I was given the opportunity to work with a fourteen year old girl, whom I shall refer to as ‘S’. She is the eldest daughter of a lone female parent with alcohol misuse problems. Her mother and younger sibling were previously referred to the agency and as a result are now receiving support. S also has a thirteen year old brother who receives support from agencies relating to the youth justice system. In light of this S had been perceived as coping well socially and academically at school and within her family home. However as work progressed with her mother, my practice teacher felt that S was taking on a lot of responsibility and was perhaps internalising the emotions this was creating. She had also been reported on a previous occasion to the social work department on a suspicion that she was a young carer.
During supervision with my practice teacher, I was referred the case and the purpose and content of my role was discussed. It was agreed that I would take on a therapeutic role with S, allowing her the opportunity to express her emotions in a safe and secure environment (Catchpole, 2006). In relation to tasks or aspects of work being carried out, I discussed my preference of using a partnership approach, where the worker and service user work together to solve problems (Thompson, 2002b). I viewed this approach as being appropriate considering the service user’s age and developmental stage. Catchpole (2006) states that adolescents are “beginning the long process of change from dependence to independence” (p. 60) and therefore I felt that it was important to include S in all decision making processes regarding our work together as this would promote a sense of empowerment and self-determination within her (Banks, 2006). I was aware that there would be a clear distinction of the power dynamics between us as I am an adult (Catchpole, 2006); therefore I took this approach to ensure S felt that her views and opinions were being respected which promotes anti-oppressive practice (Thompson, 2006).
Through the effective use of supervision with my practice teacher I was able to obtain various forms of background information on S and her family. This is an important aspect of the assessment process as it helps to form a picture of the family and provides the worker with an invaluable insight into the family dynamics and background (Thompson, 2002b). Therefore, during the initial stages of the assessment process, which I followed in accordance with the guidelines set out by the Scottish Executive, (2008), I accessed the initial referral form made by social work to my placement organisation, and the subsequent assessment conducted by my practice teacher of the family. My practice teacher and I, then performed a mapping exercise similar to that of the KIT Model (Collingwood, 2005) which identified possible areas of concern for S and the theories which would help inform my practice with her, such as, Attachment Theory (Thompson, 2002b), Resilience Theory (Newman, 2002) and Lifespan Development (Bee & Boyd, 2003).
With relation to the legal and policy context which informed my practice with S, I was aware that the suspicion of her being a young carer raised issues relating to child protection, under the Children (Scotland) Act 1989, as the Act defines a child in need as one who has caring responsibilities (Gibbons-Wood, et al., 2008, p.81). Colton et al. (2001) conducted research which suggested that the Act covers three categories of children in need of services, these are:
“Children who are not likely to maintain ‘a reasonable standard of health and development’ without services; children whose health and development are likely to be ‘significantly impaired’ without services; and children with a disability”, (p. 88).
They also highlight that the term “need is very broad and lacks adequate guidance on how a practitioner should define the term”, (p. 88).
I believe S falls into the second category...
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