Social Work with Children: Scope and Skills

Content

  1. Introduction
  2. Scope of Social Work Intervention
  3. Basic Skills for working with Children
  4. Conclusion

Introduction

One of the main focuses of social work intervention is with children. The range of social work with children varies depending on the situation. Certain fundamental skills are necessary in order to work successfully with children or on issues involving children. The blog post describes the variety of work that may be done in various circumstances and the fundamentals of working with kids.

Learning Outcome

The following is what the readers should know by the end of this post:
  1. The extent to which social workers can intervene when working with children
  2. The variety of work that can be done in various environments and practice places
  3. fundamentals of child social work

Scope of Social Work Intervention

The general framework of India's constitutional provisions, as well as the national laws, policies, programmes, and initiatives that address various concerns involving children, must be followed by all forms of social work involving children. If any of the aforementioned are found to have gaps or that implementation is not proceeding to the intended level, lobbying and/or campaign efforts can be developed to guarantee that the necessary modifications are done. To ensure child protection and rights for every kid in society is the overarching goal of social work with children.

The fundamental tenets of child rights include non-discrimination, the right to life, the right to participation, and the best interests of the child. "Best interest of the child" is defined as the "base for any decision taken regarding the child, to ensure fulfilment of his fundamental rights and needs, identity, social well-being, and physical, emotional, and intellectual development" in the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015. Child protection aims to redress violations of children's rights or shield kids from abuse, exploitation, violence, and neglect. The duty bearers in society, the adults, have a vital responsibility to uphold: the rights of children. It is required of the family, society, and state to promote children's rights.

There are many different levels and purposes for social work with children. Intervention might be planned for therapeutic, preventative, and developmental goals.

Direct Work with Children: 

There is a lot of room to work directly with children because there are so many of them who need care and safety. Many of us are drawn to working directly with kids, whether it is by working with them one-on-one or in groups. Young children, those in school, adolescents, and young people who are approaching maturity can all be directly involved in working with children and youth (the word children refers to all young persons who have not completed eighteen years of age).

Children can be directly worked with in a variety of ways and environments, including schools, communities, residential care facilities, shelter homes, contact centres or drop-in centres, hospitals, education initiatives, vocational training facilities, and child guidance clinics. The juvenile justice system is responsible for a sizable number of youngsters who lack family or family support. Two categories of youngsters can be worked with in the juvenile justice system: those in need of care and protection and those who are in legal trouble. We can collaborate directly with the probation department, serve as a liaison between the child welfare committee and the juvenile justice board, or operate at various levels of the juvenile justice system as a member of an organisation or NGO. The observation home, children's home, special home, and place of safety are just a few of the juvenile justice system's required residential care institutions. In areas including family tracing, counselling, rehabilitation, health, education, and career advising, we can work directly with the children accepted to these Homes. Additionally, we can cooperate with the children's relatives.

Further, direct Work with children can be in the following areas:
  • Adoption
  • Foster Care
  • Sponsorship
  • School social work
  • Community-based programmes (education, child labour, child marriage, health, nutrition)
  • Outreach work at railway stations
  • Hospital
  • Child guidance centres or clinics
  • Skill building with adolescents or youth
  • Direct work with specific groups of children (girl child, children with disability, child in addiction, child
  • sexual abuse, etc.)
  • Institutions or Homes within the juvenile justice system or Homes managed by other registered organisations as per State rules and procedures
  • Specialised work such as trauma counselling
  • Rehabilitation work with children rescued from trafficking or children within the juvenile justice system
  • Aftercare for children who are completing eighteen years of age but may continue to require support and guidance

What can we do?

We must first evaluate the child's situation, vulnerable points, effects on the child, and potential for help. Assessment is a multi-step, two-way procedure. It involves the child as much as possible and is an ongoing, repeated, and reciprocal process. Through assessment, we can learn about the child's needs, any rights violations, and develop an intervention accordingly. For instance, in addition to other concerns, children who are victims or survivors of tragedies and/or violence need to receive psychosocial and trauma care.

