Case Study Four (appendix one) describes a family which due to multiple issues including separated parents with mental health needs, siblings living apart, aggressive behaviour and truancy they present an extremely complex case for any social worker. It focuses on the story of Callum and his current status with brief mention of his brother and two sisters. I will explore the legal and policy guidance along with relevant theories and values that would inform and guide social work practice in relation to Callum as the majority of the information relates to him.
The Every Child Matters (ECM) Green Paper introduced wide spread policy change and was underpinned by law in the 2004 Children Act. The ECM requires that social workers support the parents and carers instead of removing children to long term care (Hodge, 2004). For example the ECM set out the agenda for the unification of local children’s services such as schools, GP’s, social services and so on (Hodge, 2004). The idea of a holistic approach to a person’s needs by removing the legislative barriers between inter agency information sharing, directs services to work together towards a mutual aim which is “what is best for the child” in this case Callum.
Another key theme set out in the ECM is early intervention, which means that children should receive the appropriate help then need but when they need it. An important step in reaching this goal is the use of the Common Assessment Framework (CAF). For Callum and others the CAF aims to put their needs ahead of the agencies agenda (Gilligan, 2008). The entire process should be guided by a lead professional whose job it is to lead and follow up actions with all agencies involved while being the primary contact for the child with the extra needs, this helps when a child is working with more than one professional as it can easily become disorientating and counterproductive for the child developmentally to be dealing with multiple professionals (Howarth, 2010).
For Callum and his family the CAF would be used by the Local Authority (LA) to assess the needs of the children and the family as under S.47 of the Children Act they have a duty to do so (Calder and Hackett, 2013). Within the assessment three key areas are explored. Firstly Callum’s developmental needs, parental capacity which although his mother is currently unable to demonstrate capacity to care for Callum the new policy context assures that she will be fully assessed and supported where possible if it is in Callum’s best interests to have an input in his life.
Lastly family and environmental factors (Calder and Hackett, 2013). The three core assessment areas are explored in more detail in the assessment framework triangle. During the assessment the social worker gains information required from individuals involved including family members and all supporting agencies. The plan is to build a complete picture that will allow the social worker to begin to look at different theories and research which may offer insight or explanation for Callum’s behaviours.
Professor Nick Frost (2013) when discussing the lessons learned from a Serious Case Review echoes the findings of the Munro report (2001) stating that the decisions undertaken by social workers on a daily basis, often with very little time, are extremely complex and involve a high degree of uncertainty. This something that the CAF attempts to address as it is to be approached as a partnership between services the young people and their families (Calder and Hackett, 2013). Each of the three sections of the assessment framework triangle are gone into in much more detail and guidance for this is laid out in the CAF guidelines. In order to make use of the information gained a robust foundation of knowledge is required to deliver evidenced based practice.
For example When looking at Callum’s Health are all his needs being met to enable him to develop physically as he should. He is staying out late and not attending school so we can reasonably assume that he may not be getting sufficient food or rest. The medical model suggests that without regular and nutritious meals and adequate rest Callum’s physical development will be retarded (Cowie, 2012). This is a rather simplistic example though it effectively demonstrates how research directly informs practice. The new policy also calls for flexibility so that services can be provided parallel to the assessment process meaning that children and their families don’t need to wait until after the assessment process to start receiving support (Calder and Hackett, 2013). When Callum’s physical needs are identified it is possible then without delay to for example refer him to his GP for an examination to assess his physical condition.
Further along the child’s developmental needs assessment we come to emotional and behavioural development which looks at characteristics like the child’s temperament, self control and how they respond to stress. These are all heavily informed by a broad base of research and theories some of which have conflicting views on how certain behaviours can be explained (Calder and Hackett, 2013).
Before I look at some theories that would inform practice in relation to the case study I think it is helpful to look at how Beckett (2006) explains how social workers find a solution by first seeking for explanations. This he says is looking at the information gathered from the assessment and trying to find a theory that we think fits and them apply the relevant intervention. He calls these past orientated approaches, in the case of Callum we look at his past to try and find out why things are the way they are (Beckett, 2006). Callum is displaying aggressive behaviour, he resisted foster carers and now that he is back in a children’s home he stays out on occasion with his father.
Attachment theory has plenty of empirical evidence and suggests that Callum like us all is hard wired to seek a relationship with his carer, in this case the attachment with his father is still felt by him. Bowlby’s (2005) work on attachment suggests that during our formative years we develop an internal working model (IWM) from our initial attachments, the resulting quality of the IWM is dependent on the quality of the original attachments. In Callum’s case he quality of this attachment could be questionable. Cassidy (1988, cited in Cowie, 2012, p.49)
Bowlby, J. 2005. A secure base. London: Routledge.
Brayne, H. and Carr, H. 2012. Law for social workers. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Calder, M. and Hackett, S. 2013. Assessment in child care. Lyme Regis, Dorset: Russell House.
Cassidy, J. and P. R. Shaver (eds). 1988. Handbook of attachment. New York: Guilford Press, pp.3-20. Quoted in Cowie, H. 2012. From birth to sixteen years. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. pp.49.
Cowie, H. 2012. From birth to sixteen years. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.
Frost, P. 2013. Lessons From a Serious Case Review. Interviewed by Anne Llewellyn [in person] Leeds, 27.11.2013.
Gilligan, P. and Manby, M. 2008. The Common Assessment Framework: does the reality match the rhetoric?. Child & Family Social Work, 13: 177–187
Green, L. 2010. Understanding the life course. Cambridge: Polity.
Hodge, M. 2004. Every child matters. London: DfES Publications.
Horwath, J. 2010. The child’s world. London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers.