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SWM201 Child, Youth and Family in Social Work Practice

Case Study

Sarah 23 is the single parent of her 7-year-old daughter Sally. Sally is an only child with no father or grandparents. Sarah grew up as an orphan and has no contact with family. Sarah is currently on a single parent payment along with a job seeker’s benefit. Sarah and Sally have been living in a private rental studio apartment for the past 2 years, she pays the rent regularly and owns her
own vehicle. Sally does not attend school and is often left alone in the apartment. Sarah is currently in a relationship with John. John does not reside with Sarah and Sally; however, he does visit frequently when he chooses.
The family was referred to your service for assessment by the Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) following an anonymous call to the children at risk of significant harm Helpline reporting facility. It was reported that loud yelling, banging sounds and crying can be heard from the apartment at least once a week. The report is based on an initial home visit, client interview and background information provided predominately through DCJ




Sarah, age 23, raises her daughter Sally, age 7, on her own. Neither of Sally’s parents are around, and she has no grandparents. Sarah has no relatives or friends because she was raised alone. Sarah is now receiving a subsidy for single parenting and a job seeker’s allowance. Sarah and Sally have shared a private renting studio for the past two years; Sarah is a reliable tenant who pays her rent on time every month and who also has her own car. Sally doesn’t go to class, so she spends a lot of time at home alone. As of right now, Sarah is seeing John. Although he does not live with them, John pays Sarah and Sally frequent visits.


Following an anonymous contact to the Children at Risk of Significant Harm Helpline reporting facility, we were provided with a report regarding their household. At least once a week, residents of the unit have reported hearing loud screaming, slamming sounds, and weeping coming from within the building.

Background Information

Anyone who is worried about a child or young person’s safety, welfare, or wellbeing and has cause to believe that the child or young person is in imminent danger of severe harm is encouraged to contact the Child Protection Helpline immediately. Sarah and Sally were in peril, so someone called the Child Protection Helpline.(Tilbury 2020, 230-232)

If the possibility for damage is not considered to be severe, the referring agency should either provide and organize assistance directly, or send the person to another service through the established channels of referral. Human Services Network (HSNet) ServiceLink is another option for locating necessary help, as is the recently implemented Family Referral Services. Obtaining the family’s consent is a necessary step before making any referrals. (Kiraly and Humphreys’s 2017, 230-232)

A child or young person is in severe danger when circumstances that give rise to substantial cause for fear for his or her safety, welfare, or wellbeing really exist. This situation is so grave that the government should act without first obtaining consent from the family. To be aware of the indicators of child abuse and neglect is a civic duty shared by all members of society. The community has an obligation to ensure the safety, well-being, and contentment of its members. After an incident, concerning behavior, or disturbing discovery, it may be important to take action to protect a child or young person from significant damage.


Sexual abuse of children affects people of various backgrounds, demographics, and socioeconomic statuses. Despite this, several studies have demonstrated that criminals specifically target children and families that exhibit particular traits and who are already under stress, marginalized, and feeling vulnerability. Typically, the abuser is someone the victim knows or has some other connection to (such as another kid, neighbour, caretaker, relative, or direct family member).(Baranay 2014, 311)

To characterize the offender’s actions toward the victimized kid, their family, and the society at large, the term “grooming” is commonly used. The actions are geared on expanding the kid’s exposure to sexual abuse, making it more difficult for the child to reveal the abuse, and lowering the likelihood that the child’s disclosure would be believed. Disclosure in cases of child sexual abuse is more likely to occur gradually over time as part of a process rather than as a one-off incident. It is illegal to sexually assault a child. (Davis 2014, 24)

Signs of sexual abuse in children and young adults include precocious sexual knowledge or behavior. The term “problematic sexual behavior” (PSB) is used to characterize sexually-related actions taken by a kid that fall beyond the acknowledged “normal” range for their age and developmental stage. Harmful sexual behavior (HSB) occurs when one kid uses his or her position or influence to force another youngster to participate in sexual activity without their permission. A signal that the youngster showing the harmful sexual behavior has been the subject of violence, abuse, or neglect is another possible marker of sexual abuse.

The emotional, physical, psychological, and relational growth and welfare of all children should be taken into account when determining the extent of “damage” experienced by any kid. Due to the wide variety of potentially dangerous sexual behaviours and the wide variety of children and family situations, there is no one reaction or intervention that is appropriate for all children who exhibit such behaviors. Interventions ranging from early detection and prevention through diagnosis and treatment are required. Sometimes, the reaction of child protection services or the criminal court system is required when dealing with a small number of children.

When minors under the age of criminal responsibility exhibit dangerous or troubling sexual behaviors, the NSW Health Sexual Assault Services are there to help. Delivering therapeutic assistance or providing case management and warm referrals to another provider that does so are also viable options for this kind of response. Discover the signs, learn the facts, and take action against child sexual abuse with this comprehensive toolkit for professionals. In cases when sexual abuse of a child has been reported or suspected but not verified, this book offers practitioners useful information on how to recognize the signs of abuse, interpret them, and respond appropriately. (Reporting Framework 2022, 7)

