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The road up ahead unnoticed was damp in strong rain let loose against a grey sky that hung in desperation. Then shouts shook up the vicinity as a short craggy boy came in view, just enough to be seen chasing after a grown man. Dark skinned he perspired of fear while he threw large stones in the direction of his pursuit. His father straddled along howling while doing the same. The chase moved on almost reaching the street corner when the grown man abruptly turned about, drew out a long knife and unsurprisingly took in the direction of the boy.
Five weeks before today, I had at my desk a 13 year old girl admitted for sexual abuse which occurred in an out of campus activity over the weekend, and involved two boys ages 14 and 15. I took up the intake interview for document support for criminal charges.
The girl was an obvious difficult untrue to her shattered self, torn between betrayal and the worth of protecting friendship.
I was in some sort of conflict myself, appalled with the clinical findings, and given the ages of these children involved. Both accused and the victim belong to families of lower income brackets with parents working in the informal sector.
Later at night what first came to mind was a concept put forward by Reginald Revans in the 1940s that “People had to be aware of their lack of relevant knowledge and be prepared to explore the area of their ignorance with suitable questions and help from other people in similar positions”. Revans developed on the idea individuals successful with self development are those in adversity who struggle to understand themselves. The formula prescribes L = P + Q where L is learning; P is programmed thought or what is taught or read knowledge and Q is questioning to create insight. Apparently what I hoped to attempt, if any, was to learn in the execution of my task.
In my circumstance as a social worker in child protection for disadvantaged communities; many deep, painful thoughts had me that I questioned if I could make sense of it at all. But work itself, frequent with disordered and dysfunctional children and families, brought me to understand the importance of perfecting the tool of reflective practice. Reflection nourishes the soul as it is a tough discomfort to take issues of the self to the fore. Whatever else is said of it, the tool can elicit insight and appreciation, and develop certain faculties of the mind. It is through reflective practice that I am competent and confident to work positively toward the best outcome in the interest of child with whom we work. This I began to write a few lines every night about my tasks, thoughts, fears, and achievements which helped me to focus and determine the real issue.
Reflective practice is an element of learning through the involvement of self in exploring ones responses in an experience (Boud, Keogh and Walker, 1985). One must begin by understanding the purpose and definitions of reflective practice well explained in the writings of Johns and Freshwater (1998). The process requires methodical recording events and experiences in diaries and journals (Zubbrizarreta 1999 and Tryssenaar 1995), or professional development diaries to return and improve interpretations (Clouder 2000). The method is taken further by Gillings (2000) in placing emphasis on a sincere commitment to self enquiry and a readiness to change through honesty and openness. This argument is supported by Atkins (2000) by determining self-awareness of temperament and conviction as essential to the reflective process.
Ann is a transferee to the university where she easily became friends with gang groups. One weekend she was invited to come join a swimming event on June 28, 2008. After swimming these teenagers decided to drink and others took a dose of marijuana. Ann managed to get too drunk that was left behind with two boys who promised to take her home. Ann was raped that night. The activity held outside campus was not led by the academe that jurisdiction and responsibility is argued.
L O G
I thought it would be a sweeping case for it concerned eleven minors of the same campus, having managed to access liquor and drugs. I believed there was neglect and unkindness on the part on all participants of the activity for leaving a vulnerable girl to the care of bullish boys, and passed judgment that this was some fraternity issue. Because I knew of the forensic evidence and laboratory results, it was difficult to let go.
As I struggled with myself, I discovered the later developments in reflective practice threshed that individuals reach a limit reflecting alone, unaided (Boud, Keogh and Walker, 1985) and that there is more benefit to adopt reflective practice in a group setting or one-to-one forum through supervision (Fisher 1996). Other articles refer this as a guided reflection or learning sequence by studying ones feelings that an evolving of ideas and appreciation spills out. Mann (2008) presents shared reflection to reap benefits of continuity, trust, peer support and an opportunity to reframe. Possible harmful outcomes in spite the aim to provide self direction are also expressed in other works 1-busy work, 2-lack of impact, 3-rejection by clients, 4-misplaced confidence, 5-reflection without learning, 6-intellectualizing reflection, 7-inappropriate disclosure. The article points out that shared reflection is enabled by free expression of opinion when there is a common perceived usefulness of the activity and prior reflective practice experience. However the actual implements of shared reflection could differ as to organizational climate and allocation of time for reflection. But with the many work constraints, shared reflective activities was not possible at the moment.
