The Relational Chain Pp February24,2009


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The Relational Chain Pp February24,2009

  1. 1. The Relational Renaissance February 24, 2009 Partnering for a Stronger Tomorrow Jean Lafrance Ph.D
  2. 2. What drives me to do this  45 years  Hindsight  Talking to people who have been in my care  Learning about residential schools  Creating Hope Society
  3. 3. What this may do for you  Make you glad   Make you sad   Make you mad @#!+_**&^
  4. 4. Reforming Child Welfare Demolition- Do we begin anew? Renovation- Do we continue to tinker?
  5. 5. Renovation ?
  6. 6. Demolition?
  7. 7. Why a relational chain?  Bureaucratic policies and procedures that dominate child welfare services.  Relational considerations used to be primary in child protection services  Due to period of managerialism and focus on technical considerations, fell out of favor
  8. 8. Front Line Social Worker I think that any management system wants work to be done efficiently and expediently. These words have nothing to do with the quality of relationship. Change is based on relationship, which can’t be measured. So the two systems don’t easily work together.
  9. 9. Bureaucratic influences on child welfare  [the] “more perfectly the bureaucracy is ‘dehumanized’, the more completely it succeeds in eliminating from official business love, hatred, and all purely personal, irrational and relational elements which escape calculation. This is the specific nature of bureaucracy and it is appraised as its special virtue” (Max Weber, retrieved July 27, 2006).
  10. 10. Present day child welfare organizations  In spite of massive investments of resources, few are satisfied with the outcomes achieved by child welfare services. In Alberta 1.9 billion dollars  Hardly a day goes by without a major child welfare crisis somewhere in the Western world.  There are calls for procedural solutions or resources to minimize the repetition of ‘errors’ that call attention to ‘deficiencies’.
  11. 11. Legacy of child welfare reviews  Increased paperwork, to the point where the time spent on casework with clients is now far less than the time needed to document their interventions.
  12. 12. These include  New procedures, safeguards, protocols, training and information requirements abound • Risk assessment • Sophisticated information systems • Rigid timelines • Greater specification of responsibilities and reporting requirements, • New legislation, to name only a few
  13. 13. This can result in an iron cage  No one knows who will live in this cage in the future, or whether at the end of this tremendous development entirely new prophets will arise, or there will be a great rebirth of old ideas and ideals or, if neither, mechanized metrification embellished with a sort of convulsive self- importance. (Elwell, Retrieved July 27, 2006).
  14. 14. The Iron Cage
  15. 15. What about relationships?  When do the recommendations focus on the quality of supportive relationships between the social workers, children and their families, caregivers, and the community?
  16. 16. Public Crises of confidence  Child deaths created a lack of confidence in social work processes  Government blamed for not having or making good use of information
  17. 17. Fundamental change  Transformed the core issue in child welfare from the rehabilitation of the family to protecting the child from violence  In Alberta, the death of Richard Cardinal signaled the beginning of this process.
  18. 18. The key question became increasingly  How can we keep children from being killed by their parents?  The ball is now in the court of administrative and legal processes instead of the professional and rehabilitative
  19. 19. Changing Roles  Shift from therapy to surveillance and control  Social work discretion seemed to result in children being killed.  Therefore, discretion had to be reduced!
  20. 20. Prescription  The emphasis in CPS became primarily to protect children and less to support families • Need to create routines for social workers to follow if children were to be protected • Social workers need to obey rules and follow procedures • Should we even have social workers?
  21. 21. Child Welfare workers as passive agents  “Drilled” people who would act as desired if properly chosen and placed within an appropriately designed structure  This created passive agents who can be managed  Creativity can be dangerous as may step out of bounds
  22. 22. Practical Implications  More information/ investigations  Evidence must be gathered  Detailed guidelines established for child welfare workers
  23. 23. Assumption about Parents  If we are not confident in our ability to support the family, we had best be able to predict their potential for dangerousness
  24. 24. But The number of child deaths that come to public attention do not seem to be changing.