We can do any of the following or a combination of approaches depending on the circumstances of the child:
  1. Working on the physical, social, psychological and emotional needs of children 
  2. Identifying areas of vulnerability and risk
  3. Crisis intervention for children who have been victims or survivors of abuse or exploitation 
  4. Working on rehabilitation with children who come within the purview of the juvenile justice system 
  5. Working with the family and other significant adults in the child’s life 
  6. Working with the legal framework and taking recourse to the law wherever required 
  7. Planning for both short term care and long term stability

 Working with Family and Other Significant Adults

A youngster interacts with adults frequently, particularly in their formative years. Additionally, they rely on others to meet their basic needs and expectations. Working with adults is therefore a crucial part of doing social work with children. A child interacts on a micro level with their parents, teachers at school, other family members, a doctor, neighbours, and members of the community. At the macro level, many people, including the police, elected officials, and other stakeholders who have an impact on the policy and legislative framework, have an indirect impact on the child's life. The implementation of legislation, provision of proper funding, access to high-quality educational opportunities, and community protection mechanisms such as a watchful police force and a supportive community all have a direct impact on children's rights and protection. As a result, both at the micro and macro levels, there is a wide range of work with significant adults. The overarching goal would be to instil a "child friendly" mentality among all adults at all societal levels. "Child friendly" is defined as "any behaviour, action, practise, procedure, attitude, environment, or treatment that is compassionate, courteous, and in the best interest of the child" by the Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Act, 2015.

Some of the areas of working with adults are:
  • Awareness and sensitization programmes on existing policy and legal framework, different issues concerning children, etc. with parents, family, teachers, police, health officials, legal persons, social workers, government personnel, etc. 
  • Skill building workshops on parenting and issues of domestic violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation 
  • Skill building workshops with teachers 
  • Capacity building workshops with NGO and civil society 
  • Working with other stakeholders on strengthening child rights and child protection work within their own systems (police, health, judiciary, government, education)
  • Sensitizing community adults towards increasing their alertness on children's issues and proactively mitigating children's problems 
  • Workshops to enhance vocational guidance facilities 
  • Workshops to strengthen rehabilitation of children who are within the purview of the juvenile justice system 
  • Developing a framework of child rights programming

Range of Macro Work

With children, macro and micro work are equally vital because children's lives are impacted by macro level factors. At the macro level, one can interact with a variety of items. Here are a few examples:
  • Engaging with concerned State Departments working on children’s issues in the arena of policy formulation, implementation, and other consultative processes 
  • Working with human rights or child rights commissions at the national and state level (National Human Rights Commission, National Commission for the Protection of Child Rights and related State Commissions) 
  • Working with non-governmental organisations (NGOs) or civil society initiatives. Within civil society initiatives one can directly work with children, or engage with fund raising/project management/administration/staff development and/or governance 
  • Engaging in research and evidence-based practice 
  • Training and capacity building or skill enhancement programmes with stakeholders engaged in working with children 
  • Participating in networking, collaboration, advocacy, and campaigns 
  • Fund raising 
  • Writing about child related issues to generate awareness and increase sensitivity 
  • Working on law related areas either through direct practice as a lawyer or through participation in legal literacy and awareness

Basic Skills for working with Children

The level of effectiveness or competency with which we can do an activity, function, or responsibility is known as our skill level. Skills can't function independently. A variety of ideas, perspectives, approaches, knowledge, skills, and research are the foundations upon which social workers who work with children create their profession. A variety of ideas, perspectives, approaches, knowledge, skills, and research are the foundations upon which social workers who work with children create their profession. Developing our own understanding and viewpoint of children is essential for good social work with children. Knowing solely about situations that have an immediate influence on children is insufficient. Additionally, we must strengthen our critical thinking abilities and examine the larger societal contexts and realities that have an impact on human lives, especially that of children.

Perspective building on social work with children: 

We need information about or must expand our understanding of the following in order to be skilled in our work, especially with children:
  • Social realities, structures, issues, and social problems 
  • Local, state, national, and global socio-economic developments both at the society and Institutional level 
  • Discrimination, deprivation and oppression experienced by groups of people 
  • The policy framework, laws, schemes, and programmes directly or indirectly related to children 
  • Understanding different theoretical perspectives on children 
  • Environmental issues, climate change, and its impact on children
  • Understanding the impact of conflict, violence, abuse, neglect, and exploitation of children 
  •  Conceptual clarity on networking, advocacy, collaboration, coordination, and campaign 
  •  Parenting, child rearing, family, and its influence of children 
  • The different categories of vulnerable children, factors of vulnerability and its impact 
  • Rehabilitation and its mechanisms

Principles of Working with Children

Social work with children is founded on fundamental social work ideals and principles, which acknowledge human dignity, growth potential, human empowerment, and a non-discriminatory mindset. A set of guiding principles is particularly crucial when working with children because they are frequently reliant on people to promote their growth. The best interest of the kid principle must be kept in mind when performing social work with children.

