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Power & Duties of a Social Worker Essay

This paper discusses and explores both case studies in order to find the powers and duties a social worker acting in a statutory capacity might exercise in these cases, how might they be exercised and how might wider principles of welfare law impact on their decision making? It also analyses the tensions and dilemmas that may exist, referring to specific legislative provisions, and identify how anti-oppressive practice might influence the resolution of these case studies. It also demonstrates an ability to study relevant law in social work practice and have a critical and analytical understanding of the service delivery standards and powers and duties of social workers, demonstrate a working knowledge and understanding of key areas of welfare law that are significant to service users analyses the tensions and dilemmas that arise in the implication of the law in social work practice and be able to demonstrate a commitment to the anti-oppressive practice of social work law.

This paper is focused on two separate case studies:First Case Study: Jack and Lauren have two Children named as Makayla aged 18 Months and Christopher aged 5 years. The local Authorities and Children’s Services have a referral from a relative who is concerned that the Children had witnessed Jack and Lauren fighting. What is more Jack brings people back to the house who drink heavily and Lauren has left the children alone at least twice to get drugs. When seen the children appear adequately dressed, clean, healthy and outgoing, and Christopher is attending school most days. The house is sparsely furnished but tidy and there appear to be a small number of toys. Makayla may have a development delay. She also may have difficulties with hearing and vision, which have meant numerous medical appointments, some of which have been missed.

Second Case Study: Gracias speaks with pride of her house in which she and her husband raised seven children and points to the antiques she has collected. She knows the history of all the antiques she has had longest, but she looks troubled when asked about other items. Her eldest son has looked after her since he retired. She has eleven grandchildren, but she cannot remember their names. He moved in with her after she left the gas on twice and let a stranger into the house. He fells she could benefit from re-housing since a stroke affecting her left arm and leg means she struggles with the stairs and with bathing, and recently she has begun to become incontinent at night. On the other hand, she still tends to her antiques with great care. He is also concerned that she is still managing her large account of savings and shares, which he will need to have access to if he keeps her at home.

These two case studies are mainly different from each other if we study them with practical approach but certain things can be discussed simultaneously for the both cases i.e. family, approach towards the care of children, approach towards the looking after the parents, affects on children when they are ignored.

Defining the FamilyA family becomes a family when two or more individuals have decided they are a family, that in the intimate, here-and-now environment in which they gather, there is a sharing of emotional needs for closeness, of living space which is deemed “home,” and of those roles and tasks necessary for meeting the biological, social and psychological requirements of the individuals involved.

For our purposes in this text we mean by family “two or more people in a committed relationship from which they derive a sense of identity as a family,” thus including “nontraditional family forms that are outside the traditional legal perspective … families not related by blood, marriage, or adoption” (Cohen, S., and T. A. Wills. 1985: 85)The state of marriageThe family, marriage, and the individual are inextricably interwoven. This simple fact constitutes a major conceptual and practical problem when considering the prospect of intervention in a marital problem, for it militates against clarity of thought and purpose.

Certainly, conceptual distinctions can be made, and these are of central importance in the attempts of social scientists to shed light on the dynamics of family life; but such distinctions tend to rely upon the identification of boundaries that are perhaps seldom recognized, let alone drawn, by the individual experiencing the realities of marital and family life. As the father of modern family studies, Whittaker, J. K. and J. Garbarino. (1983) observed, ‘We know too much about the family to be able to study it both objectively and easily’Some family needs could be considered as being met through a combination of expressive and instrumental functions, such as child care, and health-related supports. This applies on both Case Studies.

In line with the above, and in recognition of the diversity of contemporary society, we should emphasize that “respect for diversity requires that family be defined openly and broadly so as to include whomever the family itself- with its unique culture, circumstances, and history-designates” (Allen and Petr 1998:8).

Practitioners should be prepared to understand and account for the special needs of minorities. As reflected throughout this volume, this means that we need to consider carefully in our practice the dimensions of race and ethnicity, including not only their significance for human functioning but also their impact on service delivery. In this regard, Pecora, P. J., W. R. Seelig, F. A. Zirps, and S. M. Davis, eds. (1996) assert: “Training practitioners for competence with diverse populations is high on the list of corrective initiatives to address … inadequacies” in social work practice. A critical component of such training is learning how to promote the well-being of children and families.

