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Intervention Models that facilitate Reduction of Risks to Vulnerable Children

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A family is an institution within which children are born and brought up to be responsible members of the society. Family members are supposed to provide each other with emotional support, love as well as a conducive environment for growth. Parents or guardians as well as care givers have a responsibility of providing basic necessities like food, clothing and shelter. However there exist families that fall short of these expectations leading to many problems that come with family malfunctioning. Whenever there is a problem of this kind, children are the most vulnerable because they bear the brunt of problems that arise. Child abuse and negligence are most common. Child abuse may be physical or emotional and this affects the child’s growth negatively. Negligence can be manifested by the deprivation of basic needs like education, food, clothing and shelter to children. Characteristics of families with vulnerable children are; those that have parents or guardians that abuse substances, parents or guardians in abusive relationships and families that are impoverished and cannot meet the needs of their members.

The Canadian Incidence Study collects statistics regarding child abuse and statistics. In a research done by the latter in 2003, it was observed that child abuse and negligence was on a steady rise in Canada..(Manning). This study conducts investigations every five years and results of this investigation show that between 1998 and 2003 there has been an increase of maltreatment by 125%. Breaking this down into smaller units, it has been established that from samples of every 1000 children investigated by the children welfare society, 28% of them have been at a risk of domestic violence,30% to neglect and 24% to physical abuse. 20% of all the cases that had been investigated went through emotional abuse; In addition to this 10% of the total investigated cases had been subjected to physical harm with 3% of them accounting for those who were seriously injured warranting special attention from medical practitioners. Those who were sexually abused constituted 3% of the total cases that had been reported. (Mc Gill,2003). This has presented a problem of lack of resources that can oversee effective care for the vulnerable children because the number of social workers vested with these responsibilities is not increased as the number of the needy children goes up.

Addressing the problem of children in need would require that such families are identified and assessment of how needy they are done after which the welfare staff chooses the most effective model to be adapted in order to reduce risk of harm to children.(Hess.P.,Mc Gowan, B, & Botsko, M.,2000.May). According to Hess. P (as cited by Kaummern), there are two models for family preservation. Each was innovated with a different objective. One model was premeditated for the purposes of reduction of incidences where children, from families that were on the verge of breaking apart, are taken care of out-of-home. This is a model that comprises of “brief services”. The second model, which was to be carried out a continuous basis, was designed to provide basic services to families that considered themselves needy and requiring such support.

The latter model seemed to adequately address the clients’ need because it was all inclusive in the therapy. The success had been attributed to the willingness of the caregivers and parents to participate in the counseling. The model that includes Family support has been established as successful because there are families that always go back to consult when problems arise.

To illustrate these models as noted by Hess.P, we will use findings from the Center for Family Life’s Preventive Services Program, which conducted a three year study involving 189 families. Assessment of the families was done by workers who had been allocated them. Every family had a social worker who assessed them using the Family Assessment forms with an aim of establishing facts like sources of income and housing, characteristics of children and care givers as well as other members of the family. In addition to this interviews were done to collect views from the practitioners as well as from the families.

He emphasizes that a good model is one that includes opportunities for continuous supportive assistance for the depressed parents with a tendency of maltreating their children. Hess.P, as cited in Besharov(1994:448), notes that social workers should work at providing long term services that are relevant to families that are disadvantaged and vulnerable. He supports this with the fact that social economic factors that lead to the conflicts and families not performing their responsibilities are not spontaneous but could take short to long term periods. These socio economic factors can also make the tensions recur even after some progress has been noted. A long term model provides accessibility of families to therapy whenever a crisis occurs.

In the study of 189 families, there were 423 children and 301 caregivers, 70 % of the latter showed up at the intake interviews while 54.5% of the former did the same. Family members pointed out their needs and problems and also participated in brainstorming of plans on how they could solve them. It was a participatory kind of engagement that had remarkable results. Staff that was in the program noticed positive changes in family relationships while the clients themselves exhibited positivism towards the program. They were seen to value the family centered focus.

Engagement of all family members in the program is a major prerequisite for the success of this program. An example can be demonstrated by the confession of one client of misunderstandings between her and her daughter because of trivial things. She says that on attending a counseling session, both of them were advised to look at their whole relationship more importantly than the trivial things that always emerge as important and end up ruining the former. She admits that there have been tremendous results because both of them have changed and thus have made things better.

The duration of the services is mainly dependent on the severity of the problems identified by the program staff through the family assessment form. Hess.P, further describes an ideal preservation model as that which ensures that there exists a client centered relationship between those in need and the workers, that clients can reach staff whenever they need them and that the planning process accommodates for different time frames depending on the severity of the needs of the clients. A good model has its main focus and orientation on the family.