I adamantly guided Ann to pursue a criminal case. A complaint against the boys was filed in the court under IS No 08-1777. However, with the law protecting minors below 16 in place, the prosecutor dismissed all criminal charges with reason that these boys are below age of maturity.
It was not long that these kids are back in campus. Inquiries on the incident were in sequels which the small institution claiming lack of jurisdiction had nothing to do and nothing more could be done. Cruelly enough, the boys taunt Ann in campus that she reports to her father who in return assaults one offender. Ann’s father is charged for frustrated murder and child abuse on the boy still not proven guilty.
L O G
I was totally devastated with the fact offensive sexual conduct shall pass without incarceration or remorse, seeing that the laws that protect children in conflict a twist. In as much as the boys are exempt from criminal liability, differentiation between wrong and right and the admittance of fault is not examined. While the state protects these boys from punishment, the state did not protect Ann.
Gillian Ruch (2008) points out that there is more literature on definitions of reflective practice, when less thought is given to the conditions to facilitate its development. Insofar as this tool recognizes complexity and uncertainty inherent in social work practice, there should be more emphasis on the need for practitioners to work within safe, clear, collaborative and communicative working practices that are interdependent -in respect reflective practice.
Ann fell into depression; thinks it was her fault (she was too drunk) because she allowed the boys to abuse her. She caused all the troubles (her father beat up one of the boys who files a child abuse case against him and the fraternity wanted to avenge) She inflicts pains on herself (wrist slashing), ran away from home and seeks refuge from gangsters. Smokes, drinks, had some theft issues and turned promiscuous.
L O G
I felt responsible in some way for this behaviour and inadequate for not being able to do more. I though hard of ways to develop a positive self and positive self image for Ann. I involved too deeply with the family, encouraging parents to seek out opportunities to praise, reinforce, and recognize accomplishments. It consumed me, trying to get Ann to an improved ability to trust others in a developed sense.
Models of reflective practice originate in different fields of study, typically depict an iterative process but are not explicit of the role of emotions. A simple model of reflection is to return to the experience and take feelings into account by recognition of emotion, attending to the feelings and developing a new perspective (Boud, Keogh and Walker 1985).
Returning to experience
Looking at my case from a critical perspective, I have prepared a simple log.
L O G
What was I trying to achieve?
I wanted badly to help Ann who was a naughty smart, completely lost in the age of adolescence.
Why did I respond as I did?
My frustration is coupled with the knowledge of several studies that have shown that as age increases in disadvantaged communities, boys have more liberty than girls to explore outside the home (e.g. Jones et al., 2000). And because these disadvantaged communities are less safe, the decline in a girl’s independent activities has crippled the overall growth of society.
What were the consequences of that for the patient, others, myself?
I have given my all to this case, but have time and fund constraints with the volume and limited manpower of our organization. Ann was sent to the Center for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse, another NGO with structured methods on handling child sexual abuse cases.
How were others feeling?
I came to meet the members of the child’s family, who struggled through the issues and difficulty at hand. On the other part, the families of these boys manifested a displaced confidence.
How did I know this?
I kept in constant communication with the mother until a year after that I left work.
Why did I feel the way I did within this situation?
I knew that I could have done more. And I believe there is a need to evaluate the legislation.
Did I act for the best?
The constant weight of workload pressure and prioritization is often of concern to us as child protection workers.
What knowledge did or could have informed me?
Policy developments like these are important to be placed in the fore to promote better understanding of the real levels of risk to children in the various forms of social interaction.
Does this situation connect with previous experiences?
Not particularly, although admittedly I was drawn into this case.
How could I handle this situation better?
I should have been upfront with the family of the legislations in place such that the matter would be dealt with outside legal perspective.
What would be the consequences of alternative actions for the patient/others/myself?
There should have been a coordinated approach, assigning each child to a social worker effectually collaborating findings and cure for child disorientation.
How do I now feel about this experience?
Anger. I felt consumed by this experience and sore.
Can I support myself and others better as a consequence?
Yes. I have learned to distinguish the limits of my work and the level of attachment I can allow myself.