Promoting Child and Family Well-Being in Perspective of 1st Case StudyTo aid in our understanding of what families and children need to thrive in our society, we have developed a framework of needs and resources for family and child well-being. The framework is organized as a triangle depicting the three interrelated aspects of child and family wellbeing:• What children need for their optimal Development,• What families need to survive and fulfill their functions successfully, and• The neighborhood, community, and environmental resources that families and their children require.

At the center of the model is the overall goal for family-centered social work practice: safeguarding and promoting the well-being and Welfare Law of children and their families. We will refer to this framework throughout the paper, so as to highlight key points about promoting child and family wellbeing and safety as well as delineate guidelines and principles for assessment and intervention. The model draws from the contributions of a number of sources in an attempt to show the range of interrelated family and child needs that, when met, promote optimal functioning and development.

Resilience, Coping, and AdaptationIn their work with children and families, practitioners can be guided by knowledge regarding resilience, coping, and adaptation-key constructs in understanding human beings and human behavior. Before elaborating on each of these constructs, it is useful to consider the competence centered perspective on social work practice, which can serve as a frame of reference for practitioners.

Competence-Centered Perspective & Principles of Welfare LawThe competence-centered perspective builds upon ecology as a metaphor guiding the study of the interactions between living organisms and their environments (Bronfenbrenner 1979). In particular, such a metaphor calls attention to the “influence of external environments on the functioning of families as contexts of human development” (Bronfenbrenner 1986:723). As an orientation to practice, ecology helps us to appreciate that human beings are engaged in continuous transaction with their environment; furthermore, the ecological view provides insight into the nature and consequence of such transactions both for human beings and for the physical and social environments in which they function (Germain and Gitterman 1996:5-19).

Evaluation in perspective of Case Study 2By offering a broad conceptual lens to view human functioning and needs, ecology underscores that social work intervention should address the interface between human beings and their impinging environments: practitioners focus on improving the transactions between people and environments in order to enhance adaptive capacities as well as enrich environments for all who function within them (Germain and Gitterman 1996).

In using such an orientation, practitioners can help mobilize the actual and potential strengths and resources of individuals, families, and groups while simultaneously seeking to render environments more responsive to the adaptive and coping needs of human organisms (Kagan, S. L. 1995). In addition, workers are helped to understand the relationships between families and their environments and identify the significant sources of support as well as stress and conflict. They can then assess more objectively the complex personal and environmental factors affecting parents and children and arrive at more appropriate treatment plans and recommendations.

The competence perspective draws from ego psychology; psychodynamic psychology; and learning, developmental, and family systems theories. In social work as in other fields, competence is generally defined as the repertoire of skills that enable the person to function effectively. However, a distinction should be made between the notion of discrete competencies or skills and the broader, ecological or transactional concept of competence. The latter may be defined as the outcome of the interplay among:• A person’s capacities, skills, potentialities, limitations, and othercharacteristics.

• A person’s motivation-that is, her or his interests, hopes, beliefs, andaspirations, and• the qualities of the person’s impinging environment-such as socialnetworks, environmental demands, and opportunities (Maluccio 1981).

Stress, Risk, and Protective Factors in perspective of Both Case StudiesIn the course of their development, families and children encounter a variety of stresses and risks that need to be considered in any interventive plans or services. Stress and risk are closely related concepts. As Roskies (1991:412) indicates, “In spite of its widespread use, there is no single, precise definition of the term stress.” Saleebey, D. (2002) who is regarded as the father of modern stress theory, focuses on physiological reactions of the human organism in its struggle to resist noxious stimuli or stressors. Along with other theorists, Locke and Taylor (1991:157) define stress as “the emotional response, typically consisting of fear and/and anxiety and associated physical symptoms resulting from” perceived threats to one’s well-being or selfesteem. We think of stress as internal tension or strain produced in the human being in response to any one or more factors.