  25. 25. So, how does the system look from the bottom up?  From child welfare workers  From the parents themselves
  26. 26. What do Child Welfare Workers want?  Relationship  Creativity  Leadership
  27. 27. Bent Arrow Experience  Time for reflection  Collaboration between CWW in an Aboriginal agency and government staff  Insights into benefits of co-location  Insights into impact of work context
  28. 28. Why does it all have to be so complicated? A social worker’s story
  29. 29. A Child Welfare Worker view on relationships  It was very clear to me, one, the importance of relationship and really getting to know the youth and. . . . so you get to know them so well . . . They just wanted connection and they wanted relationship
  30. 30. And another  . . .you’re reminding me why I became a social worker many years ago. It was because that relationship with the children and the family, not worrying about a thousand overdue things
  31. 31. The vision- If we can renew our focus on relationship  Ultimately we will have improved outcomes for families, increased stability at all levels of the organization, a revised definition of successful family stories and everyone (workers and families) will be treated with greater respect.
  32. 32. Provocative Questions
  33. 33. If relationship were important  Would our offices not be more client friendly?  Why cipher locks and shatterproof panels?  Would our workers spend the bulk of their precious time at computer screens
  34. 34. And another  (relationship) is just taking us back to why we’ve gone into the field. It’s so very basic and simple. It’s to build relationships, and ultimately, it’s a very simple concept
  35. 35. For children and families  Would we place children hundreds of miles away from their communities and families  Would professional staff be so unavailable to the children in their care?  Would there be so many specialists in the lives of children, few of whom create continuity?  Would so many children spend their lives in care and end up on the streets and in jail?
  36. 36. Creativity
  37. 37. Creativity  the group spirit is infectious when you’re around a bunch of people who want to do different service and be creative. It lights a spark in your own creativity that will allow you to develop further creativity
  38. 38. Creativity  There is truth in the specifics- The policy makers are trying to globalize rules to fit every situation, when what really needs to happen is to look at the specifics of the truth.
  39. 39. Creativity  It takes courage to do what is right in social work  There is a lot of fear in the Ministry’s at all levels.
  40. 40. Provocative Questions- If creativity were important?  Would leadership look askance at those who push the envelope?  Would we keep being weighed down with ever increasing information requirements? • Would the procedural bounds that contain our creativity not be loosened?
  41. 41. If Creativity were important we might have:  A more effective service system that is focused on meaningful interventions and collaboration with families and their communities
  42. 42. Leadership
  43. 43. Leadership  Concern that leadership has lost touch due to a overriding concern with optics and politics  A hope that leaders can regain a focus on what is ‘real’ and truly needed for the front line.
  44. 44. If leadership were valued, would we not have . ..  A commitment to make it work at all levels  Greater interest in each others point of view  Allow natural leaders to lead  Allow all people to shine – including children, families and communities
  45. 45. When things turn out badly  There’s a very punitive kind of approach when things go bad but we’re dealing with high-risk families, we’re dealing with high- risk kids and sometimes those risks become insurmountable in certain situation. I would like . . . policy makers to know that we deal with high risk people, and that’s not always going to turn out well
  46. 46. Central Region Study 1996  Stories from parents on CPS caseload  Dialogue between parents and child welfare
  47. 47. What they wanted  To have their entire story heard  To form a relationship  To help define the problem  To be involved in the solution  To be respected and treated with dignity  “I think I know what we should do”
  48. 48. Stories validated by research  Latest theory discount relevance of variety of helping models  What creates change • 30 % relationship with worker • 40 % other relationships • 15% trust and confidence in worker • 15% the specific technique
  49. 49. What I have to tell you about Aboriginal Mothers Experiences  Based on three studies • Jumping Through the Hoops – Manitoba • Broken Promises – BC • Broken Hearts - Alberta
  50. 50. Compare and Contrast  Reflect on these on these as I describe some of the findings
  51. 51. Insights from Aboriginal Mothers  The decisions to bring children into care are made between the child welfare worker and the mother.  This should be the most important voice for policy makers and decision makers to hear.
