NUMBER 821 • 6 SEPTEMBER • FAMILY WORK
A social care approach to working with families, is inherently different from other approaches. It is founded in the values and beliefs of child and youth care and because of this, it has certain advantages over other approaches.
Primary among these characteristics is the fact that social care practitioners work with families in their environments, in their homes, not in an office detached from the daily life of the family. This is consistent with the characteristic of a child and youth care approach to ‘being with people as they live their lives’; helping people learn to live their lives differently in their “life space”, the places where their lives are lived on a daily basis. This holds true whether the social care practitioner is engaged with families from the base of a residential programme or independently of residential care. Meeting with families in their environment is also consistent with the principle of child and youth care work of “meeting them where they are at”.
While there have been arguments made both for and against working with families in their homes, here are some of the advantages, as we see it, of doing so:
- the worker is able to make direct observations of how the family lives their life together rather than relying on reports from others.
- family members experience the worker as ‘reaching out to them’ and ‘meeting them where they are at’.
- the worker is more likely to encounter, and have the opportunity to engage with, all members of the family.
- the worker is able to help the family change how they are and how they interact together in ‘real time’.
- when family members change how they interact in their living environment, the cues associated with that change are embedded in their daily life environment.
- when family members experience success in their own environment, the satisfaction they feel is associated with their own environment and not an office.
THOM GARFAT and NIALL McELWEE
Garfat, T. and McElwee, N. (2004) Developing Effective Interventions with Families An EirCan Perspective. Cape Town: Pretext. p.11