My ultimate learning goal on this placement has been to develop professional competence as a child protection social worker. By shadowing other colleagues, I have observed their skill and professionalism, and tried to assimilate this knowledge into my own practice. A special feature of this placement has been the diversity of clients who come into contact with the service. Working with such ethnic, religious and cultural diversity, has assisted me greatly in developing ethnic sensitive practice.
I have attended valuable training courses in Assist Suicide Intervention, Report writing, Signs of Safety, Resilience training, and Advanced Attachment and Trauma Informed Practice training.
I was also very fortunate in gaining some valuable insight into attachment and early mother-infant interaction, from a Marte Meo Therapist based in Boyle. I have participated in the fortnightly duty meeting, were I have presented new referrals requiring further assessment, and have also been asked to take minutes for several meetings, including the County wide Tusla meeting, and a number of children in care reviews.
These required organisation skills, attention to detail, and a focus on pertinent points of relevance, for cases I was unfamiliar with. I also attended one fostering panel meeting, were I was able to learn more about the complex process of assessing and approving individuals who wish to become carers.
During placement I have been involved in ten cases, ranging from physical and sexual assault, to domestic violence and emotional abuse. Three of these cases I carried on my own with supervision. Prioritising cases has been an important aspect of my social work practice, and good organisation skills are essential in ensuring my attention was focused proportionately in terms of need and urgency. Initially I was apprehensive about my ability to competently carry out assessments, and made sure I was prepared by having an in-depth knowledge of the referral, and a background history. I have had ample opportunity to improve my interview skills on this placement, and now feel more comfortable and adept in asking pertinent questions, necessary for completing comprehensive assessments. I have learned to write case notes in language that is clear, accurate and unassuming. When conducting assessment, I learned to look at the bigger picture, and not just the presenting issues. I believe this is very useful in providing a fuller assessment. For example in one case, I was tasked with carrying out an assessment of alleged emotional abuse by a father, who was observed shouting abusive language at his 2 year old son. By examining the entire family dynamic, I was able to identify that the family were struggling to cope with additional financial stresses, a limited support network, and anxiety around their childs undiagnosed learning disability and challenging behaviour. Family support was recommended, and the Roscommon Early Intervention Service intervened to provide strategies for effective communication, de-escalation techniques and parenting advice for managing challenging behaviour. Completing a SWOT analysis and mapping exercise for cases such as these has been a valuable way to recognise strengths within a family as well as risk, and identifying weaknessess in the safety planning process. This is something I will continue to do in my practice. One shortcoming of my involvement in the above case was that the parents would not consent to my interviewing the older children without their presence. This undoubtedly impacted on the voice of the child. Going forward I would like to pay closer attention to developing my negotiation skills around this issue, so I can make sure the childs contribution is fully present in cases were parents are reluctant to engage.
In my interviews with two children, aged nine and five years, I have successfully used the Touch Screen Survey, which is a tool designed to help a child explain feelings, and identify appropriate/inappropriate touches. Its purpose is to assess if a child is at risk. The SoS Three Houses is a similar tool used to help a child talk about good things in their life, identify worries and their hopes for the future. By using these tools and providing a safe space, the children were able to tell me about witnessing domestic violence, and also make a disclosure of experiencing pyhsical abuse themselves. This was instrumental in convening a case conference to identify risk and required supports. The case below concerns a family a colleague and I were jointly involved with. I have highlighted this case in particular because for me it was a turning point in my placement, both in terms of understanding prevailing issues relating to domestic violence, and the robust social work practice required to support a family in crisis.