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Counselling Families in partnership with Child Youth and Family: a co-gender approach. Yvonne Perkins & Wendel Foerster
Rationale Traditionally parents who have had their children removed by CYFS are mandated to receive help. On many occasions they are in conflict with the referral agency (usually CYFS). Many times counsellors are seen by the family as being aligned with CYFS. On many occasions CYFS perceives counsellors to be aligning with the family.
.   This is why working collaboratively with both parties was uppermost on our minds as we proceeded with this family. The family had not engaged with help so far,    and were described by CYFS as  “ sabotaging help.”  We saw this as an opportunity to do something different.
Introducing the family. Parents Wendy and Tom Children    Sally  11 years Peter 10 years Megan  8 years Ben   2 years
Goals of therapy from CYFS To ensure the parents become effective parents. For the children to be kept safe from parent’s friends who were regarded as unsafe. For parents to satisfactorily attend to the children’s physical, emotional and developmental needs. For parents to interact appropriately with all the children.
Our Proposal Two initial assessment sessions to ascertain the parents’ willingness to engage in the counselling process. Follow up summary report of the sessions for CYFS. Meeting with CYFS to discuss any further counselling. Ongoing further negotiations in small steps
The Process as it Unfolded Identifying the family’s concerns. Identifying parents motivation for change.  Homework.  Progress report after two sessions negotiating therapy with parents and CYFS. Imaginary Family work.
Trouble shooting.  Case Conferences with CYFS, school and carers, lawyers. Meet kids on their own.  Feedback to parents and CYFS. Parenting as a team. Strengthening the parental relationship. Final session
Theoretical Considerations WHY CO-GENDER? Gives a balance within the room so people can recognise someone the same as them. Models respectful egalitarian relationship by therapists. People are more likely to let you ask more challenging questions when you are the same the gender.
Allows opportunities for therapists to debrief and learn from each other. Allows opportunities for therapist conversation with each other within the room so that family can take a reflective stance. Allows for this work to be experienced as different from previous encounters with professionals. Improves understanding and clarity of our role and the social workers’ role.
Outcomes Children are back home. Undesirable visitors no longer visit. Parents are actively engaged in working as a team. Children’s behaviour is markedly improved.  Household routines are established with age appropriate chores etc. Father is in more secure work.
Father has a less authoritarian approach to parenting. Dogs are under control - back yard tidy Mother now has drivers license and is involved in their school and after school activities such as coaching netball.  Mother’s fitness has improved - has developed some interests of her own such as scrap booking. There’s no more “lawyer talk” (re CYFS). CYFS worker is satisfied with changes made - still monitoring the family.
References Anderson, H.  Collaborative Language Systems: Toward a Postmodern Therapy . In Integrating Family Therapy. Mikesell, D. Lusterman, D, & Mc Daniel, S.  APA Washington 1995  Essex, S. and Gumbleton, J.  ‘Similar but Different’ Conversations: Working with Denial in Cases of Severe Child Abuse.  In Australia New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy,1999, Vol.20. No 3, pp139-148. De Jong, P. & Kim Berg, I.  Interviewing for Solutions.  Wadsworth 2002. White, M.  Working with People who are Suffering the Consequences of Multiple Trauma: A Narrative Perspective.  In Trauma: Narrative Responses to Traumatic Experience. Denborough, D. Ed: Dulwich Publication. 2006
 

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W Foerster - Counselling Families with CYF

