Roles and Responsibilities of Children’s Service Worker
1.5.3 Implementing the Initial Contacts with the Family
NOTE: If the family is in crisis, the Children’s Service Worker may need to provide crisis intervention services. This will require an immediate response, which will eliminate procedure #1 in this section.
Contact the family by letter or telephone for an appointment UNLESS the family is experiencing crisis that places, or potentially places the child in immediate harm and/or warrants removal from the home, such as during a child abuse/neglect investigation or Family Assessment resulting from a CA/N hotline report.
If contacting the family prior to the initial visit is not possible, and crisis intervention is not necessary, the Children’s Service Worker should visit the home, introduce him/herself and schedule an appointment for a future date if an immediate meeting is not convenient whenever possible. This will convey a sense of respect and demonstrate the Children’s Service Worker’s desire to involve the family in the treatment process.
NOTE: During an Investigation or Family Assessment resulting from a CA/N report, it may not be feasible to schedule appointments with the family due to the need to assess and/or plan for the safety of the child.
- Conduct a face-to-face "in-home" interview with the parent(s)/caretaker(s) and child(ren) within the time frames indicated by Structured Decision Making (SDM) response priority or as directed by supervisor.
The Children’s Service Worker and family should attempt to accomplish as much as possible during the first visit. Usually the family assessment process is initiated at this time.
Goals of the initial visit(s) should include:
- The identification of present threats of danger to the vulnerable children in the home and an assessment of the caregiver’s capacity to protect the child(ren) from those threats;
- Establishing rapport and relationship building;
- Dispelling confusion and clarifying roles;
- Defining the problem from the family’s and the Children’s Service Worker’s perspectives;
- Determining the needed resources and available options;
- Addressing and alleviating the need for "hard" services; and
- Determining and enhancing the level of cooperation.
It is important for the Children’s Service Worker and family members to be clear about what they expect from one another. Establishing ground rules may also provide a special opportunity to convey respect for the family. A family’s legitimate activities and the legitimate requirements of in-home service may at times conflict. Discussing the possibility of problems ahead of time demonstrates respect for the family. It provides a head start on dealing with conflicts constructively.
In establishing "ground rules", the Children’s Service Worker and the family should discuss issues, such as:
- How the family would like to refer to the Children’s Service Worker if friends drop in unexpectedly;
- The procedure for canceling appointments, and legitimate reasons for doing so;
- Ways in which in-home visits can be made more productive. This may include asking the family to limit other visitors when the Children’s Service Worker is present, turning off the TV or radio during visits, etc. Arrangements may need to be made for the care of very young children so they will not disrupt the visit too much;
- How to let the Children’s Service Worker know if the family is feeling a need for a respite from services;
- The confidential nature of the service, and explanation of the agency’s policy regarding confidentiality;
- The Children’s Service Worker should explain to the family that services provided by or through the Division will be time-limited and provided within the framework of the family treatment plan; and
- The procedure(s) to terminate services and close the family’s case.
Children’s Service Workers will have many opportunities to demonstrate their recognition that the home is the parent(s)’s domain. Recognizing this, both actually and symbolically, helps empower the parents. It emphasizes their active role in the service process. This is an important method of counterbalancing the threats posed by social service intervention, no matter how justified or necessary.