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Statutory Obligations, Requirements And Constraints In Ethics

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Question:

Discuss about the Statutory Obligations, Requirements and Constraints in Ethics?

 

Answer:

Introduction

Over the past few years, there has been development and expansion in the quality and range of family and child services in Australia. it is important to adopt a child centered and family focused approach when providing support to a child who has experienced issues of abuse and neglect. In order to build family resources and necessary kinship connections, it is imperative to focus on the immediate family, and actively involve the parents, the extended family and the support system (Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2010).  Section 5A of the Child Protection Act 1999 of the Australian law recognizes the importance of adopting a child centered approach by asserting that the best interests, well being and safety of a child should be considered paramount in any intervention (Queensland 2016).

Consequently, family and child services comprise a blend of proven, established and innovative practices and interventions. The purpose of this paper is to is to develop a multilayered intervention plan for providing mental health and psychosocial support for a child struggling with abuse and neglect issues. Zoe is a young girl living with her mother, and little brother raised by a drunk and abusive father. The father was arrested for domestic violence and abuse, while Zoe ends up in foster care due to ensuing mental issues. This aims to develop a multi-layered plan to provide psychosocial support and reunite Zoe, her little brother and mother to live in safety. The figure below provides the proposed multi-layered intervention plan.

 

A care package does not provide clear and specific interventions that need to be to be provided, instead it focuses on prioritizing the transfer of clients among the various components that represent the care continuum ( Belfer et al. 2007). In his conceptual framework, Hardiker, Exton and Barker (1991) offer an illustration of the provision of services at the different levels based on the health, developmental and challenges experienced by the client. The base level constitutes the universal services available to all children and families in Australia. It is imperative to note that child neglect and abuse cannot be separated from issues such as homelessness, poverty, drug and alcohol addiction, social isolation, mental health issues, and domestic violence (Commonwealth of Australia 2008). It follows that the provision of universal services, at the basic level, comprising policy framework to ensure poverty reduction, peace and security, good quality housing, income support, childcare, access to education and health, and other services play a critical preventative role concerning issues of child abuse and neglect (Commonwealth of Australia 2008). In normal circumstances, the provision of general universal services and the efforts from the family are adequate to meet the needs of the family, implying that there is no need for additional targeted interventions (Hardiker, Exton and Barker 1991).

Nevertheless, in the case of Zoe, there is a clear violation of the basic universal services as the child is denied of her right to the services identified above. Moreover, the family unit is completely in dysfunctional due to the abusive father and non-protective mother. There is a clear lack of family effort to support Zoe and her young brother to feel safe and secure at the family level. In such circumstances, level 1 interventions comprising targeted social services are necessary. These services target the general population, or the entire target group and/ or community with the intension of aiding them to prevent the development of psychosocial problems.   It is presumed that some parents need additional help and assistance above their own resources and the provisions of the universal services. The level 1 services are designed to provide care to the entire community, including promoting community resilience, establishing adaptive adjustments, community mobilization and community psychosocial education.

Level 2 interventions are targeted to address early risks when they are detected or when they become obvious. These interventions comprise services that target children, families or sub-groups with identified risks to address emerging mild problems or prevent the development of mental health problems.  The intervention is designed to prevent arising temporary crisis or address early difficulties to stop them from getting worse. Interventions are focused to prevent or reduce any emerging psychosocial distress and the approaches include placements, and task-centered methods. Second level support may vary from counseling , to parental support and classroom based psychosocial support for school going children.

Level 3 interventions are targeted to address established difficulties or serious risks among clients. They target the treatment of children or target subgroups demonstrating severe challenges or extreme mental health issues. This level of intervention targets and addresses serious psychosocial stresses, including family breakdown, risk of significant harm and might include significant forced entry into a care system. The aim of level 3 interventions is to reduce any form of severe psychological distress, high risk behaviors, and significantly lower suicidal risks among children and family members. Moreover, level three interventions seek to address identified difficulties, establish links between children and family, facilitate parenting skills and restore family functioning. The goal is to achieve a reunion of the children with the family and foster independent living.

 

Child Development and related Attachment Theories

My plan is going to be influenced by theories surrounding child development and attachment issues. My understanding of child development is critical in assisting me to offer the most relevant and appropriate care to Zoe, her brother and mother. The theoretical background and framework will enable me to determine whether Zoe is proceeding as expected or not. Maslow (1968) highlighted the needs that every child has, including psychological, physiological, egotistical, and social and security, among others. Moreover, Pringle (2013) lists a number of needs that children require to be met in order to achieve satisfactory development including responsibility, security, new experiences, love, recognition and praise. The attachment theory argues that there is an interdependent link between the children care seeking behavior and the parent care provision (Bowlby 1969). A child who is seeking care expects that the adult parent would be available to provide the requisite comfort and protection that reduce sense of fear and satisfactorily meets their needs. It follows that the child will be attached to the caregiver, be it a parent or social worker that provides adequate care that meets their needs.