How available am I to work with patients/families and staff to help them meet their needs?
I extend myself in certain situations that compel or affected me more than the work should.
Social work in disadvantaged communities is hefted with several constraints, if not stressful to a practitioner. A serious dilemma is that child protection and community is particularly influenced by poverty and other forms of inequality. It can be said that a harsher impact of transnational integration would be an increased number of anxious people, so much more in poorer communities, where support systems are unsurprisingly ineffectual with a shorthanded social workers group.
In these depressed areas, where the core family unit is continually stressed, abuse easily coughs up. Adolescent sexual abuse is an experience relating to a broad spectrum of challenges across social work development, with suicide as the most severe outcome where much is lost. Other post trauma behaviours common are sexual risk-taking and substance misuse, depression, anxiety, and panic aggression and delinquency.
With the escalating figures on abuse, my department puts up response to the WID (Women in Development), WAD (Women and Development) and GAD (Gender and Development) programs of the Government.
It is among five pilot projects focused on women, children and family, catering a broad geographical coverage with mandate as Training Center. We use a total management approach particularly in severe cases of violence. We work closely with networks such as the Anti Child Abuse Network (ACAN, a national network), Gender Equality and Development (GEAD network in the city of Baguio) and the Regional Organization of Gender Focal Point (ROGFP).
The department six years in existence is established through British funds. This concluded in 2006 leaving behind a vacuum in the handle of Family Needs-and-Risk-Assessment of victim survivors, including other forms of help (coordinating temporary shelter and home visits).
My work as a social worker involves entering the lives of children and families in distress, conflict or trouble. To do so requires theoretical competence and self awareness. Reflective practice ensures that my motivations and past experiences are used to enhance our practice and to help me recognise our impact on others. With it I am also able to establish boundaries when working with children that I have become less assuming, although it does take experience, time, and skill. Noticeably, it has reduced my negative experiences as a service provider. I have the ability to step back and look at the bigger picture we are able to work more effectively with a service user.
Reflection ensures confidence that our responses arise from the client’s situation rather than our past or needs (Lishman, 2002). It prompts the evaluation of practice and gives way to opportunities to learn from experience by identifying what worked well and what may need to change. Reflective practice helps us to keep our commitment of continuous professional development and reinforces the importance of the attitude and keeps accountability at the forefront of our practice (Thompson, 2002).
A crucial aspect of reflection is being able to use the criticism faced and utilize it-that is, turn the situation on its head, and learn something positive from it. Schon (1983) has explained, professional knowledge is grounded in professional experience.
L O G
In one time I consoled the mother of this young girl by telling her not to worry because this circumstance will make her stronger and wiser. And she snapped at me in disappointment that it was the least of her interest to gain strength and wisdom at the expense of her child.
For long I was in moral conflict over the case. More so because it was a strong issue in the area of my work and to circles I involved in. Contradictions from interest groups mounted, many simply for the benefit of group funding among others. It was very sad because those hurt from the occurrence could not be helped. Deep inside me I questioned if we did protect the child and should be protect a child who abuses another child. The reflection of my inner conflict is drawn in the tree below.
RA 7610 Anti Child Abuse
It was devastating and I was
Do the most significant and
influential ethical theories
deny the existence
I should have been
upfront with the family of
the legislations in place
such that the matter
would be dealt with
outside legal perspective.
Action is wrong because it
ignores Ann’s rights.
In as much as the boys are
exempt from criminal
between wrong and right
and the admittance of
fault is not examined.
While the state protects
these boys from
punishment, the state did
not protect Ann.
Ann fell into
(wrist slashing), ran away
from home and seeks
refuge from gangsters.
Smokes, drinks, had some
theft issues and turned
Have I failed to protect
and preserve public
interest because of a
selective indifference to
knowledge that bear on
the preservation of
human values and the
solution of problems ?
