Relationship building during the initial phase of social work intervention with child clients in farm communities in the Boland district
Marais, Cecilia Johanna
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Children constitute a large part of the client group that social workers deal with on a daily basis. Establishing a helping relationship between the child client and the social worker is crucial for accurate assessments and successful interventions. In the rural areas there are limited resources for social workers and that impedes referrals for therapeutic interventions with children. The social worker is then expected to be able to intervene in order for children to deal with their problems and improve their well-being. If the social worker is unable to establish a relationship with the child client, then his/her assessments and interventions would be affected detrimentally. The literature is clear that an established helping relationship is necessary in order for social workers to be able to intervene successfully. This study endeavoured to qualitatively explore the relationship building experiences in the initial phase of social work intervention between social workers and child clients in their middle childhood years. The findings of the study showed that it is indeed a wonderful and motivating experience to be able to establish a helping relationship with a child and to be allowed to influence the child’s life. But social work is practical and sometimes has to focus on immediate needs and crisis decisions instead of solely focusing on building a helping relationship. First impressions are lasting and the helping relationship often has to be built swiftly and in difficult circumstance. There are a few major constraints to establishing the helping relationship in the initial phase of social work. Limited time and resources prevent social workers from committing to individual intervention with a child. Children are wary of social workers due to the stigma of statutory work, and building rapport is thus difficult as a result of the resistance the social worker experiences from the child client and/or his parents. Rural social workers often have to travel to the child client as the child does not have the means to come to the social worker, and these guest locations are usually not child- and/or intervention-friendly. The participants observed that the children are not familiar with play material which limits the initial relationship building activities that one can employ. An interesting experience that the social workers had, was that they withdrew from certain individual interventions with children for fear that they might worsen the child’s experience due to their lack of skills in working with children on sensitive matters. Certain professional attributes of the social workers aid the initial relationship building experience with children. It was observed that the natural appeal between the social worker and child plays a significant role in establishing the relationship and that it cannot be forced. Based on the findings of the study certain recommendations could be made towards further research in the future. Apart from discussing their experiences and constraints in relationship building during the initial phase, the children and social workers also made suggestions for practice. These suggestions were captured in guidelines for the readers of this report. Propositions are made to non-government organisations for training opportunities for social workers in the field. A few recommendations are also made to researchers who propose to do research with children as participants.
- Humanities