Risk has been defined as “any influence that increases the probability of onset, digression to a more serious state, or the maintenance of a problem condition” (Fraser 1997a:3). “Risk or vulnerability represents a heightened probability of negative outcome based on the presence of one or more” factors such as “genetic, biological, behavioral, socio-cultural, and demographic conditions, characteristics, or attributes” (Fraser 1997:10). Examples of environmental risks are family dysfunction, child abuse, parental illness, and, above all, poverty.

Protective factors are “those internal and external forces that help children resist or ameliorate risk” (Fraser 1997a:13). Rutter (1985:600) further defines protective factors as “influences that modify, ameliorate, or alter a person’s response to some environmental hazard that predisposes to a maladaptive outcome.” Problem-solving skills, a sense of self-efficacy, and an internal locus of control are examples of internal forces found in resilient children and youths. Examples of external forces are the strong family presence of a caring, supportive adult in the family and a safe and supportive school set- ting.

As Benard (1997) explains, schools can provide a protective environment for many youths and children through the caring and support and high expectations of teachers and other school personnel as well as the opportunities available for meaningful participation in the life of the classroom, school, or community.Under certain conditions the interplay between risk factors and protective mechanisms leads to successful coping and adaptation: “An individual is able to cope so long as the balance among risks, stressful life events, and protective factors is manageable. But when risk factors and stressful life events outweigh the protective factors, even the most resilient children can develop problems (Werner 1989:80).

“Through her longitudinal, life span study of 618 children, Werner (1994 and 1995) has demonstrated the role of protective factors within the family and community, such as socioeconomic supports, in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. As considered in subsequent chapters, social workers can play important roles in promoting resilience in children and youths. In particular, in conjunction with the concepts delineated in the preceding section, the constructs of risk, stress, and protective factors suggest several interrelated themes that can help guide social work practice with families and children:

• Human beings are engaged in ongoing, dynamic transactions with theirenvironment and in a continuous process of growth and adaptation.

• Human beings are “open systems” that are spontaneously active andmotivated to achieve competence in their coping with life demands and environmental challenges.

• Varied environmental opportunities and social supports are necessary tosustain and promote a human being’s efforts to grow, to achieve self-fulfillment, and to contribute to others.

• Appropriate supports should be matched to the human being’s changingqualities and needs in order to maximize the development of her or hiscompetence, identity, autonomy, and self-fulfillment.

Intergenerational Aspects and Principles of Welfare Law In perspective to Case Study 2Throughout human history and across societies, parents have relied on the extended family, especially grandparents, for help in care of their children. Such reliance is becoming increasingly problematic, due to such factors as the geographic mobility of families and, above all, growing societal problems in such areas as housing, poverty, substance abuse, and family violence. In addition, there is an increasing proportion of mothers at an early age, including early adolescence; the families of these young mothers are often struggling with their own issues, problems, and challenges.

It has been estimated that, as of the early 1990s, between 2.3 and 4.3 million children lived in the homes of relatives without their parents (Everett 1995). The U.S. Bureau of the Census (1995) reports that approximately 3.9 million children were being raised in grandparent-headed households in 1995. While kinship caring is more common among families of color, it is seen also among white families. As extensively considered by Hegar and Scannapieco (1999), kinship care is a complex phenomenon-whether provided through informal arrangements or through state supervision. According to these authors, among the issues to be considered are the following: How should formal kinship care differ from informal care arranged by the families? Should kinship care be classified as either out-of-home care or family preservation? Should foster families licensure or certification be required of kinship families?

How long should the state subsidize placement with kin?In view of the above, practitioners need to give increased attention to the intergenerational aspects of family and child Welfare Law services. In particular, agency policies and programs should recognize the crucial role of grandparents in caring partially or fully for their grandchildren, including teenage granddaughters who are pregnant or have children of their own. Since they face multiple tasks during a crucial phase of their own development, parenting grandparents need a social service system that responds to their needs.