Helping to Make it Better is an easily digestible pamphlet that addresses parents’ top worries about sexual abuse of children and its potential effects on kids and families. Parents are given helpful guidance on how to soothe their children who have undergone sexual abuse. Information regarding child sexual abuse and its potential impacts on children and families is presented in an accessible style in Helping to Make it Better. It addresses the most common questions asked by worried parents and provides insight into the mechanics of child sexual abuse. In addition, parents are given resources for supporting their children who have experienced sexual assault (AAS 2015, 39). The Department of Culture and Justice Services provides information on the services involved in investigating and responding to allegations of sexual assault against children. (MED 2015, 23)  It demonstrates how helping a victim of sexual assault might end up helping her whole family. The revised edition now has two additional pages of new content. The first is designated for families that trace their heritage to the Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander peoples. Your second option is to seek professional help if your youngster has been the victim of sexual assault by another minor. In this article, we examine the procedures followed by the Department of Consumers and Justice Services upon receipt of a report of alleged child sexual assault. It shows how support services might be useful for the loved ones of victims of sexual assault. Two additional cheat sheets were added to the revised edition. The primary priority is given to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. The second possibility is that your kid has been the victim of sexual assault at the hands of another kid. (NSW 2009, 1)

Personal and Professional Challenges

  • Given the potentially significant risks to children’s safety including risk factors, such as physical or sexual abuse or addiction, present in certain homes, grant communities noted that it is frequently difficult for agencies to change from a pathology-based paradigm to a customized, strengths-based approach.
  • Among the many challenges to establishing and maintaining a person-cantered, strengths-based approach in child welfare, frequent staff turnover has been cited by both supervisors and directors of grantee projects. Employees burnout, overburdening of the remaining staff, and most crucially, the kid’s or family’s sense of rejection and insignificance are all possible outcomes of the frequent staff turnover that plagues the child welfare sector.
  • Because of their high caseloads, child welfare professionals often have little time to spend with families. This is one of the main issues they confront. Time constraints have several negative outcomes that go counter to the concept of strengths-based, personalised treatment. It’s a common barrier to holding regular meetings of the child and family team, which might be beneficial for the team’s success. It’s not uncommon for caseworkers to have to have team meetings at the child welfare office rather than in a community setting due to a lack of time to adequately prepare for or travel to a more family-friendly venue.

Personal Values

When workers in the field of child welfare often switch jobs, it can cause morale problems, overburden the remaining employees, and most significantly leave the children and their families feeling rejected and unimportant. Grantees have noted that one difficulty with strengths-based care is the time and frustration involved in continually training new employees to the systems of care philosophy, values, and practices.

Social Ethics

Abuse is a serious problem because it violates several important ethical concepts, including beneficence, non-maleficence, justice, and autonomy. The elderly are not the only weak members of society that are affected by this phenomenon; other vulnerable groups of society, such as children, persons with disabilities, women, and those who suffer severe mental illness are also affected.


  • Spend time learning and teaching Sally and making Sarah aware that she has help around if John causes any sort of trouble to her or Sally. In many cases, the greatest method to avoid child abuse is via providing simple assistance for children and parents like in this case to Sarah and Sally. There are various options for keeping kids safe after school, including structured activities, parent workshops, mentorship programs, and temporary child care for working parents. Involve them in local advocacy for these causes.
  • Current public health infrastructures, including research and service delivery systems, are inadequate to handle this problem. Several groups have set an ambitious goal of making substantial and obvious improvements in the near future. This is the type of progress that can be seen and felt in the numerous systems that aid children and their families.


Understanding the complicated roles that culture, social stratification, and other associated contextual variables play in the causes, effects, prevention, and treatment of child abuse and neglect is crucial in view of the increasing diversity of families throughout the world, as seen by the case of Sarah and Sally. ( Gatwiri 2019, 54) In light of Australia’s wide range of family structures, this is something to bear in mind. Understanding the causes and consequences of child abuse and neglect, as well as engagement with child protection services and also other social service systems, requires taking into account cultural processes, the effects of social stratification, ecological differences, and immigrant/acculturation status. Insight like this is made possible by these factors. Methods of prevention and intervention, as well as the social validity and practical application of evidence-based approaches, benefit from thorough evaluation of these factors.

However, the methodological sensitivity needed to fully parse the roles and interrelationships of these elements throughout child abuse and neglect studies has not been adequately included despite a growing corpus of research addressing varied experiences based on race, ethnicity, and social environment. Despite the fact that more and more studies are looking into these distinctions, they persist. Furthermore, these factors are often overlooked in the major motivations behind ongoing research and the development of new programs. (NSW 2009, 2)


Books and Journals

Andrew Wood “The origins of family systems wok Social workers’ contributions to the development of family theory and practice” (2020) 143 LQR 122 at 124.

Claire Tilbury “The right of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children and Families to effective child protection services” (2020) 290 LQR 293 at 294.

Meredith Kiraly and Cathy Humphreys’s “The Changing Face of Out-of-home Care in Australia – Developing Policy and Practice for the 21st Century” (2017) LQR 230 at 232.

Christabelle Baranay: The Forgotten Children: National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention 2014 (5th ed, Australian Human Rights Commission, Australia, 2014) at 311.


AASS: Preparing for culturally responsive and inclusive social work practice in Australia: Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples (Australia Association of Social Worker, report January 2015) at 39.

Child Wellbeing & Child Protection Guidelines (NSW, 2009) at 1

Child Wellbeing & Child Protection Guidelines (NSW, 2009) at 2

Kathomi Gatwiri , Lynne McPherson, Natalie Parmenter , Nadine Cameron , and Darlene Rotumah: Indigenous Children and Young People in Residential Care: A Systematic Scoping Review (Ministry of Economic Development, journal 01/14, November 2019) at 54.

Liz Davis: A Child’s rights perspective (5th ed, Australian Human Rights Commission, EBESCO, 2014) at 24.

Reporting and responding to child wellbeing and safety concerns: Protecting children from harm is a responsibility shared by everyone in the community. Making a report about suspected child abuse or neglect is an important part of this responsibility, Reporting Framework 02/06, February 2022) at 7.

Social Care Institute for excellence: Hear no evil, see no evil (Ministry of Economic Development, report 05/19, July 2015) at 23.

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