important be examined to
understanding of the real
levels of risk to children in
the various forms of social
It consumed me, trying to
get Ann to an improved
ability to trust others in a
On the other part, the
families of these boys
manifested a displaced
Is policy effective with
harsher impact of
increased number of
anxious people, so much
support systems are
with a shorthanded social
With all confusion, it was my constant reflective practice that held me through. I then took upon myself to pursue that this tool as a functional process to be performed at individual level by members of the team and in case conferences. The specific objectives include: (a) Increased awareness of RA 7610, Special Protection of Children against Child Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act and RA 9262, An Act Defining Violence Against Women and Their Children, providing for Protective Measures for Victims, prescribing Penalties therefore, and for other purposes; through reflective practice methods and approaches focused on the family as a basic social unit, and extending to schools, universities, workplaces and the communities. (b) Reporting reflection after conducting immediate extensive treatment and protection and preventive psycho-social services through testing and treatment, advisement and counseling. (c) Shared reflections on particular cases for the containment of severe conditions that further endanger lives and situations of victim survivors, families and communities. (d) Shared reflection that explores potential roles of victim survivors and families in the reflective practice initiatives for community learning. (e) To log these activities for the advancement of research methods and further betterment of programs and services delivery.
At this point I thought it useful to reframe the work process. Reflective practice should be central to reframing a process flow of intervention in my department. The revised diagram puts forward the value of dialogue after every process step which could change the difficulties experienced through my individual account (Errington, Robertson 1998). It is thought that reflective practice adopted in a group setting by practitioners should be inextricably linked to social workers settings. The interaction also establishes rudiments of supervision by the department head as suggested in the writings of COT (1997), conducting group reflective practice supports and promotes professional development and continuing education.
REFRAMING INTERVENTION CHART
Patient with guardian is received by WCPU Social worker
Guardian is made to complete the consent form
Trauma intake interview if a patient is conducted, discussion with caretakers, companions and relatives
Gathering, distillation and relaying of crucial information to the clinician before the interview and exam
Collaboration with hospital staff members on-call
Physician and social worker interview the Guardian/ caretaker
Refers patient and family for temporary shelter, meal, food, financial assistance from LGU
Submits and follows up lab specimen results
1 PATIENT INTAKE
Rigorous documentation of interviews, risk assessment and care of the survivors
Worker conducts risk assessment for the child and family and decides on a plan of action that best protects the child and the family
Refers child to a psychiatrist if needed
Coordinates and refers client to other agencies like OSCWD, CPTCSA, PNP and others
SW provides advice and crisis counseling
The physician carries out an appropriate forensic interview that is child sensitive, using a developmental approach
Social worker listens to interview an transcribes interviews as necessary
2 FORENSIC INTERVIEW
The physician and social worker assess and refer patients who require counseling to the psychiatrist
Psychiatrist conducts regular therapy sessions for the child until the child shows, significant improvements in diagnosis
5 PSYCHIATRIC CARE
Physician performs non-traumatizing medical examination that adheres legal requisites for evidence collection, including colposcopic pictures
Physician also examines child for medical problems not associated to the abuse
Physician devises and implements a medical treatment plan
Assisting the physician in the conducting of the physical examination and gathering of specimen and other medico-legal evidences
Social worker passes and follow-up laboratory request. Refer lab results to physicians concerns and informs patient
Contact and get food from dietary for the patient as needed
When necessary, referrals are made for medical services not provided by WCPU
3 MEDICAL EXAMINATION
When summoned, WCPU physicians appear in court to provide expert testimony about the findings
6 COURT TESTIMONY
While the work of Gillings (2000) guides reflection of feelings to deliberately evaluate the experience, it is expected that a particular situation is adequately analysed and that the development of an action plan follows. By reframing the process flow, there is better chance that a holistic action plan evolves each time shared reflection takes place and additional information integrated to the case. This requires that professional development diaries (Clouder 2000) become part of the workflow, where documentation of group reflections preserves the learning experience for the reference of future learning groups. Importantly, each group reflective practice should begin with the understanding of what the team is trying to achieve. The sensitivity articulated by Atkins in Burns and Bulman (2000), is that there must be commitment and willingness to listen to the views and insights of other practitioners. By so, it allows for new posits for practitioners to apply in the handle of new experiences. In effect, an individual member presents a challenge and has these views and perspectives provoked by questions of fellow practitioners, and share the process leading to appropriate actions. It is an application of the work of Kristina Gower (2002) that through the process of shared reflection, an avenue is set for the individual to focus on themselves and what they are grappling at work.