As recommended by the Child Welfare League of America (Child Welfare League of America 1994; National Commission on Family Foster Care 1991), following are some of the strategies that are especially crucial in promoting intergenerational interventions:• offering services to the parents as well as the grandparents to meet their own needs as caregivers as well as the child’s needs,• providing adequate financial supports, especially in view of the precarious financial conditions of many grandparents,• monitoring the child’s placement in kinship care, so as to ensure the child’s well-being as well as address the needs of the kinship family, and• encouraging practitioners to appreciate and respect each the child’s and family’s cultural, racial, and ethnic identity.

In addition, there needs to be attention to the ongoing psychosocial issues that many parenting grandparents experience as they are faced with their own basic physical, emotional, and financial adjustments (Poe 1992), the interaction between parents and grandparents, with its potential for frustration and conflicts, the issue of permanency planning for children placed with relatives, and the parents’ own need for help in connection with their own problems as well as their functioning as parents. Various authors consider these issues in detail. For example, Poe (1992) offers implications for policy and treatment in the situations of black grandparents.

Doucette-Dudman and LaCure (1996) present guidelines for helping grandparents and social service professionals cope with the challenges inherent in grandparent parenting. Generations United (1998) offers recommendations and strategies for dealing with economic supports, health care, education, child care, and legal issues in the situations of grandparents and other relatives raising children. Maluccio (1999) describes intergenerational approaches to helping families at risk, such as foster grandparent programs, mentoring of young mothers by elderly persons, and having older adults work with families experiencing child abuse or neglect.

Child-Focused and Family-Centered Practice In perspective of Welfare LawSocial Work Practice requires that we maintain a principal focus on the child within a family-centered context. As discussed more extensively elsewhere, such a focus suggests that, in most cases, the child can best be helped by regarding the family as the central unit of service or focus of attention, whenever and as much as possible. Human beings can best be understood and helped within their significant environment, and the family is the most intimate environment of all. It is here that the child develops and forms her or his identity and basic competence.

The family has the potential to provide resources throughout the life cycle, especially as its members are sustained and supported by various services (Germain 1999). The family’s own environment can be employed as the arena in which practitioners intervene to help strengthen communication, parenting skills, and parent-child relationships.As reflected throughout this volume, we consider the following guidelines as especially important in implementing child-focused and family-centered practice:• There is emphasis on prevention and intervention strategies that reduce stress and risk and promote coping and resilience in children and families.

• Practitioners must understand the relationship between race/racenicity and issues such as family norms, child-rearing practices, childhood and family poverty, discrimination, and funding of social services.

• Assessment and intervention focus on the family’s transactions with its kinship system, school, community institutions, and other social networks that affect its functioning. Intervention strategies are directed not only toward engaging the family in treatment but also toward changing the social systems that influence it. There is emphasis on case management strategies and community-based approaches that help empower vulnerable clients (Rothman 1994).

• Many parents can be helped to become rehabilitated or to plan responsibly for their children through family treatment approaches as alternatives to placement of children out of their homes or as methods of speeding up the reunification of placed children with their families. For example, birth parents of children at risk can be empowered through the use of group training.

• When children are separated as a result of hospitalization, imprisonment, foster home placement, or residential placement, family ties between them and their families should be preserved as much as possible, through such means as consistent parental visiting. The natural bonds between children in care and their parents may continue to be important for most parents and children long after they are physically separated for either short-term or long-term periods.

• Foster family, group care, or residential placement of a child should be seen as a part of the overall service rather than as the service-as a tool, rather than as an end in itself. In line with this, there should be efforts to have parents, foster parents, or other child care personnel regard themselves as partners in a shared undertaking, with common goals and mutually supportive and complementary roles.

• A major source of help often can be the family’s extended kinship system. (Danzy and Jackson 1997) as in situations involving parental substance abuse. As another example, in many cases the extended family, with agency support, can help a parent avert placement or reduce the duration of placement in an unfamiliar setting.

• Mutual aid groups, such as those for vulnerable adolescents, gay and lesbian youths, sexual abuse survivors, or bereaved children, can be therapeutic as well as empowering (Gitterman and Shulman 1994).


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