When I first meet with a parent, they are often at the lowest point in their lives. Most were trying hard to be good parents before they met us. The message our arrival sends is that they have failed. They are often angry, sad, lonely and disoriented.
During that first meeting, I worry about many things. What if I can’t connect to this parent? Are they going to cry? Can I make this any easier for them? Is it fair to expect them to take in all the information I am sharing during such a terrible time? What if they are angry?
Child welfare care workers have a very bad rap in the community as they are seen as people who steal children for profit and can snatch kids whenever. The truth is that most case workers out there are good and mean well for the families they serve. The families often see the case worker as an adversarial figure because they themselves are in such a vulnerable position where they may have just lost their children and are now in the early stages of their case. They may be resistant and believe that they do not need to change.
When first meeting their case worker they may be rude and noncompliant. Many parents have cited that they believe that whatever they do they will still lose their children so why even try. The parents may refuse services or not meet with their case worker out of anger and resentment. And even though they may believe that their caseworker is against them, at the end of the day their rights may be terminated if they do not comply with services. As a provider you should also strive to be goal oriented. Remind the parents of why they need to do their services and that they are doing it for their children. Encourage and praise the parents if they do something right and keep them motivated with their services. If the parent falls of track, don't scold them or call them noncompliant. Rather, you should review with them what went wrong and how to best address it next time. What changes can be made. How can the agency help the parent with their struggles.
It is the case worker's job to ensure that they provide the parents with assistance and have a good bedside manner. For you providers out there I know that it can be very hard working with some of the parents but patience and trying to understand their situation will go a long way. Make attainable goals using the SMART model. They will be far easier for the parent to complete. When goal planning also discuss with the parent to see if they have any conflict. They may have some trouble completing a goal but have a hard time telling you or feel too scared to let you know why they cannot complete the goal. Most importantly let the parent know that you are on their side and that you and them have the same goal of reuniting their family. The caseworker may have all of the power in the eyes of the law, but with power comes responsibility. The case worker should strive to share the power with the parent. Work with the parent not against. Work together as a team to return the child home safely and the amount of conflict will be greatly reduced.
I also know I wield power over my clients’ lives. To me, this is painful. My goal is to help families, but because the system has taken away their control, I often feel like I am doing the exact opposite. My ultimate goal is return power to them and bring humanity and respect into a relationship that is, unfortunately, lopsided.
The first way I try to do this is by being as respectful and supportive as I can no matter how parents are reacting. This can be done over something very small. It can happen through eye contact, through recognizing that you and the client have something in common, or by doing something as simple as thanking the client for coming in that day. -Rise
Juvenile Dependency and