  Another model that has been proven successful is the Bridges Program that basically has to do with intervention deliberations for people with a problem of substance abuse. This model is designed to prevent the undesirable consequences of abuse of substances on the family. Gruber,K.,Fleetwood , T., &Herring.(2000,July) has it that the model concentrates on the following aspects” Individual actions and cognitions, Family actions and cognitions, individual recovery actions and family recovery actions”.  He notes that a parent who abuses substances is usually struggling to perform parental roles. Addiction often takes the toll incapacitating them to be effective thus forcing them to pull away even further. The result is usually negative and some intervention has to be done before this problem reaches to that level.

The family has to participate in this program (Gruber,K.,Fleetwood , T., &Herring.(2000,July).A parent who is abusing drugs needs support from other family members as he or she goes through the recovery process. Gruber states that studies have shown remarkable improvement in substance-dependent individuals  who have had support from their families as compared to their counterparts that have been deprived of the family support (as cited by Daley & Marlatt, 1992; Daley & Raskin, 1991; Gorski & Miller, 1988; Hawkins & Catalano,1985). The importance of involvement of the family members is that it reduces their chances of relapsing to the habit. This program also doubles up as an avenue through which other members of the family are educated about the dangers of substance abuse. It is done with the objective of preventing the other family members from indulgence. Gruber reports that for the successful implementation of the bridge program, the services rendered should be home-based and at the same time family centered. He says that such a setting removes all the hurdles that would make involvement and support ,of the victim of substance abuse ,by the family impossible, giving transportation as one example of the hurdles.

This program is made to facilitate the stabilization of families as well as the recovery of substance-dependent parents. Once a family is in a stable condition, the cases of maltreatment of children are likely to be unheard of.(Gruber.).This model is vital because studies show that well about 40% of children referred to welfare societies are from families with a history of substance abuse. Another role that this model plays is that of maintaining family ties, according to Gruber, K .  Citing Olsen,1995, he notes that this model  has  proven viable after an assessment of 66 single mothers who were chemical- addicted. This assessment was done on ‘Project Connect’ that has incorporated this model. Home-based and case management services were carried out by the Rhode Island Center for children at risk which normally goes for 6-12 months. The majority of the single mothers who underwent these therapeutic activities ‘made positive progress’.

For the above models to bear fruit the clients need to participate and get engaged in the therapy. In addition to the engagement by clients they also need to abide by the recommendations stipulated by the program (Littell, 2001). Besides the above mentioned conditions helping in the forecasting of a reduction in maltreatment of kids and incidences of out-of-home placement, it makes it easy for the case worker to come up with the best intervention plans tailor made to adequately address the problems faced by clients. In Littell’s citation of Orlinsky p.361, “quality of the patient’s participation in therapy stands out as the most important determinant of outcome”. There is therefore a proportionate relationship between the willingness of the client to participate in the therapy with the success that is expected.

  In finishing, family preservation models have been beneficial to risk families because of their ability to stabilize families that are on the verge of break up hence reducing cases of maltreatment of children. Family ties are made stronger and lead to their normal functioning. On the other hand studies have shown that individuals addicted to substance abuse make positive progress over time and this goes a long way in ameliorating the risks that come with chemical dependence. Research still goes on because the numbers of children at risk continues to escalate as well as the complexity of their needs.


Gruber, K., Fleetwood, T., & Herring, M. (2001, July). In-Home Continuing Care Services for Substance-Affected Families: The Bridges Program. Social Work, 46(3), 267. Retrieved February 14, 2008, from MAS Ultra – School Edition database.

http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ulh&AN=4891889&site=ehost-live Accessed on 21.02.2008

 Hess, P., McGowan, B., & Botsko, M. (2000, May). A Preventive Services Program Model for Preserving and Supporting Families Over Time.

http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=fth&AN=3562137&site=ehost-live Accessed on 21.02.2008

 Littell, J. (2001, June). Client participation and outcomes of intensive family preservation services.. Social Work Research, 25(2), 103.

http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=hch&AN=4653377&site=ehost-live Accessed on 21.02.2008

Manning,F.,& Zandstra, M.A summary of current issues and trends with recommendations for future research.Foster LIFE inc.

Mc Gill-(2003)-Centre for Research on children and Families. Canadian incidence study            of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect. Retrieved February 20, 2008

Link to this record http://www.mcgill.ca/crcf/publications /cis2003/

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