It is argued in many writings that shared reflection when practiced effectively and with consistency, enables practitioners to be open with each other and capable of trust. I think it is most needed today where globalisation has caused upon a change in the social structures of communities and social workers are faced with new sorts of challenges. By mere process of jotting down thoughts in a descriptive manner, unloads the emotions held within. What is more is when it is read, it is an act of distancing from self, allowing one to see if our responses were appropriate to the situation.
Shared Reflection Session
Adapted from National Primary and Care
Trust Development Programme 2008
Present your challenge, insight, issue, or question
Set members question you constructively to challenge views and understanding, perceptions, and assumptions
New insights, understanding or ideas
Test actions in the workplace
Draw conclusions and mark learnings. Integrate the new knowledge into the practice
Bring results back to set. What worked? What did not? Why?
Each time group reflection is carried out, a new interaction or form of reflection occurs, or individual reflection is deepened. The chart below depicts continues growth expected of dialogues amongst practitioners. Proper recording of the analyses, conflict and interaction must be ensured for future growth of the department.
By and large, globalization altered the traditional roles in society that sense of community is hard to come by. The greater impact however falls on less developed nations where close family ties have tangible effects on income sources, equally personal growth. While conventional theory avers family as the fundamental social institution, it is opposed by the changing times. The present phenomenon sees the family unit split on a massive scale leading to less safer communities for the child.
Because it is so, reflective practice intertwines with the practice of social work. Interactions in delicate matters of family, and in situations of discomfort, it is essential that social workers maintain reflective practice to unearth insights as much as for the interest of self preservation in pressing issues by constant self awareness. While practice is located within the ancient tradition of experiential learning and in the recently defined perspective of situated cognition, both return us to the basic comprehension that not all problems are of equal dimensions. What is more is not the scope or dimensions of the problem but the significance of the problem to the child we work with (Osterman, 1993).
This is reinforced in the manuscript Changing Lives review of social work by Peter Lewis, where it relates the emphatic need for more reflective practice. Appointed director of children’s services at Haringey, a first response was to send off social work staff on reflective practice courses at the Tavistock Clinic (cooper, 2010). Of course, a huge obstacle to reflective practice and clearly widespread in England comes with the tightening budgets, even when studies have increasing shown the relevance of reflective practice as an essential part of social work decision making. That is the sheer volume of the work and its impact, as a social worker, one is stressed and overwhelmed that is likely to overly identify with a child at work or with the parents. As a result it becomes difficult to maintain objectivity and stand back.
Kim Poupart (2010) relents that “People get stirred up by child protection work. For example, if someone is forced to look at slides of abuse it is painful for them to see. Unless they can reflect about how upset and angry they feel they will be unable to manage their feelings in relation to the work and decisions they need to make.” The study elaborates on the important elements of reflective practice which allows for a deeper understanding of: (1) The role emotion plays in decision-making, (2) Patterns finding the evidence for gut feelings, (3) Confirmation biases or reluctance to abandon a pre-formed opinion, (4) Attribution error on attributing behaviour to personality traits rather than the context, and (5) Hindsight error.
While reflective practice in social work cannot be disguised, credence on personal attributes should be upheld. These personal attributes contributing to the perfection of reflective practice are: values, perception of the world, self-perception, emotional status and interaction with the external environment (Maree C, 2010). The observed skills leading toward such competencies are developed at early portions of the profession. Course curriculums have incorporated cognitive-structural theories, human development theories, and exhaustive study of postmodern writings on reflective practices in group and individually. Neil and Sue Thompson (2009) suggest that “At the heart of reflective practice is the idea that our actions should be informed by a knowledge base that we engage with actively.” In which case responses are not by routine or by habit but rather through sincere and considerate understanding of the situation faced, thus ensuring the practitioner sees beneath the surface of things.
In conclusion, reflective practice contributes to professional development and in a manner quite difficult to measure. Particularly in my case, it was the source of great strength with the several difficult decisions and challenges unearthed in child protection work.
I could honestly say that this case was a moral challenge since it compelled implementing a law that I do not think is entirely good. Similarly, we run the risk of reinforcing existing inequalities and potentially oppressive processes in the absence of proper reflection and reflective practice. In some organizations, this is seen to come in the way of work, especially to traditional bosses who think that adding processes is an upshot of not having enough work to do. Through reflective practice I come to appreciate All things equal, I strongly believe that it there are good choices and better outcomes for children when reflection is performed. I see things differently.