In the final blog post of our group, I set out to outline the possibilities the working life representatives we interviewed for this course have of reinforcing inclusion in their respective fields. We interviewed three professionals working in different units of child protective services and in this post I shall explain how they see their opportunities to affect their clients perception of being included.
All three of the interviewees were social counsellors; two were working in the open care services of child protective services and the third in foster care services.
In the interviews we asked, for example, how clients are included in the units of the working life representatives, what are the key partners and networks of the units, how the clients could be included more and what is challenging in trying to include clients.
Clients can be included as easily as asking them to share their needs and wishes for the process of child protection. If it is difficult for the client to recognize their service needs, the professionals can help by investigating the situation of the client together with the client, specifying the needs and planning the services based on this collaboration.
The professionals work together with multiple institutions and other actors, for example, with schools, daycare facilities, health care clinics and units for adult social work. Reinforcing inclusion in collaboration with these partners and networks can also be achieved by including the clients in the negotiations and conversations with them, as for example, in the systemic practice model of child protection. In this context, the child protective professionals can also work as mediators, helping their clients receive the right kind of help and services.
We also asked the working life representatives how they would improve the service system so that it would enhance the possibilities of reinforcing inclusion and give individual clients better opportunities to affect the services they receive. The answers included many practical solutions; changing the service structure to entail more low threshold -services, having longer operating hours for the units in charge of providing services thus giving the clients easy access to both services and those distributing them; multiprofessional teams available in health centers and in other institutions providing basic services which would allow the client to be involved in establishing service needs right from the start.
The working life representatives also emphasized the importance of peer support groups for their clients; children, parents, foster siblings and foster parents. Peer support groups do not just offer contacts with others in similar situations but also lighten the workload of the professionals as they can reach multiple clients at the same time. One more way of reinforcing inclusion is preparing documentation of meetings together with the client.
The most important aspect of working in child protective services able to reinforce inclusion is communication. All of the working life representatives mentioned communication with the clients and meeting the clients face-to-face as being a vital part of their work and an important way of giving power to the clients over their own affairs.
From the interviews with the working life representatives, I myself gained a revelation regarding my first blog post in which I shared how me and my daughter felt about being included as clients of child protective services. And the revelation is, that being able to communicate your troubles to professionals every week, for example while receiving intensified family work, was indeed something that reinforced inclusion. Even if you did not always see that at the time. And how does communication with others reinforce inclusion? By showing you that you are not alone.
We would like to sincerely thank all the working life representatives for donating us their precious time, it was truly appreciated.
Interviews with anonymous working life representatives