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Unearthing and examining ideas, assumptions and practices

by PeakCare Qld on 8th April 2015

Home -> Articles -> 2015 -> April -> Unearthing and examining ideas, assumptions and practices

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A couple of weeks ago we opened the discussion about strengths-based practice in our blog post "Are we there yet". At the AASW/PeakCare Child Protection Practice Group, David Lees and Paul Montgomery of Unique Outcomes delved deeper into the concepts of strengths-based practice with the group. This conversation was particularly pertinent in light of the recently launched Queensland framework for practice, the topic of March’s child protection practice group.

In their presentation: Unearthing and examining ideas, assumptions and practices that can make it tricky to bring a strengths approach to child protection, David and Paul asked the group to consider established and taken for granted practices in child protection that seem incongruous with strengths approaches. This consideration alone led to robust small group discussions. The exchange of information and how we commonly summarise interactions with parents and families was a particular topic for discussion.

Underpinning assumptions and ideas that significantly impact child protection work with families were highlighted by group members. Amongst these assumptions were commonly held beliefs that angry parents can’t be worked with, children are safer in foster care, experts have the answers and their expertise trumps that of parents. Issues of assessments beginning with a deficit focus were also noted.

In order to move forward towards a more strengths-based approach one participant stated: “We make assumptions about everything. We make them with our own biases and experiences.” Therefore, the challenge of genuinely implementing strengths approaches in practice was highlighted. A light bulb went on when we realised the regularity with which we make assumptions, often inaccurate and value-laden.

In order to move forward, alongside assumptions we need to critique the way we so often practice as ‘experts’ imparting knowledge and ensuring compliance to key requirements as opposed to being information gatherers genuinely inquiring about situations and circumstances. One example given was our propensity to send parents off to a ‘one size fits all’ parenting course when conversations with parents may uncover various other opportunities for skills improvement that also positively impact parenting. One organisation found that several mothers saw an income as key to their families’ well-being and they were interested in working in child care. In liaison with a training body, a child care qualification was offered. This assisted the employment capacity of the mothers and offered transferrable parenting skills at the same time. The preparedness to work with and listen to parents and children and see them as experts in their own lives affords a collaborative solution focused relationship.

The final take home message of the evening was the importance of actively involving all family members in assessment, planning and measuring progress. In the hurried nature of child protection practice it can be easy to be conflict averse rather than working through issues that arise and building respectful relationships with families and communities to ensure that all are on the same page with regard to the safety and well-being needs of children and families.

Working in a strengths-based way does not mean avoiding the key issues that led to interventions, it means having difficult conversations respectfully whilst delving into the existing capacity of children AND parents as well as their identified developmental requirements.

At no stage need we speak about clients without them present: "Nothing about us, without us".

Lorraine Dupree
Projects Manager - Policy, Practice and Service Development