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WS5605 Advanced Social Work Practicum

ASSESSMENT ITEM 4: DESCRIPTION

During your final placement you are asked to include a small project in your placement. This can be on any aspect relevant to the agency, the setting, the field of practice or intervention. The idea is that this will be work that helps you to develop your skills to practice as an evidence based practitioner. Research is an integral part of social work practice. During placement you are asked to think of research in the broadest sense, as the “… systematic observation and/or collection of information to find or impose a pattern to make a decision or take some action” (Alston and Bowles, 2018, p. 10). In collaboration with your Field Educator/Task Supervisor, you are asked to think about a project that helps you acquire knowledge about an area of practice useful to your learning and the agency setting.

Reflective Journal – 2

Project Synopsis

For my project, my second reflection offers understanding of different theoretical approaches in the operations of the Department of Child Safety, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs. I was particularly working in the segment of Investigation and Assessment and Ongoing Intervention (I&A, and OI), Rural Team at the Townsville West and Charter Towers Child Safety Service Centre. As reflected in journal 1, I gained knowledge about duties of the I&A and OI teams, participated in Child Safety Support Officer (CSSO) meetings, attended practice panel discussions, Transition from Care (TFC) meetings, family contacts and home visits. 

Upon reflection of my values with this organization, I believe that our ethics are highly aligned. My values social justice and dignity for all strongly resonate with that of the organization I am placed in, that is, I believe in the universal human rights of all individuals, regardless of their race, gender, religion, or social status. I believe that our values affect all parts of our work, including how we respond to the families we serve and to one another, how we structure our activities, set goals, form connections, collect data, assess, plan, and advocate change. Additionally, we also resonate on the importance of protecting the rights of all, catering specially to children. Together, these concepts help us to lead ethical, responsible, and productive lives.

Work Operations and Relevance of Work

My engagement at the department included several tasks, from which I gained insightful knowledge. These included – 

GRO Readiness Training:- I have attended a 2 weeks training. This training was central to my learning in my project. I underwent through case management from the Intake (of child) till the process of reunification by assessing risks with the help of Structured Decision-Making (SDM) Risk Assessment Tool. During this process, I learnt structured decision-making, and SDM Risk Assessment Tool which is critical for a Child Safety Officer (CSO) to assess any potential risk that a child may undergo. Additionally, this training offered learnings regarding risk assessment, decision-making relating to ongoing risk, potential harm, and immediate child safety (Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs, 2022). Pertaining to these factors, the training also helped me to gain an understanding about safety and protection, as well as factors related to children’s relationship with their parents, as family reunification can be an emotional process.

Family Group Meeting:- Herein, the team consisted of Child Safety Officers, Team Leaders, Cultural Practice Advisors and the family of the child. The primary aim of this meeting is to develop a comprehensive case plan consisting of realistic goals and future measures for the child. This is done to ensure that the developed goals are aligned with the child’s primary needs. I participated to discuss the children’s case plans, which included the relationship of the mother and the child, the strengths and weaknesses of that relationship, and any previous fears or dilemmas. The meeting also developed concrete goals for the mother and the solutions to achieve those goals (Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs, 2023). This was discussed to ensure that the child’s safety is prioritized by engaging the mother as a central figure in the child’s life. These case plans are reviewed at every subsequent meeting and updated as needed. 

Charter Towers Family and Carer Interviews:- I visited Charter Towers along with one of my team’s CSO. My participation consisted of witnessing interviews of CSO with child carers and parents. While observing the CSO carefully, I developed insights on how to form a primal rapport with carers and parents, to further the process of interviewing and investigating. The CSO interviews with parents and child carers in an I&A team are an important step in the process of reunification. When a child is removed from their family due to safety concerns, CSO work to address these concerns and develop a case plan to ensure the child’s safety and well-being. CSOs can assist successful reunification and help children return to a safe and stable family environment by working along with families. The CSO had asked a variety of questions concerning the child’s placement arrangements, interactions with family members, and any concerns or issues raised about the child’s safety during these interviews. I was observing the way of interviewing and the open ended questions asked while gaining knowledge on taking interview notes and updating the case notes in Integrated Client Management System (ICMS).

