If you've been following this blog, you've learned that, clearly, facing our bias and building communities is important.
It’s far too easy to say that a particular issue is someone else’s fault and to insist that someone else needs to fix the problem. However, if we start at home and in our communities and work toward collaboration, most of these issues will resolve themselves.
The innate suspicion of people and things which are new or different isn’t always bad, but like many of our habits and instincts, it’s worth questioning the benefits and purpose it serves in our lives. For example, many of us were taught that neglect looks like a child arriving at school with worn out shoes and threadbare clothes. We were taught that the parents of this child are bad people and the right thing to do is to contact a government run agency to report them for bad parenting. Unfortunately, these are also some of the tell-tale signs of poverty.
We don’t need to weaponize social workers against people living in poverty. Rather, we need to see them as important collaborators in social wellbeing.
It’s important to know how government organizations support the community and the ways that they are limited.
In situations of suspected child abuse or neglect, we often want to file a report to ensure the safety of the child. After someone calls in a report, a team determines a need to intervene based on that report. If there’s a need to intervene, they’ll send a social worker to do a home visit so the social worker can make an assessment, and if the social worker determines that there’s no need to intervene, the file will be closed. In the situations where intervention is deemed necessary, whenever possible, family preservation services are recommended, the family is linked to resources, and a review will take place anywhere between 45-90 days to determine next steps. In extreme cases, the child is removed from the home while the family is linked to services or criminal charges are investigated.
According to Nikita Marsh, Professor of Social Work, in many cases the biggest hurdle for the family preservation process is that resources are often limited or the family doesn’t qualify for the supports available because they earn $2 or more than the allowable income.
Since their agencies are generally underfunded, social workers might need to spend their time collecting donations from area businesses or they might be spending their own money on resources for families in need. This takes time away from some of the very needful work that they could be doing, like coordinating the treatment plans of their adult clients who are struggling with mental health or addiction issues.
What are some ways you can provide support to children and families as a community member?