In this case study, it can be seen that Hannah is a woman in her mid-thirties and has three children named Gemma, John and Luke and each of them have different fathers. Hannah has been a victim of child sexual abuse by her stepfather and has spent a considerable amount of time in care home. Due to the severe mental heal problem faced by Hannah, her two older children were placed in the in the care home for a period of five years after being permanently placed with the mother. Despite being placed with the mother they were under the supervision of care orders. During this period, Hannah met with Liam, they moved to a suburban region together and she got pregnant. However, due to intimate partner violence that she faced from Liam, she had to end the relationship and move back to her children. As has been established in the previously, all the children of Hannah belong from different partners. However, Hannah had to seek partner separation due to domestic abuse that she encountered in each of her relationships. Because of the web of toxic relationships in her life, Hannah had to endure extreme level of bad health. Her declining mental health inhibited her from taking care of Luke. During the growing up period of Luke Hannah used to stay in bed all day therefore had a negligent attitude towards Luke. Her siblings, Gemma and John due to the negligent attitude of their mother, Hannah, raised Luke. This pushed Luke to extreme bad health that was reflected in his falling weight. All the three children were raised in the foster home whilst Hannah accepted mental health service. Although Gemma and John were found a permanent placement in, foster home. This turned out to be beneficial for Gemma and John as they adapted quickly to the new environment and there was an improvement in their academics. The child protection social worker felt that growing in the Youth Court would be the best choice for Luke. This short-term placement for Luke proved to be beneficial for health as his health started rejuvenating. In the Youth Court where Luke was placed for short-term placement, he met the carer with whom he became attached. Until now, this has been the scenario. After a period six months, Hannah resumed to her normal life and started working in apart-time job. As she was feeling better and confident about her improving health, she wanted the children to return to her. Parenting assessment was conducted and Hannah felt that it was post-natal depression that made her indifferent and negligent towards the child. Even her therapist was of the view that she is capable of taking care of the children and it was her loss of position as a mother she exacerbated her health.
Hannah always welcomed Luke, when Luke came to meet with Hannah for three times. However, after twenty minutes of talking to him, she would leave Luke to play in the open and instead she would talk with the social worker. Hannah had the habit of keeping her room messy and she would not accept advice from anyone on this. Because of Hannah’s absent minded nature and lack of a robust approach towards looking after Luke, the social worker had to intervene to prevent Luke from picking up sharp and dangerous objects. In addition to providing care to Luke, the social worker had to intervene in taking care of the older children. The older children were contended in their placements and had no intention of moving back with their mother, Hannah. Another reason for their refusal to move back to Hannah is that they were worried that they might have to look after Luke.
Assessment and analysis
According to the attachment theory, the child’s relationship with the primary caregiver during the period of infancy is crucial for the development of the child. It further determines the relationship that the child will develop in the future. According to Bowlby and Ainsworth, the separation of the infant from the mother can pose problem in the later stage of the relationship (Holmes, 2014). This is because the infant is the active participant who plays a determining role in strengthening and fostering the relationship between the mother and the child. The strange situation test developed by Ainsworth is important for understanding the experience of separation faced by the child from the mother (Stanley, Miller & Richardson Foster, 2012). It has been stated that the quality of a child’s attachment has implications on her performance cognitively, academically, socially and behaviourally (Obegi & Berant, 2010). As it has been witnessed in the case of Gemma, Luke and John they were not academically inclined till the time they were in the presence of Hannah who was not in the right frame of her mind to take care of the children. Once the children shifted to foster care and Youth court, there was a steady improvement in their academic sphere. Drawing from the argument of the attachment theory children who are not positively attached to their mother show lack of participation in the social circle. The child welfare system is overrepresented with children who are insecure and have disorganized attachment with their mother.
