Wilma's Social Workshops - Building skills to support families

Piece of the Puzzle

Supervision, Best Practice and 'The System'


Supervision, Best Practice and 'The System'

Whether you are working in not for profit, for a government agency, in a school or in private practice, most of us are (partly) dependent on funding streams to make our services available and affordable for most people. We could not do without them, but at the same time it may feel like funding criteria are limiting us to work according to best practice models.

For those of you who know me, you'll know I'd be talking about child centred, family inclusive and trauma informed practice.

In order to really support a child or adolescent it is often necessary to involve parents or caregivers and work together, with respect for the child's right to confidentiality, in order to achieve long lasting change. Contact with parents could involve psycho-education, working together to figure out what is going on for their child or teenager in their daily life, rather than only in the counselling room. Planning strategies together for support. But certain funding contracts and also Medicare funding does not include sessions with parents. The system seems to be designed to address 1 issue, isolated from the child's context and expecting us, as 'the experts' to fix it, without involving the most important people in child's life; their parents or caregivers.

What about an NDIS funding structure which leaves psycho-social support as the last item on the list of needs, when there just MIGHT be some money left?

What about the principal or manager who is focused on outcomes, figures and presenting a professional face towards the outside world. Of course there is nothing wrong with that. But at times managers may lack understanding of the needs of vulnerable children and their families. Those families may need extra time to build trust and feel safe, they may miss appointments because too much is going on in their lives. This could lead to families being engaged with services for a 'longer time than necessary' and consequently longer waiting lists for services. From a stats perspective this does not look efficient.

But what about the families who keep falling through the cracks, because they are unable to meet 'standards of efficient engagement'? Families with complex needs with children who are at risk deserve our extra effort to engage with them and support them. Prevention could also mean tolerating a lower level of efficiency (to a certain extent) in favour of better results and higher effectiveness in the long run. This may save families, as well as society much hardship, trauma and extra funds for more intensive services.

The same goes for some services who work with families who may not only need someone to listen to their stories, but also need someone advocating for their needs, find information together, talk to other service providers, attend multi-agency meetings on safety plans and preventing outplacement of children where possible.

As a social worker I see all these tasks as part of my role. However time intensive support does not fit well with demands to see more clients per day.

An organisation may profess to have high quality standards. However in order to provide quality services, workers need the support of their organisation and work conditions which support the high demands of their role. Compassion fatigue, burn out and high staff turn over come at an economic cost too.

How can we develop our professional stance, the words to express what is needed for a particular child or family, to respectfully challenge decisions made by people in positions of authority, while offering to think alongside of them for better suiting alternatives, the skills to navigate the system?

Supervision is a good space to work out some of these issues:

What skills do we need to learn?
How to get clear on what is bothering us?
What are the systemic issues?
Where do we stand morally and ethically?
What makes it difficult for us personally to speak up?
What do we need to move from a sense of helplessness and feeling stuck?
What kind of support do we need and from whom?
How can we become more effective in challenging the system?
Are we ready to become leaders and speak up on behalf of vulnerable children and families?

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Piece of the Puzzle

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