Children’s rights should be taken care of whether the parents show concern or not as the end goal of social work services is to ensure every individual has access to primary care (Cabrera, Hutchens, & Peters, 2013). Section 89 of the Children and Community Services Act 2004 (WA) acknowledges the need to promote children’s well-being and protect children in circumstances where parents are not responsible. In line with the Act, this paper seeks to examine the case study of three children whose mother abandoned her role and instead left them alone. This paper will draw the current legislation on child protection, give facts about the case study, and explain theories that interconnect with the case. It will also assess each of the three children’s risks, provide strategies to address the risks, and finally give a conclusion.
Facts of the Case
The case is about three children, Jasmine (14), Jack (12), and Amber (3), whose rights to basic needs had been neglected by their mother, Sharon. Through a phone call with a social worker, an anonymous caller disclosed that Sharon had left the children alone at night and never cared about what they ate. Their neighbor, identified as Theresa, took responsibility and had to provide for the children three times a week. After a while, considering the children’s father was unknown, the local authority decided to take the children to an emergency foster care placement. They all stayed at the station before Amber was adopted by another foster caregiver to adopt him permanently.
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The new caregiver of Amber, Marion Collins, is concerned about Amber having communication with his siblings, and the Act seems disturbing to her. During this phase, a man who identifies himself as Amber’s father claims to have his child back, but the authority does not allow him to see Amber because his name does not appear on Amber’s birth certificate. Their mother, Sharon, sends a letter to her children wishing to get back soon and reunite. However, Jasmine and Jack are not happy being fostered but seems to derive happiness from being together. On the other hand, Amber seems comfortable and even addresses the foster parents as mum and dad.
WA Legislation that Relates to this Case
Six sections of the Children and Community Services Act, 2004 relating to this case study (Gov. of WA, 2020). Sections seven and eight refer to the need to consider a child’s relationships with significant others. In this case, the neighbor and the foster families act as the influential other people whose interests were considered according to the Act. Section eight also refers to stability and child wishes. The wishes of the child are considered as well. Section nine explains that significant others have the right to participate in the decision making concerning the child. For instance, in this case, the neighbor or the social workers have the right to decide who will foster the children.
According to section ten of the Act, children should be provided with information about the decisions made in a language they can understand. In this case, the three children have the right to know about their fostering information because they can also contribute to what makes them feel comfortable. Section 89 talks about preparing a care plan that states the child’s placement details and who is permitted to contact them. Like in this case, the father might not have permission to contact Amber because nothing shows the two are related. However, if the mother intervenes and proves that indeed he is the father, permission might be granted. Lastly, the child’s care plan must be reviewed by the children if they can understand, the parent, in this case, Sharon, and the foster parent, or anyone else permitted as section 93 of the same act states.
The theory examines an individual’s relationships within communities and the wider society. Parrish & Rubin (2011) says that an individual is part of multiple systems such as parents, family members, school, and the community around such as neighbors. The theory also posits that children grow and develop within a multi-layered environment that naturally supports their ability to expand. It focuses on the assumption that children first bond with parents, then with the extended family, and finally extends to other social systems like the school and other social structures (Cochran, Larner, Riley, & Charles R. Henderson, 1993). In this case, it is essential to note that the children have their parent (mother) alive, and thus she should not be alienated from decisions if the children are to be assisted. The primary reason is the children already have a strong bond with the mother despite her negligence. The children’s well-being is also determined by the community around, that is, the school, the social workers, neighbors, and foster caregivers. Therefore, these people should be considered when making decisions about the next steps of the children.
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John Bowlby developed the theory, and it is concerned with the relationships between humans. It suggests that young children must develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver (Cassidy, 2002). Infants between ages six months and two years are attached to caregivers who consistently interact with them for some months. Hence, in this case, the primary caregiver that the children were attached to is their mother. Their behavior, thus, is also connected to her. To effectively work towards helping the children, the support of their mother will be highly needed. It is because there is a special attachment that connects the two parties. Nair (2018) stresses the need for positive parenting to grow up to be better persons in life.
Risk Assessment for Each Child
To effectively assess their risks, the three houses tool designed by Weld and Parker (n.d.) can be applied. It is an information-gathering tool designed to help children and young people speak out their voice on what is working for them, what they are worried about, and what they feel should be done to promote their well-being and safety (Northern Academy, 2016). Professionals ask them the questions in a manner that they can comfortably answer them to produce the best information. In this case, the three houses’ tools could be used.