Key areas in Skill Building

As was already said, a social worker who works with kids can use a variety of abilities, from micro-level direct interaction with kids, families, and other adult stakeholders to macro-level work of advocacy, networking, and awareness-raising. Depending on the type and method of participation, a social worker can intervene at the local, community, state, national, and international levels. The following list of crucial skill-building areas is provided:
  • Communication skills: This ability is crucial because it encourages kids to communicate, share, think clearly, and take part in decision-making processes. Microlevel communication abilities may be necessary while interacting with children or when 'interviewing' them. It's crucial to have an opinion on children's rights and child protection in order to communicate successfully. A child's cultural background must be taken into consideration when communicating with them. The social worker must speak in a way that the child can comprehend and follow with words and language that are encouraging, nondiscriminatory, and empowering. Words and language (verbal), nonverbal expression, thinking, and listening are crucial aspects of communication. Thinking is a crucial component of communication skills since our thoughts, perspectives, attitudes, and approaches influence our words and nonverbal cues, whether we are aware of this or not. A social worker can use communication techniques like listening, reflecting, probing, paraphrasing, and summarising in their job. At a larger scale, communication would entail expressing opinions and facts in a convincing and/or succinct manner, supporting it with research and practical knowledge, bargaining, lobbying for change, and other abilities. Interacting with the youngster is merely one aspect of good communication abilities. As part of their communication skills, social workers must also be able to collaborate with others, drive change, be adaptable, share ideas and information, and have a flexible mindset.
  • Assessment: It would be challenging to create a pertinent plan of intervention without assessment and a thorough grasp of the child's circumstances. As was already said, evaluation is not a one-way procedure in which a social worker "interviews" a child and then "decides" for the child. A social worker can analyse, ascertain, or estimate the causes that have contributed to a vulnerable condition, as well as likely solutions, through the process of assessment. As social realities are dynamic, assessment might be a one-time activity or it can be a regular continuous analysis of the situation. The child, family, or other important stakeholders in the child's life must be actively included in the assessment. A plan of action or intervention is developed through a cooperative process of engagement between the social worker and the kid or the important adults. The social worker can analyse the existing situation, reflect on it, and jointly plan the next steps with the kid through assessment. If the evaluation procedure is carried out sensitively and within the parameters of kid participation, it might turn into a positive experience for the child. It might inspire hope in the child. The ability for the youngster to breathe, express feelings, and find catharsis during the assessment is also a possibility. In addition to interacting with the kid, assessment will involve a review of the pertinent laws, policies, and programmes, as well as an analysis of the facts and data that are currently accessible. The assessment must be contextual and pertinent to the child's requirements.
  • Planning and Implementing: Social work is about taking action and intervening. Therefore, choosing the appropriate course of action, making well-informed choices, and carefully planning the intervention are crucial for getting the desired outcome. Social workers frequently must weigh the demands of the child's safety and wellbeing with those of the family, which may be in a precarious condition, in order to make educated decisions concerning the child's status. The fundamental component of the intervention programme is implementation. Putting the plans into practise entails administration, monitoring, and reviewing the work in order to ensure that the goals of the plan are being achieved. Evaluation of the project or programme, as applicable, also involves analysing any errors that may occur and promptly making the necessary corrections. The plan may have been thorough and well-designed, but often field experience shows that due to inadequate monitoring and frequent review, the output or outcome has not been as per the objectives. Monitoring and assessment are therefore essential.
  • Referral, Networking, and Resource Mobilisation:The ability to network and mobilise resources is essential for social workers. As was previously established, there are more children in need of care than there are people and material resources to meet their needs. Budgetary allowances, infrastructure features, and sufficient funding for the hiring of qualified people are all examples of material resources. Other resources come in the form of services like counselling, medical attention, treatment facilities, schools, measures to combat addiction, career counselling, work opportunities, etc. The practise of social work is dynamic and complex. It's possible that as social workers, we won't always be able to offer every type of assistance and intervention ourselves. Therefore, effectively assessing the kid's requirements and, if we are unable to meet them ourselves, referring the child to the proper facilities and care, is a crucial competence in social work with children.
  • Advocacy and Campaigns: Campaigns and advocacy would be necessary at all levels of engagement with children. Making the child's voice heard or being heard on their behalf is advocacy. In many cases, advocacy has resulted in changes to laws and policies by arguing that children's challenges require more attention and focus. There are numerous advocacy tactics and methods. The ability to communicate effectively is essential for job in the advocacy sector. In advocacy and campaigns, it's critical to maintain focus on the problem, work together, and establish a venue for discussion and debate.

 Conclusion

The scope of social work intervention with children is broad and diverse. It is feasible to intervene both at the macro and micro levels and in various contexts. Working directly with kids, important people, and promoting critical policy and legal reforms are all options. A specialized field of practice is social work with children. It necessitates in-depth understanding of children, a rights-based perspective on children, and the capacity to organize and contextualize interventions that are pertinent and advance child wellbeing.

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