In the case of Zoe, she feels insecure and unsafe. She is alone and has developed emotional trauma, especially when the memories of violence and abuse keeps coming back to haunt her. It would take serious care to win her trust, make her feel comfortable, safe and secure. According to the attachment theory, failure to meet Zoe’s care seeking goals implies that her behavior will become intense and this will ultimately weaken her attachment. It is important to focus on providing secure early relationships with Zoe, to secure good behavioral, cognitive and emotional outcomes. According to Seden (2002), there is need for early intervention targeted towards supporting primary caregivers, in this case Zoe’s mother, who has difficulties in establishing sensitive attachments because they have a long-term impact on the development of the child.

Involve the child through establishment of resilience groups (level 1)

I intend to involve Zoe in the plan through establishment of a child resilient group to offer her the required psychosocial support. Resilience is a concept that refers to the ability of a child or person to achieve recovery from a past challenging or traumatic event. According to Masten (2001), resilience relates to attaining good outcomes regardless of serious developmental or adaptation threats. In Australia, there has been a shift in focus of the psychosocial support programs from treating emerging symptoms to addressing and promoting resilience among children (Flynn, Dudding and Barber, 2006). Researchers have identified factors that contribute to the development of resilience among children, including competent parenting, positive peer relations, close social support, group activities and a high sense of self-worth (Tol et al., 2009). Seden (2002) observe that problem solving ability, pro-social relationships with adults and developing mental capacity to make sense of the abuse and neglect are critical to attainment of resilience.

In the case of Zoe, she has to develop resilience from a childhood of domestic violence and abuse from her father. It is possible to build resilience by careful planning and supporting Zoe to go through the life changes and establish protective processes to prevent further neglect and abuse (Rutter, 1993). My role as a social worker would be to support Zoe in developing strategies to address the various risk factors in her life, while establishing protective factors to strengthen her resilience (Gilligan, 2001). Moreover, my plan in to establish semi-structured group activities involving Zoe to encourage social support, engage her in recreation with the aim of attaining normalization through peer discussion and group activities. Zoe would engage in weekly semi-structured group activities for 5 weeks with focus being to reduce stigmatization, attain peer support and foster participation.

 

Involving the family through providing parental support (level 2)

My plan is to promote and foster parental support in ensuring holistic psychosocial support for Zoe through involving and engaging her family. Interventions that target families, especially parents are critical in establishing strong psychosocial wellbeing of children. This is because the quality and nature of family experiences play an important role in shaping a child’s ability to cope while growing up, and influences the quality of their mental health, parenting and relationships in future (Gilligan 1991). According to Wallen and Rubin (1997) family plays a critical role in mediating the potential negative effects of domestic violence, abuse and neglect through parental availability, physical protection and safety, support through communication and emotional sensitivity, and role models for promoting positive coping mechanism through control, safety and regulation of emotions. According to Guralnick (1997), a number of features are important to the child-parent relationship, including the quality of the interaction, the range, appropriateness and diversity of experiences and promotion of child’s safety and health. It is important to take care of the needs and context of the family system because strategies that do not engage the parents and children are not effective (McKeown, 2001).

My plan entails reunifying Zoe with her younger brother and mother for them to live happily and safely. As indicated in the multi-layered care plan highlighted in the figure above, my focus for level 2 would be provision of family oriented counseling. The focus would be on scheduled home visits with the aim of building the capacity of Zoe’s mother to offer her the relevant support she needs. Zoe needs more focused care for effective reunion with her mother and brother, hence the need to integrate her family in the counseling process. I will provide a range of family support measures including provision of psycho-education sessions for her mother to increase her awareness and identification of the problem, provision of relevant support required by Zoe, and linking to available social services and support systems. I will also hold individual counseling sessions for Zoe’s mother to increase her wellbeing, given that she was also a victim of domestic violence, and increase her capacity to perform her caretaking duties. Research evidence indicates that involving parents in the child counseling process has positive outcomes for children and the various training interventions for parents have been found to be very effective (Diamond and Josephson, 2005). It is important to engage with Zoe’s mother and train her on the importance of getting involved in promoting the wellbeing of her daughter, providing quality care and transforming the behaviors and feelings of her daughter.

 

Using the Ecological Approach to involve the community

The Bronfenbrenner (1997) ecological model of child development provides a framework for understanding the critical factors existing in the child’s environment and their interrelations. Bronfenbrenner (1997) hypothesized a number of individual level, contextual, family and macro system risk factors that exposed children to abuse and neglect. The factors were mutually embedded and interrelated, and they often contributed in one way or another to child abuse and neglect (National Research Council, 2014). Contextual factors relate to the broad social system, including the neighborhood, poverty and employment that influence the functioning of the family. Poverty at household and family level arising from poor housing, unemployment, low income and single parenting often led to dysfunctional families, with high level of domestic violence, child abuse and neglect. Macro-system risk factors relate to the cultural and social fabric that contribute, perpetuate and maintain issues of domestic violence, abuse and neglect among children (National Research Council, 2014). A history of alcohol and substance abuse also contributes significantly to perpetuation, recurrence and continuation of domestic violence, child abuse and neglect. Parents with substance abuse problem were likely to engage in domestic violence and inflict physical and psychological abuse to their children and other family members.