  52. 52. Aboriginal Mothers How it looks from their vantage point
  53. 53. Why am I saying this?  Based on three important studies in BC, Alberta and Manitoba
  54. 54. Mothers Experiences with Child Welfare  Fear • I was even scared to go for treatment because I figured … if I’m gonna go for treatment then it means I got a problem and they’re gonna find a reason to take my kids away and that’s what happened, right
  55. 55. Being Monitored  They had people watching my home and I’m going to try to make a court case saying that’s invasion of my privacy and movements  Drug and alcohol testing
  56. 56. Triggering mothers anger  it appeared to them that the social workers deliberately tried to make them angry. • “They want to set you up. There are key words and there are key things they try to throw at you to make you fly off the handle”
  57. 57. Visits with children  I looked forward to the Saturday visitations I had with them for an hour. That was very hard, very hard. To see them crying because they had to leave me and it’s not like I could walk to a park and be alone with them, I had to be supervised. I’m not an abusive mom … that I could not understand. What did they think I was going to do with my kids? It was awful.
  58. 58. Worry about harm to their children in care  At one point my family had to intervene because my kids were in a foster home where it was a cult. There was sexual abuse going on, there was physical abuse going on, the foster mom actually got her licensed pulled…a lot of my son’s and my daughter’s psychological abuse and physical abuse stemmed from that particular foster home.
  59. 59. Programming  “parenting programs … I don’t even know how many programs … I went for treatment. … I got so many certificates its unreal.”  There is no rhyme and reason to the types and/or number of programs that mothers are required to attend.
  60. 60. Jumping through the hoops  He wanted me to jump through hoops and I didn’t like… You have to try and prove to them that you’re trying to get them back and you’re trying to do everything they want you to do. In order to do that you’ve got to … I felt like I was always kissing their ass…
  61. 61. Rights of mothers  I didn’t know any of my rights. I didn’t know I could’ve hired a lawyer. I could have had support services come in…. CFS didn’t sit down and say “look we can give you a support worker; we can suggest this program and that program to you.” None of that was done. It was just “okay, here’s a court date, come for your kids.”
  62. 62. Lack of advocates  “The advocate…wasn’t allowed in the courtroom. Well … what I said was, “oh, you guys are allowed all your people but I’m not allowed to have mine?” I think it is important for these women to have someone there with them because they become emotional … you’ve got these people bashing you, your character and your parenting. No you need someone there! “
  63. 63. Mother’s Recommendations  Development of Aboriginal Mothers’ Advocacy  Manual on Understanding the Child Welfare and Legal Systems  Mothers’ Support Groups  Allow close family, friends and other supporters into courtrooms.  Development of a Website  Anthology of Aboriginal mothers and grandmothers’ Stories and Experiences
  64. 64. Provocative Questions  Why are there no alternatives to adversarial legal systems?  Why do social workers and mothers have to be adversaries?  What are we waiting for to have Mother’s Advocates?  What is stopping us from providing easily understood information about the workings of the system?  Do we know how helpful are all the hoops?  How can we better teach our child welfare workers to manage their helping and authoritative role?
  65. 65. Max Weber’s fear  Does this information validate Weber’s fear that growing areas of life would be subjected to decision making according to technical rules, diminishing creative thinking and self direction on the part of its members
  66. 66. The Relational Chain Merging logic and emotion
  67. 67. Objective of the Relational Chain To create programs that are more fully responsive to the families and communities we serve and those who serve them.
  68. 68. A powerful tool to:  Translate community needs into a program planning model that can be more easily understood and applied by policy makers, managers, and front line workers.  Bring greater coherence to social work practice by measuring outcomes of heart and mind, the essence of holistic practice
  69. 69. The Relational Chain  Addresses issues from the social work lens of people in the context of their environment, with a specific focus on relationships.  It acknowledges the connection between individuals, groups, and systems, and their interplay with each other.  It is consistent with a world view that sees everything in the universe as intimately connected; a worldview that quantum physics now reinforces..