  • 1. Counselling Families in partnership with Child Youth and Family: a co-gender approach. Yvonne Perkins & Wendel Foerster
  • 2. Rationale Traditionally parents who have had their children removed by CYFS are mandated to receive help. On many occasions they are in conflict with the referral agency (usually CYFS). Many times counsellors are seen by the family as being aligned with CYFS. On many occasions CYFS perceives counsellors to be aligning with the family.
  • 3. . This is why working collaboratively with both parties was uppermost on our minds as we proceeded with this family. The family had not engaged with help so far, and were described by CYFS as “ sabotaging help.” We saw this as an opportunity to do something different.
  • 4. Introducing the family. Parents Wendy and Tom Children Sally 11 years Peter 10 years Megan 8 years Ben 2 years
  • 5. Goals of therapy from CYFS To ensure the parents become effective parents. For the children to be kept safe from parent’s friends who were regarded as unsafe. For parents to satisfactorily attend to the children’s physical, emotional and developmental needs. For parents to interact appropriately with all the children.
  • 6. Our Proposal Two initial assessment sessions to ascertain the parents’ willingness to engage in the counselling process. Follow up summary report of the sessions for CYFS. Meeting with CYFS to discuss any further counselling. Ongoing further negotiations in small steps
  • 7. The Process as it Unfolded Identifying the family’s concerns. Identifying parents motivation for change. Homework. Progress report after two sessions negotiating therapy with parents and CYFS. Imaginary Family work.
  • 8. Trouble shooting. Case Conferences with CYFS, school and carers, lawyers. Meet kids on their own. Feedback to parents and CYFS. Parenting as a team. Strengthening the parental relationship. Final session
  • 9. Theoretical Considerations WHY CO-GENDER? Gives a balance within the room so people can recognise someone the same as them. Models respectful egalitarian relationship by therapists. People are more likely to let you ask more challenging questions when you are the same the gender.
  • 10. Allows opportunities for therapists to debrief and learn from each other. Allows opportunities for therapist conversation with each other within the room so that family can take a reflective stance. Allows for this work to be experienced as different from previous encounters with professionals. Improves understanding and clarity of our role and the social workers’ role.
  • 11. Outcomes Children are back home. Undesirable visitors no longer visit. Parents are actively engaged in working as a team. Children’s behaviour is markedly improved. Household routines are established with age appropriate chores etc. Father is in more secure work.
  • 12. Father has a less authoritarian approach to parenting. Dogs are under control - back yard tidy Mother now has drivers license and is involved in their school and after school activities such as coaching netball. Mother’s fitness has improved - has developed some interests of her own such as scrap booking. There’s no more “lawyer talk” (re CYFS). CYFS worker is satisfied with changes made - still monitoring the family.
  • 13. References Anderson, H. Collaborative Language Systems: Toward a Postmodern Therapy . In Integrating Family Therapy. Mikesell, D. Lusterman, D, & Mc Daniel, S. APA Washington 1995 Essex, S. and Gumbleton, J. ‘Similar but Different’ Conversations: Working with Denial in Cases of Severe Child Abuse. In Australia New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy,1999, Vol.20. No 3, pp139-148. De Jong, P. & Kim Berg, I. Interviewing for Solutions. Wadsworth 2002. White, M. Working with People who are Suffering the Consequences of Multiple Trauma: A Narrative Perspective. In Trauma: Narrative Responses to Traumatic Experience. Denborough, D. Ed: Dulwich Publication. 2006
  • 14.  

Editor's Notes

  1. The family gave permission for this case to be presented and the names are changed to protect confidentiality
  2. Concerns presented by CYFS . Saw this as an effort to see whether it is possible for the family to be safe and children be returned. (Children’s placements seen as sabotaged by the family). Dead animals buried in back yard and live animals out of control. People that were unsafe visiting the home Kids out of control. Not OK DVD and TV shows. House a mess. Parents ineffective not spending enough time with the kids. Father yelling/mother watching TV, lieing not engaged with the kids. Family will not engage with Helping Professionals
  3. Our thinking was to give everyone involved i.e. the family, CYFS and ourselves a chance to pull out with now harm done and with “face saving” (mana not tarnished). 3. Chance to test the water, we knew they (CYF) were willing to try something new because they were so desperate. 4. We didn’t to do anything that we didn’t think was within the realms of possibility. E.G. would meet them and see whether or not they would engage.