottom lines, but do so in a manner that is not cold and/or indicative of a 'power over' stance. We want to WORK WITH families and empower them to be the parents the children need to have.
BEST INTERESTS OF THE CHILD:
Having this at the centre of practice ensures that the voice of the child does not get lost.
BEST INTERESTS CASE PLANNING MODEL:
Has been developed to integrate practice across sectors in Victoria.
The emphasis is on early intervention with vulnerable families and an integrated service system that is based on the rights of children to be safe and have stability in their lives, and to promote their development.
Culturally competent practice is essential in a statutory system that has in past generations, inflicted so much pain and trauma by the policies of the forced removal of Aboriginal children from their families and communities and from their land.
'SIGNS OF SAFETY APPROACH':
The focus on strengths is reframed into how they can be used by the family to increase safety for children.
The level of danger and risk of harm to a child is compared with the strengths and protective factors, and the safety of the children is the key focus.
It is now referred to as 'safety organised practice'.
SUSPEND BLAME: Reflect on what you bring to the interaction
The most healing thing for victims of child abuse is the belief and support of non-offending family members or significant others in the child's life.
Strength-based practice is interested in unpacking the constraints to parents providing that belief and support to the child and thus preventing the relationship from being a nurturing one.
People who are hurting and stressed or traumatised are exquisitely sensitive to blame.
When parents feel blamed by the worker, they can respond defensively and their hurt and despair can often be projected into angry blame and at times rejection of the child for being so difficult, and at the worker for being so 'hopeless'.
TRUST & TRANSPARENCY:
Raising the issue of trust and 'talking about the talking' helps to create safety as the family members are able to have some sense of control over the process and timing of the session.
The worker must make the process safe and the family members must honour the contract to stay safe.
Issues around confidentiality need to be explicit and clear about the details and the process of how you will share information.
Clarifying a detailed safety plan that is individually tailored and practical is critical when working with victims of trauma.
Clarification of who will do what, to whom, by when is grounding and provides structure and a sense of purpose and control when internal feelings and external life circumstances seem chaotic and out of control.
Engage families in solution-focussed thinking - ask families the miracle question and/or the nightmare question.
NO BULLSHIT THERAPY - What is it?
It is important when engaging with families to be able to show them that you're genuinely there to help and that you're interested in what they want.
It's also important that you are upfront about what you can and can't do.
There is often a small window of opportunity when you are first meeting a family whose members are sceptical or openly hostile about previous experiences with social workers or counsellors, to capture their interest that you might be relevant and worth 'giving a go'.
Most people respond positively to an upfront but friendly approach which is not defensive when they get heated, but which quickly attunes to their need to be listened to.
ENGAGE WITH THE SERVICE SYSTEM:
Work in the statutory field requires collaboration across sectors and engagement of professionals from diverse settings to achieve good outcomes for children and families.
CP Services workers are criticised either for introducing too much into the integrity and sacred privacy of a family or for not doing enough to 'pull' children from abusive and neglectful adults who do not deserve to be parents.
The most frequently presenting problems when working in a statutory context are family violence, parental substance abuse and mental health disorders. Strengths-based practice explores the way that these issues get in the way of these adults being the nurturing parents they want to be.