  70. 70. Renaissance of relationship based practice  There is a burgeoning interest in the importance of relationship and connection to each other.  Driven in part by fatigue and frustration with the rigidly managed, risk-aversive, reactive practices that have invaded social work practice.
  71. 71. Why now?  We work in a reductionist approach to individuals; implementing interventions based on surface problems rather than addressing the root causes.
  72. 72. What does this do?  It contributes to diminishing the potential for creativity at a time when it is most needed  Focusing on rigid policies, procedures and gate keeping rather than on understanding the children and families involved means that the all important relationships suffer (Houston & Griffiths (2000).
  73. 73. Current Situation PROBLEM STATEMENT Must be succinct and accurate CURRENT REALITY Elaborates on the issue. OBJECTIVE What do we want to achieve?
  74. 74. Now what?  What activities can we undertake?  Target Group – who will be affected?  Resources – what do we need to do this?
  75. 75. Anticipated Outcomes  For children, families and communities  Systemic – what will it do for the system  Ultimate vision – 20 year time frame
  76. 76. Internal and external considerations  What assumptions can we make?  What external influences can come to bear?
  77. 77. Quality Assurance  What will we want to know  How will we know it?
  78. 78. Current Reality  Children continue to die which creates more procedures and guidelines  Increasingly likely that some worker will have failed to meet some requirement  All worker and supervisor has to do is to go by the book to avoid responsibility  This kind of social work may not be effective but it can be ‘right’.
  79. 79. Glimmers of Hope  Becoming clear that all of this activity is not reducing the numbers of children who die  Alienated clients and practice-worn child welfare workers are setting up fresh conditions  Discourse on ‘child protection’ sets up new possibilities
  80. 80. Cautions  This research does not pretend to be definitive  Can lead to asking the right questions and to examine existing practice more closely  May apply to many other fields of practice
  81. 81. Implications  Perhaps we are spending too much precious time and resources trying to control for factors that are impossible to control.  If so, what are we missing that we could be doing with our time and resources that would be more useful and productive?
  82. 82. What can we do?  Reflect on our practice and policies  Create dialogue between workers and clients  Dialogue between workers and clients and the policy and managerial domain
  83. 83. Reflections  Challenge ourselves on why we spend so much of our precious time and energy on possibilities that have a .001 likelihood of happening and which we cannot really predict anyway
  84. 84. Resolve the paradox  Organizational rigidity and client preferences for flexible and innovative responses can create a paradox for child welfare workers  Minimize the sources of tension and create a more satisfying environment for families and those who serve them.  Clear that clients very much preferred a practice orientation that was consistent with social work values and principles.
  85. 85. Process versus Task  “. . .families hoped for a helping process that depended upon social workers having time to listen, and one that treated them as unique individuals worthy of dignity and respect”  Clients long to have their whole story heard instead of many people dealing with fragments
  86. 86. Creativity versus prescription  If anything it opened up the door with workers to be more creative with their clients. We’re supposed to fit them into categories, instead of making something out of this for the client. Now at least you feel that there is some room. That was a bit of a highlight.  I think we need to have more leeway in the services we provide to families, because they don’t fit the categories, sometimes we have to do something special and we need the freedom to do that.
  87. 87. Community Partnership versus isolation  Most social workers did not recall clients comments about community  Some clients had suggested that the community could better support families with important and predictable life transitions, such as those triggered by the onset of adolescence.  I thought it was very idealistic. It would be nice if the community could help more, but I see us [living] in a very isolated world right now.
  88. 88. What the study did for the workers  They seemed more prepared to acknowledge the legitimacy of client perceptions on service limitations, and more responsive to their requests for more creative and flexible responses to their needs. Ultimately the study process gave them greater confidence in seeking approval for creative service responses that went beyond the boundaries of existing policy.
  89. 89. One worker sums it up  I have to say that it [the process] made me cockier. This made me much more confident that if I came up with a creative plan my manager would hear it out.