Child Welfare and Family Preservation
Dealing with children and being a voice for their rights and their needs is an important aspect of being a social worker. However, we also have to be able to be non-judgemental and level headed and be able to determine the cause for the referral to our agency.
We need to be able to see how, and why the maltreatment or negligence is happening, and what are the causes of it. Each case that we will come to will be different and we must treat each case as such. I believe that depending on the risk to the child/children and what the case overall is, we must then determine if we must go the family preservation route or just remove the children and place in foster care. Ultimately, if as social workers we take the whole picture in and we make the determination that the problem is minor and it is a cause of lack of education, lack of resources, then ultimately the family preservation must be done.
According to the Child Welfare League of America (as cited in Mullins, Cheung, & Lietz, 2012), Family Preservation Services were “developed largely in response to the over-reliance on out-of-home care and the recognition that separating children from their families can be traumatic, possibly leaving lasting negative effects. Overall, the research does not completely show that Family Preservation Services is completely and totally the best for children and their families, but above all some research goes to show that this is because of the professional relationship between the social worker and the family.
For example the study done by Mullins, Cheung and Lietz (2012), revealed that “families seemed to be saying they desire services that are challenging and relevant, delivered in a way that is respectful and responsive, that their relationships with providers create a context for making difficult change and that the combination of emotional and tangible support makes these changes possible. In essence the families that had a positive outcome and benefited from Family Preservation Services in the study, were the ones that had a better working relationship with the social worker.
The successful clients were the ones who were given better help and better resources and were able to rectify the situation that led them to be referred in the first place. The other families with the negative outcomes explained that the help that they received was not personalized to their family and it did not tailor their needs and did not seem to help them overcome the issue. Every family dynamic is different and we must be able to tailor the programs to each family. Social work is not a one size fits all program.
Permanency planning and Family Preservation both have its positives and negatives. The more I read the more I think that if we could find a happy medium between both of these policies that would be ideal. Above all Family Preservation allows for a social worker to apply the strength perspective to help a family and allows for the family to get help as a whole and allows them to obtain the resources to become independent for the social services system. However, there have been cases that ultimately have led to horrible crimes and abuse committed against children even after the family has gone through the Family Preservation system. The permanency planning while it acknowledges that the family home is the best place for the children, it will remove the children and a plan needs to be developed immediately, and monitored closely.
The plan is to be able to have a permanent living arrangement for the child as fast as possible. If the child cannot stay in their home then “steps should be taken to legally free the child for a permanent placement at the earliest time possible.” (Popple & Leighninger, 2015, p. 223) The next steps would be to try and get the child adopted and if not able to then to get the child in a long term foster care. The negatives to this is that often times if a child is not adopted, they will be in the foster system until the legal age, and many times they will be bounced from foster home to foster home and not have a stable environment. A negative to this system is also that there are too many children that need foster homes and not enough foster homes to meet the needs of this system.
As a social worker I would prefer to use the Family Preservation system as my first response, however this I believe depends on what the problems that lead to the referral in the first place are. Family Preservation is a good approach if the family needs resources and are willing to make the changes possible. If it is a severe case of abuse, neglect or sexual abuse then immediate removal is necessary then we would have to proceed with the permanency planning because a child should not be subject to that. I think if we could come to a policy that would be able to have both systems incorporated then it would be the best.