The ecological framework in the assessment of cases especially for children and family issues has been quite important in the field of social work. During the early 1970s when social work scholarship was at its formative stage, there has been emphasis of the person-in-environment perspective pioneered by scholars such as Mary Richmond, Germain and Hartman that has been considered as groundbreaking and made an important contribution of social work (McGinnis & Ostrom, 2014). The ecological perspective of social work enables the social worker to deal with the client from the micro level to the macro level. The ecological perspective helps in recognizing the impact of environmental factors on the client and in ways it exacerbates their situation. The advantage of this approach is that it enables the social worker to examine the plight of the client and initiate the treatment through the nexus of family, individual, small group and larger community (Schreiber, Fuller & Paceley, 2013). This approach enables the social work practitioner to move from the clinical role to the policy role. In this case, the mental health condition of Hannah especially her post-natal depression along with the domestic violence in her intimate partner relationship has destroyed the feeling of motherhood in her and created constraint in exercise of her maternal duties (Saleeby, 2012). Six different professional roles have been identified as the advanced generalized practise of social work that enables the professional social worker to work efficiently with the five different kinds of clients that include the family, the small group, the individual, the community and the organization. These six roles related to the ecological assessment framework is that of the conferee, enabler, broker, mediator, advocate and the guardian (Westley et al, 2013). Given the above situation it can be stated that Hannah is an involuntary client as she is under the impression that he has recovered and is in the right condition to take care of her children. As a social worker the intervention should be that of a guardian because the task would be to perform the function of social control through engagement of the protective action as the competency of the client would be deemed inadequate. The behavioural setting study conducted by Barker and Gump can be used in the present context. According to these scholars, the individuals adapt to the ecological setting and their behaviour is determined and shaped by the environment. The same behavioural setting (environment) can have different implications for the different people. The ecosystem of the client (Hannah) comprises of the self, the family the neighbourhood and the community. Since the client is an inextricable part of the ecosystem, it can be ensued that the toxic environment of domestic violence or intimate partner violence (IVP) that Hannah had to endure in all her relationships have led to detrimental effect on her. She was diagnosed with depression that took a toll on her health and was reflected in her negligent attitude towards her children. Unlike other framework of social work approach, the ecological assessment framework is concerned with focusing on the interrelationship of the client with the community, family and the different organizations (Webb, 2011). In this case, the depression, absent-mindedness and the traumatic condition of Hannah is not an outcome of individual pathology but needs to contextualized with as a product of the malfunctioning environment. There are emotional disturbances that emerge from the maladaptive transactions that occurs between the individual and the ecological setting. Therefore, it becomes mutually influential. In the context of the given case study, Hannah had to suffer depression due to dysfunctional relationships and a result of which she neglected her maternal duties. The repercussion of this was the declining academic results of the older children and the severe health condition of Luke in the form of drastic weight loss. Ultimately, this led to all the children being taken care of in the foster home and their growing up without their mother. Another thrust of the professional worker would be to deploy the integrative practise approach that is grounded in the ecological perspective of research that is concerned with dealing with more than one aspect of the client simultaneously (Stanley, Miller & Richardson Foster, 2012). Drawing from the theoretical framework of the ecological assessment, the approach of the researcher would not be to view the situation that of the “disturbed client” but rather the approach would be to focus on the “disturbing client” who has faced breakdown from during the transaction of the client with the larger society (Netting, Kettner, McMurtry & Thomas, 2016).
Another approach that would be appropriate in this context is the child-centred approach that was conceptualized by child psychologist Jean Piaget. The thrust of this approach is to maximize the learning capacity, development of the personality and competency of the child (Parmiani, 2007). The objective of the child-centred approach is to establish a didactic structure that is premised on the principles of confidence and trust. The centrality of this approach is that the child should experience freedom in the learning. It has found that the receptiveness in the child is enhanced after the child is exposed to an environment characterized by openness. This promotes the intellectual development of the child and contributes to the holistic growth of the child (Parker, 2017). Flexible methods in regard to the learning place depends on the autonomy of the child and creates a sense of responsibility in the child. To improve and strengthen the academic performance of Gemma, John and Luke the objective would be incorporate innovative teaching practises where the child would able to realize her/his full potential.