At the community level, a poor environment has significant social, environment and poor family conditions, which sustain the cycle of abuse and neglect for children (National Research Council, 2014). Lastly, individual characteristics that include inability to handle stress, mental health problems and social isolation all contribute to the creation and sustenance of the risks of child abuse and neglect.

The ecological perspective offers some insights into the effects of negative family environments and the potential impact on the child. Studying these environmental factors will provide me understanding of the factors shaping Zoe’s mental health outcomes and guide me in implementing the multi-layered plan established above. The ecological factors have the potential of escalating the health outcomes and rendering any strategies developed ineffective. I intend to use the information gathered on the ecological factors to design effective strategies for engaging Zoe’s family, community and surrounding support systems to provide the requisite help she needs to be properly integrated in the community.

Statutory obligations, requirements and constraints in ethics

In most instances, the ethical standards in social work are always in line with the legal standards. Nevertheless, in some cases there is a conflict especially when the child in concerned. A social worker is expected to report any arising issues that may be considered critical when dealing with children under distress. Yet, the ethical principles require the social worker to maintain confidentiality, and only use the client information for the intended purpose. As a social worker, I will be forced to consider legal guidelines regarding disclosure of confidential information without the client consent. Other issues that may raise conflict is when Zoe’s parents request to get information and details concerning our social service sessions. Balancing Zoe’s right to privacy and her parent’s right to access information about the counseling session may also arise. Through open communication and adherence to the ethical and legal frameworks, my plan will address all issues case by case and ensure that the best interest of Zoe taken front view.

 

References

Belfer, M.L., Remschmidt, H., Nurcombe, B., Okasha, A. and Sartorius, N., 2007. A global programme for child and adolescent mental health: a challenge in the new millennium. The mental health of children and adolescents: An area of global neglect, Edited by: Remschmidt H, Nurcombe B, Belfer M, Sartorius N, Okasha A. 2007, West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons, pp.1-11

Bowlby, J., 1969. Attachment and Loss: Attachment; John Bowlby. Basic Books.

Child Welfare Information Gateway, 2011. Family Engagement. [Online]. Available: https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/f_fam_engagement

Commonwealth of Australia, 2008. Australia’s Children: Safe and Well. A national framework for protecting Australia’s Children. Australian Government, Department of Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. [Online]. Available: https://www.dss.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/childprotectiondiscussionpaper.pdf . Accessed 2 May 2017.

Diamond, G. and Josephson, A., 2005. Family-based treatment research: A 10-year update. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, 44(9), pp.872-887.

Flynn, R.J., Dudding, P.M. and Barber, J.G., 2006. Promoting resilience in child welfare. University of Ottawa Press.

Gilligan, R., 1991. Family support and child welfare: Realising the promise of the Child Care Act 1991. On behalf of the child: Child welfare, child protection and the Child Care Act, pp.60-83.

Gilligan, R., 2001. Promoting resilience: A resource guide on working with children in the care system. London.

Guralnick, M.J. ed., 1997. The Effectiveness of Early Intervention. Baltimore: P.H. Brooks.

Hardiker, P., Exton, K. and Barker, M., 1991. Policies and practices in preventive child care. Avebury

Maslow, A.H., 1968. Towards a Psychology of Being. Second Edition. New York: Van Nostrad

Masten, A.S., 2001. Ordinary magic: Resilience processes in development. American psychologist, 56(3), p.227-238

McKeown, K., 2001. Fathers and Families: Research and Reflection on Key Questions, A Springboard Publication, Department of Health and Children, Dublin: Stationery Office

National Research Council, 2014. New directions in child abuse and neglect research. National Academies Press.

Pringle, M.K., 2013. The needs of children. Routledge

Queensland, 2016. Child Protection Act 1999. [Online]. Available:https://www.legislation.qld.gov.au/LEGISLTN/CURRENT/C/ChildProtectA99.pdf

Reinhold.

Rutter, M., 1993. Resilience: Some conceptual considerations. Journal of adolescent health, 14(8), pp.626-631.

Seden, J., 2002. “Underpinning Theories for the Assessment of Children’s Needs” in Ward, Harriet & Rose, Wendy (eds.) Approaches to Needs Assessment in Children’s Services, Jessica Kingsley

Tol, W.A., Jordans, M.D., Reis, R. and de Jong, J., 2009. Ecological resilience: working with child-related psychosocial resources in war-affected communities.

Wallen, J. and Rubin, R.H., 1997. The role of the family in mediating the effects of community violence on children. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 2(1), pp.33-41.

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