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Collaborative Team Solutions
Collaboration is key in improving outcomes for all children and reducing disparities in outcomes for communities whose children are disproportionately represented in the child welfare system. These services systems are inextricably linked despite the lack of communication. However, in order to create an open environment for foster parents like Angela and David there must be open and continuous communication between all service sectors, which in this case includes: the DCFS worker, the school social worker and foster care social worker. In order to increase communication between providers a monthly meeting would need to take place which would require the presence of all advocates involved, including Kyla’s specific providers (criminal defense attorney, probation etc.).
For the most part, child dependency court hearings are set on a monthly basis unless there is a 6 or 12-month review of the parent’s reunification with the children involved. In criminal court there are also monthly court hearings unless the case is set for jury trial. Additionally, the probation department drops in on a monthly basis to follow up on the individual’s well-being. Currently, these providers are already interacting with the client once a month, resulting in there being an update which not all providers are aware of. All too commonly, providers play phone tag with each other, returning each other’s missed calls and leaving brief voicemails about case details. The monthly meeting would reduce the disconnect between providers and reduce psychological stress by providing contrasting information to caregivers such as Angela and David. Uniting all service providers in one meeting will not only help establish cohesion, but also facilitate critical thinking among the team members, addressing and identifying needs, establishing roles and post-permanency.
Trauma, maltreatment, and behavioral problems are all too common for both wards of the court and criminal court defendants (Barto et al., 2018). Kyla has endured trauma since an early age being neglected and becoming a ward of the court. Kyla has had many challenges along the way. Currently, she’s faced with navigating different court proceedings, court ordered counseling, and housing difficulties. It appears as though each of her providers neglects her previous trauma and simply addresses the specific challenge they are tasked with helping her with. The only way to solve the current inadequate engagement practices is by incorporating trauma-informed approaches and systems of care. Trauma-informed care is required for most social workers however, despite the training there are few who implement its practices (Hendricks, Conradi & Wilson, 2011). As it is, the majority of court staff, judicial employees, and correction officers aren’t even trained in trauma-informed care let alone be expected to implement its practices.
Considering the nature of trauma and revictimization, not only would all staff attend a certified training, but also discuss with their superiors how trauma informed care can be implemented in each of their individual cases. By acknowledging the individual’s challenges, creating safe spaces, and easier processes, then we would be more likely to see reduced stress levels, increased receptiveness to counsel, and compliance in mandated orders (Berliner & Kolko, 2010). The entry processes would also have to be engineered in the agencies to provide not only a welcoming atmosphere but a system to help individuals such as Kyla navigate the courthouse as well as the human services agency by imparting a sense of transparency and accessibility throughout the facilities. Additionally, by implementing trauma informed care in the judicial system and counsel, advocates are more likely to hold conversations in private and safe places rather than outside the hallway where others may hear. This would help Kyla seek some privacy and more openly discuss with counsel or her probation officer about why she has been inconsistent with the mandated substance abuse counseling or why she was unable to attend her last court hearing. In focusing trauma informed care not only for children but for defendants who happen to be involved in a child welfare case, people will not only be heard, but also be more likely to have their questions answered.
Whether purposefully or unintentionally, the childrens’ point of views are neglected, which is especially true in decisions implicating their overall well-being. Child welfare agencies aspire to protect all children from abuse, however many times they are so driven by their vision that they can end up excluding a child’s voice (Heimer, Näsman & Palme, 2018). To reduce the gap between speaking and being listened to, Anton’ and Isaac’s providers would have to not only ask them about their thoughts, but also incorporate them in part of the monthly conferences. Since the monthly group meetings already require the presence of everyone involved it would not take an additional day for all providers to meet as they already have limited time with such high caseloads. Although Anton and Isaac would be involved in decisions that affect them, their viewpoints would be considered so long as they are not placed in danger.
Child participation in these meetings would allow for Anton and Isaac to dialogue with their providers. Of course, due to their young age the nature of their participation would be limited to their immediate environment. Their inclusion would be limited as the monthly meetings would discuss other external matters such as Kyla’s court proceedings, participation in court ordered classes, and Anton’s and Isaacs increase in maladaptive behaviors, none of which need to be addressed in front of a big audience with their presence. Their 10 to 15-minute presence would not only provide them with the ability to voice their concerns but also to shed light to Anton’s and Isaacs interactions with Kyla, Angela and David. The inclusion of Anton and Isaac would promote self-advocacy, provide the boys with a sense of control, and actively involve them in assessing, planning and discussing decisions about their lives. Privileging Anton’s and Isaac’s voices would help reduce the psychological distress created by the inconsistent placements and court ordered decisions (Connolly & Masson, 2014).
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