For Jasmine, the tool can work effectively because she is a grown-up and can answer questions logically. The main risk that Jasmine has identified is institutionalization. She is concerned about her and her siblings being placed in residential homes. Even though Jasmine appreciates the caregivers’ advantages, she still feels uncomfortable and wishes to go back to her family. However, she is also angry with her mother because of negligence and does not want Jack to bring her mother’s topic on the table. Although she could forgive her mother, she feels they do not need to reunite after all that she did, limiting reuniting chances.
She is in fear of being like her mum and occasionally tries to connect with Amber through phone calls to show some concern as their older sibling. She is more concerned about Amber, perhaps because she is a little girl and cannot fight for her rights, considering she was adopted and alienated. Jasmine is also at the risk of developing a negative attitude towards becoming a mother. The main reason being she is almost approaching the teenage age and can observe what is going on and comprehend the effects. Being the older child and her mother being the only parent she knows, she most likely takes her mother as the role model. The mum is a prostitute and an incompetent parent; Jasmine could attribute that to parenting and wish not to become one.
Jack does not identify many risks as he feels comfortable in the residential home. However, he shows signs of missing parental love as he occasionally tries to talk about her mum, but Jasmine shuns him. Jack feels isolated and wants to attach himself to talking about his mother. He also shows concern for his younger sister Amber. Besides, he feels comfortable in the residential care home because he has Jasmine’s shoulder to lean on, considering he is younger than Jasmine. Besides the risk of isolation and identity, Jack is also at risk of physical, emotional, and social well-being. Having dietary restrictions and being subjected to medications indicate his health is at stake. It will lead to mental risks such as stress and social risk because it might be hard to interact with others when having health issues. When one is feeling ill, they may not communicate with others and affect their social circle.
Because Amber is young, the three houses tool may not work for her risk assessment. However, her risks may be assessed by collaborating with the foster caregiver and the social worker. Amber’s foster parent, Marion Collins, has expressed concerns about Jasmine and Jack contacting Amber and figures it as a bad influence. She feels the older siblings may feed Amber with unwelcome information that may lead to Amber’s being alienated. Amber’s risk is Marion does not want her to connect with her siblings, who she had been living with. If Amber notices that she is missing her siblings, she may develop mental or emotional problems.
Since Marion wishes to adopt her permanently, losing the touch of her siblings and her mother might be detrimental to her health. Marion also says that Amber, when she took her, was at risk of health issues due to poor nutrition. She says there is a need for her to stay with the child to improve her health and deficiency. Nonetheless, if permission to adopt her permanently is not granted, and Sharon takes Amber back without changing her parental behaviors, Amber might suffer from nutrition deficiencies.
Strategies to Address the Risks
Taking deficit-strength approaches increases stress and burnout experienced by child social workers. Hence, employing strength-based approaches is useful for both the child and the social workers (Rawana & Brownlee, 2009). This approach focuses on prioritizing a child’s safety as the key objective (Smith, Shapiro, Sperry, & LeBuffe, 2014). It identifies strengths, resources, and coping strategies to promote the well-being of an individual. The assumption is that people who surround a child can determine the best steps in achieving the child’s well-being (Oliver & Charles, 2016). For instance, in this case, social workers and caregivers can help children. In this case, they will focus on the children’s strengths, what they can do best, for instance, and their talents and use them to make these children better.
Care Team Approach
Sections nine and ten of the Children and Community Services Act 2004 (WA) outlines the principles of care team approaches that can lead to a child’s better well-being. It posits that individuals and families who influence a child are active participants in making decisions that will impact that child (Arbeiter & Toros, 2017). Hence, in this case, a network of professionals, caregivers, parents, and any other significant person with an influence on the children may gather and look for solutions. In most cases, the team looks at the things any good parent may consider for their children’s well-being and apply the same to the troubled children (Hollin & Larkin, 2011).
The analysis has shown that children’s rights should be taken care of whether the parents show concern or not as the end goal of social work services is to ensure every individual has access to primary care. If a parent shows irresponsibility, a child’s social circle takes the role and care for that child. In this case, the neighbor of Sharon took responsibility and intervened for the children’s needs. Also, social workers and foster caregivers were ready to ensure that the children’s well-being was safe. However, even though the parents show negligence, legislation laws govern how they influence their children’s well-being. They have the right to get in contact with their children and make decisions. Nevertheless, the critical factor is to ensure a child’s well-being is taken care of effectively.
Arbeiter, E., & Toros, K. (2017). Participatory discourse: Engagement in child protection assessment practices from the perspectives of child protection workers, parents, and children. Children and Youth Services Review, 74, 17-27. doi:10.1016/j.childyouth.2017.01.020
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