Articulate Learning

By participating in family group meetings, risk assessment, I&A interviews, I have developed knowledge on the real-life challenges faced in the process of reunification. This process can be fraught with challenges. This is especially true when the separation was due to a sensitive or emotional issue. In the GRO readiness training, I learnt the importance of skills of patience, understanding, and empathy from all parties involved. Moreover, I observed in the family meetings that in order to navigate these challenges, it is important to approach the process with open communication, respect for other feelings, and a willingness to work through any complications that arise.

Additionally, I found that it is crucial to acknowledge that change has occurred between parents and the child, and that it might be tedious to rebuild a connection. However, communication is vital here as it helps to clarify misunderstandings and foster empathy. What I particularly found insightful is how the CSOs addressed these issues sensitively and respectfully while acknowledging the pain that was caused. Finally, they allowed exchange of ideas and perspectives for collaborative problem-solving.

Cultivating Learning into Practice

The transition for children after reunification can be challenging in many forms. Strategies that CSOs and team leaders execute can be theoretically explained. A ‘Narrative’ approach to reunification involves exploring the family’s unique story and experiences, including their strengths, challenges, and hopes for the future. This approach emphasizes the importance of listening to families’ voices, respecting their cultural backgrounds and beliefs, and promoting collaborative decision-making, which was widely observed in attended family meetings (Payne, 2020). The Narrative approach used by CSOs helped families to reconnect and heal. By exploring these narratives in a safe and supportive environment, the families gained new insights into the challenges they faced, identified strengths and resources, and developed a shared vision for the future. However, there are also limitations to this approach. Some families were resistant to engaging with their narratives and struggled to disclose traumatic experiences with CSOs. This aided my understanding that while Narrative therapy can be effective in helping families to understand their emotions and experiences, it may not always provide concrete solutions or strategies for addressing complex issues. Overall, the Narrative approach is a valuable tool for reunification that can help families to reconnect with one another and build stronger relationships.  

A ‘Strength-Based’ approach recognizes that families have internal resources that can be mobilized to promote positive change (Payne, 2020). In the family group meetings, I observed the usage of this approach. It focused on identifying these strengths, such as resilience or social support networks, and building on them to enhance family functioning. Strength-Based approach was quite successful in family interviews as well, because it helped shift the focus from what is wrong with the family to what is right. By emphasizing on strengths, this approach helped families feel empowered and motivated to make realistic changes. Research has shown that Strength-Based approach can lead to improved outcomes in child welfare cases, including higher rates of reunification. This is because it allows for more collaborative decision-making processes between parents and professionals, as well as more personalized interventions that are tailored to meet the specific needs of each family. Overall, incorporating the Strength-Based approach into reunification efforts benefitted families successfully navigate their challenges and eventually achieve positive outcomes for children.

Lastly, ‘Evidence-Based’ approach utilizes research findings to inform practice decisions related to reunification (Payne, 2020). Since this involves using interventions that have been proven effective through rigorous evaluation processes, they were used only when required. Yet, this approach was used alongside other approaches that offer more concrete strategies for addressing the specific challenges facing each family. Therefore, my second reflection was theoretical in nature, yet I gained on-site learnings of rapport formation and how to use theoretical approaches in practice. 

References

Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs. (2023, April 18). Child Safety Practice Manual: Reunification is more than returning a child home. https://cspm.csyw.qld.gov.au/practice-kits/permanency-1/reunification/seeing-and-understanding/reunification-is-more-than-returning-a-child-home#Family_engagement

Department of Children, Youth Justice and Multicultural Affairs. (2022, March 18). Child Safety Practice Manual: Factors associated with reunification success or breakdown. https://cspm.csyw.qld.gov.au/practice-kits/permanency-1/reunification/seeing-and-understanding/factors-associated-with-reunification-success-or-b

Payne, M. (2020). Modern Social Work Theory. Bloomsbury Publishing.

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