Another theory that needs to e discussed in the context is that of neglect of the child. This indicates too the behaviour of the parents and the older adolescents that is considered to be outside the norms of the conduct of the individuals and involves a risk of physical or emotional harm. This kind of behaviours may be intentional or unintentional and therefore may include act of omission (neglect) or the cats of commission (abuse). Studies have shown that neglect of the child damages the psychological, emotional, social and the behavioural well being of the children (Thompson, 2015). Children who have been subjected to neglect in childhood are likely to experience disorganized or insecure attachment problems with the primary caregiver. In case of Hannah and her children, it can be seen that Hannah’s post-partum depression combined with her abusive relationships exacerbated her situation made her neglect her parental responsibilities and neglect the child. Because of this negligence of the child, the child has developed insecure attachment with the mother.
The term parenting capacity refers to one of the three elements that the practitioners evaluate regarding the concerns related to the child welfare. Risk parenting is associated with neglecting the basic needs of the child, chaos and lack of routine in the every day life therefore creating problem for the child and thirdly there is an unwillingness to engage with the support services (Taylor, 2013). In this context, the risky parenting can be witnessed during Hannah’s effort to resume her maternal duties when she felt that she is in a position to look after her children however, her attitude towards Luke presents the other side of the situation. Hannah was more interested to discuss about her work related issues with the social worker. This is quite worrisome considering that she was willing to look after the needs of Luke. However, Hannah was completely negligent towards Luke and it was the social worker who had to ensure that Luke was not picking up any sharp object or stepping into the electrical extension cords or inserting things into the mouth in the absence of supervision. In addition, Hannah had the habit of keeping her room cluttered and was not open to receiving advice from others on the same. Parenting ability is dependent on the environment that includes the personal life of the person, willingness of the person to raise the child in the right manner, employment of the parent and health of the parent (Banks, 2012). In this context, it can be witnessed that Hannah that she has been a child abuse survivor during her childhood. She was sexually abused by her stepfather and as it could be inferred from the given the case study she never received the appropriate help in the form of counselling or rehabilitation that could assist in her dealing with the trauma. This may have an impact on Hannah’s absent-minded attitude. Secondly, it can be witnessed that Hannah is self-centred and does not seek advice from the child protection social worker (Herman, 2015). It can be inferred she is against the idea of accepting advice from an external agent regarding her personal life that makes it challenging to make he see about her negligence towards her children. From the outset, it could be seen that Hannah was not in the mental health to take care of her older children Gemma and John who were placed under childcare due to the inability of Hannah to fulfil her parental responsibilities.
Recommendations and solutions
Parenting assessment is important endeavour given the context of the situation. This is because Hannah has been unable to take of the children since their birth and shown negligence towards them (Manzo & Devine-Wright, 2013). In case of the older children, Gemma and John they became the subject of the care orders due to the fluctuating mental health condition of Hannah that posed impediment in letting her fulfilling her parental responsibilities (Kemshall, 2010). Secondly, Hannah has been a victim of domestic abuse and intimate partner violence that was reflected in all of her relationships. Therefore, it can be stated that Hannah is incapable of recognizing the underlying motivations of a persons behaviour and lacks the ability of understanding a person. It is due to this inability that she got entangled in one abusive relationship than the other that affected her parenting capacity as well. Post-partum depression has been another issue that have posed impediment in realizing Hannah her duties towards her children. In this context, it becomes important to implement the parenting assessment for the family and the Early Hel services that also included a pre-assessment planning meeting (Parmiani, 2007). This process is pertinent in case of the pre-birth situations at any point of time in the lives of the child. This meeting should take place between the parents, the family support worker (FSW) and the professional social worker (SW). The focus of this meeting would be to discuss what the family is going through, what are the aspects of family life that needs to be incorporated into the assessment for the child, what are the aspects of family life that needs to be supported for change, how the family