Social work is described as art merged with science (Connolly & Harms, 2009, p.4). The science aspects of social work are comprehended by the evidence-based knowledge derived from researches and practice theories. The art of social work comes about as social work practitioners weave together this scientific knowledge with personal strengths, professional skills and experiences. In context of social work practice, it is adapted these to the unique and particular situations. Accordingly, social work practice should be applied distinctive approaches with different client groups in a range of fields. Upon reading the articles about family, family social work should be reflected the suitable method, encounters and core skills. It is included the way of approach, cultural competency and communications skills in working with family.
It is important to address the family-centred approach which is underpinnings the theory in working with families. It can be explained that family-centred practice involves a focus on working with families/whanau, not exclusively working with individual member of families. This approach is also congruent with ecological theory. According to Bronfenbrenner (Berger, 2008, p.87), human development and family functioning can be influenced mutually by a layer of environmental aspects like society and relationship. Accordingly, individual person is likely to be interlinked surroundings from the home as a micro system to wide society or culture as a macrosystem. Therefore, family-centred approach can be effective in dealing with family matters. Family Group Conference is a good illustration of this collaborative family-centred approach. Findings of international research (Kanyi, 2013, p.39) showed that building on family strengths and working in partnership with families to support children turned out a positive effect of children’s wellbeing.
However, the meaning of family has diverse depending on context and use. In New Zealand context, legal definitions of family relationships are changing in order to take into consideration of social and cultural norms. There are variety forms of family in NZ such as de-facto relationship, extended families of Maori whanau and same sex family. Consequently, in terms of practice, it should be considered the boundaries of family. Further consideration should be given to economically, geographically, culturally and socially marginalized families. Cultural advisor, Choice and Partnership Approach and flexible location of appointments initiated by CAMHS can be encourage to better engagement in social work practice (Appleby and Phillips, 2013, 29-30).
More importantly, social work practitioners should have cultural competency. Culture can be defined as a unique aspect of human being and a way of life. Upon the understanding of ecological theory, families could share and be influenced by culture as a macro system. Accordingly, it is clear that extensive knowledge about diverse cultures can be useful for understanding the client’s behaviors, reactions, and decisions in social work context. For example, the use of te reo Maori, karakia and whakapapa when working with Maori family can be formed by showing appreciation and respect for their backgrounds that can contribute to deeper engagement and rapport (Mooney, 2012, p.51). Not only rapport is essential when working with Maori, but practical use of youth culture also can be beneficial implements for youth to enhance engagement.
Another, effective communication skills are core to good work with children and families. It is clear that the quality of relationship between practitioners and clients is a key determinant of successful outcomes in all social work areas. Accordingly, to establish close rapport with clients requires specific way of communication depending on individual’s circumstances. In particular, young children’s perspectives should be considered in their processes in social work context. According to The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCROC), ratified by New Zealand in 1993, provides us with a clear imperative to listen to children. Article 12 says children have ‘the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child’ (UNICEF, 1989, Article 12). Winter (2010, p.186) found that young children are capable of express their opinions in their research. Therefore, working with children requires flexible methods of communication, excellent listening skills and imaginative ways of involving children in the process. Using specific ways of communication such as using a spider gram chart, drawing and role play can be effective way of drawing out their views (social work now, 2012, 36-37). Most importantly, Social workers need to demonstrate the same high levels of empathy for an individual’s circumstances, respect for their wishes and desires and authenticity in responding to them.
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