would prefer the assessment worker to deal with them and what have the family appreciated in the past (Pence, Davis, Beardslee & Gamache, 2012). In addition, there needs to be the availability of a chronology that would inform the parenting assessment plan throughout the course of the social work. This is to be followed by having timescales for the assessment and determination of the overall time that would be required. There should be a review meeting comprising of the various stakeholders involved with the objective of determining the progress of the assessment and exploration of the outstanding areas. Partner agencies can be involved belonging to other agencies during the period of assessment. The professional social worker would consider the health & safety risks that needs to be incorporated in the assessment work. The assessment needs to take place between Hannah (single parent), caregiver for Gemma and John, and care giver for Luke and the three children Gemma, John and Luke on an one-to-one basis. In this case, there needs to be a multi-disciplinary team those who would be able to addresses the different concerns of each aspect namely mental health condition, child negligence, challenges of single parenting, trauma of a child abuse survivor, trauma of an intimate partner violence (IVP) survivor and thereby assess the combined effect on the growth and the development of the child (Hepworth, Rooney, Rooney & Strom-Gottfried, 2016)
Ethical social work practice involves understanding the distinctive needs of the client, identifying the strength and weakness in case of the client, and respecting the agency of the client. Form the above discussion it can be stated that the core issue here is that of child negligence and parenting capacity. Parents are expected to be responsible for the welfare of the children and creating a compatible environment for the growth and development of the child. However, not all parents are capable of fulfilling their parental duties. This is not because the parent is unwilling or irresponsible but the unique biography of each parent that may range from childhood incidents to the personal relationships that have a bearing on their parenting capacity. Therefore through the analysis of the case study it could be seen a series of abusive relationships combined with child sexual abuse have interfered with the parenting abilities of Hannah and that ultimately led her to neglect her children. The incorporation of the ecological assessment framework, child-centred approach by Piaget and the attachment theoretical framework emerged as most the important lens in understanding this sensitive situation and being empathic towards Hannah as well her children.
Banks, S. (2012). Ethics and values in social work. Palgrave Macmillan.
Hepworth, D. H., Rooney, R. H., Rooney, G. D., & Strom-Gottfried, K. (2016). Empowerment series: Direct social work practice: Theory and skills. Nelson Education.
Herman, J. L. (2015). Trauma and recovery: The aftermath of violence--from domestic abuse to political terror. Hachette UK.
Holmes, J. (2014). John Bowlby and attachment theory. Routledge.
Holt, S. (2011). Domestic abuse and child contact: positioning children in the decision-making process. Child Care in Practice, 17(4), 327-346.
Kemshall, H. (2010). Risk rationalities in contemporary social work policy and practice. British Journal of Social Work,40(4), 1247-1262.
Manzo, L. C., & Devine-Wright, P. (Eds.). (2013). Place attachment: Advances in theory, methods and applications. Routledge.
McGinnis, M., & Ostrom, E. (2014). Social-ecological system framework: initial changes and continuing challenges. Ecology and Society, 19(2).
Netting, F. E., Kettner, P. M., McMurtry, S. L., & Thomas, M. L. (2016). Social work macro practice. Pearson.
Obegi, J. H., & Berant, E. (Eds.). (2010). Attachment theory and research in clinical work with adults. Guilford press.
Parker, J. (2017). Social work practice: Assessment, planning, intervention and review. Learning Matters.
Parmiani, L. (2007). Child abuse and neglect. Attachment, development and intervention. Child & Family Social Work, 12(2), 212-213.
Pence, E., Davis, G., Beardslee, C., & Gamache, D. (2012). Mind the gap: Accounting for domestic abuse in child custody evaluations1. Minneapolis, MN: Battered Women's Justice Project.
Saleebey, D. (2012). The strengths perspective in social work practice. Pearson Higher Ed.
Schreiber, J. C., Fuller, T., & Paceley, M. S. (2013). Engagement in child protective services: Parent perceptions of worker skills. Children and Youth Services Review, 35(4), 707-715.
Stanley, N., Miller, P., & Richardson Foster, H. (2012). Engaging with children's and parents' perspectives on domestic violence. Child & Family Social Work, 17(2), 192-201.
Taylor, B. (2013). Professional decision making and risk in social work. Learning Matters.
Thompson, N. (2015). Understanding social work: Preparing for practice. Palgrave Macmillan.
Webb, N. B. (2011). Social work practice with children. Guilford Press.
Westley, F. R., Tjornbo, O., Schultz, L., Olsson, P., Folke, C., Crona, B., & Bodin, ?. (2013). A theory of transformative agency in linked social-ecological systems. Ecology and Society, 18(3).