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Placement Reflection

Our communities are dynamic in varying degrees. From theoretical aspects in the classroom and reading, it is vividly explained in many theories about human behaviour and social realm at large. We can sight many variables in the Macro context starting from the practice in social work, organisations, administrative and ethics in a summative aspect. As diverse as they may seem, the nature of society requires that one has to have an in-depth understanding of the elements in the social fabric that holds the community together. Critically speaking, deficiency in the knowledge of concepts and ideologies in these fields can set the social network off balance, and the effects stretch only to an imaginative extent. Equally, the inability to dispense the information that one has is of similar strength and importance, and can cause similar damage to the community.

As personnel deemed to eventually offer social work services to the community, it is imperative that direct experience should be facilitated for application purposes of the content that is assimilated in the classroom setting. As part of the curriculum, we were to go to different areas of the community to put the knowledge we have into practice. I was put on field placement at the public defender’s office of Julianne Holt, 13th judicial circuit of Hillsborough County (Tampa, Fl.).

Purposefully, this assignment is a comprehensive reflection of the occurrences at the agency in the community. Did what was learned in class come in handy in the social work? As such it is a representation of what was encountered in the placement in connection with what was learned. Arguably, the concepts and knowledge in the curriculum was of instrumental value to the successful service to the clients in the organization. Issues regarding the behavioural theories that were learned in class and the elements in different settings in the Macro practice were put into use.

Julianne Holt’s Public defender’s office is a firm in the legal services sector. In several circumstances, there are cases in the community that need legal address, but factors including the inability to hire private representation can be a red flag to the serving of justice. As a de facto of the private legal services sector, Holt’s organization applies the same standard in private representation to ensure that they live up to the title “Public defender”. In the company there are various departments, which include the social services and aftercare, forensic behavioural intervention, and the Pepin academy among others.

The placement in the department of social services and aftercare was best fit for my educational inclination in social work. In addition to the underlying legal matters that bring the clients to the firm. It is quite hard for good representation to be done if the background of the client is not understood by the councillor. This is an attempt to address social quagmires that rock the daily lives of the people (psycho-social assessments). In effect, the firm understands people better; in that case the advice that is rendered goes beyond the scope of the trial period and into the future lives of the clients. Apart from that, some of the individuals in this department give the legal unit advice on sentence alternatives and mitigation proposals. Specifically, the area of psycho-social assessment was the area in which my duties lied.

In an occasional routine search at the local school, the sniffer dog detected something worth a check-up in a student locker. Upon confirmation, Billy’s locker had marijuana in it. Billy is a fifteen year old, seventh grade Mexican boy. His mother was called by the principal to address the matter, which at this time reached the police station and was to proceed. Apparently, this was the climax in what the teachers and Billy’s mother called a span of unwavering misconduct from the boy, who until after the summer holiday had been a good boy with constant improvement and focus that seemed to taking him in a good direction.

In the session a change of social groups, skiving class once in a while, and the behavioural changes saw the calm, laid back son turn impulsive, arrogant and hyperactive. Admittedly, the boy’s mother suspected substance abuse, which the father of the boy, whom he has never met, practiced. Attempts to unravel the mystery were void as the mother now wondered what to do. Detention was a common occurrence now, and what followed was purely not something one would have seen coming in the previous school year.

Billy was now on a juvenile delinquency case whose background no one was yet to establish. As a social worker, the change of the behaviour could be as a result of something that probably happened in the course of the summer holiday. As was later found out, the disciplined young boy was exposed to the drug and molested at a party that was hosted in the summer holiday period. The sourness and negative change was a mare shield to the horrendous tale that the summer has turned into. During the confession, the overwhelmed boy explained how the party had college students who had alcohol and in fact put pressure on him to take the drug for the first time.

Bitterly speaking on a question of what perspired afterwards, he explains that he was “high” and could not remember everything. He remembered going to one of the rooms in the house and painfully reckons waking up naked and in pain the next day. He went back home innocently, as he had told his mother that he was going for a sleep over at his friend Dan’s house from where they snuck out in the night.

After the incident, which his friend Dan did not know about, Billy was trapped in a predicament whose utter disclosure could lead to a crush of self-esteem and upon leaking to other students it would crush his social life. The inability to expose the matter could be a drive to seek other forms of cover up or avenues which he can channel frustrations. In this, the climax was the event of substance abuse.

In the BSW program, the Social systems theory was one of the ones highlighted in detail. Categorically speaking, we can define the most evident term in the theory (system) as a complex structure of elements which are interrelated in such a way that they function hand in hand in particular hierarchy or formulation towards a common end (Dale et al., 2008). In a summative fashion, we can stipulate that the theory shows the relationship between an individual and the environment to which he lives in or is subjected to in the course of his life. To an extent the components of this environment stretch to the likes of family and other derived units in the interwoven social structure.

In the theory, we can deduce that humans are in continuous exchange with the environment in which they are in. Apart from that, the systems that exist in the society are not independent, but are more linked to constitute a fabric that is what we can see in our daily social lives. Although, there exist different types of boundaries namely the closed and the open types; it is imperative to note that one of the systems can have an effect on the larger societal system that exists. Notably, these systems tend towards a point of balance called equilibrium (Dale et al., 2008). The basic elements at the individual level construct the family system, which affects them in one way or another. Other factors are also pertinent in the family construct of a system.

To isolate the problem of Billy and know the reason behind his actions, a study of his system elements was crucial in determining that indeed he is neither a drug peddler nor an addict, but someone looking for solace away from the harsh realities that may be harmful or painful in memory. In this case, the study showed that the family setting was okay apart from experiences that we would categorize as normal for a teenage boy. Question marks emerged in his social realm, where he was protective and very sensitive to matters that were hitting on the probable area of concern. Upon creating a platform of understanding through relation, that is a narration of probable experiences, he seemed to put focus on areas regarding gossip and partying; that is where the nit cracked after an overwhelming assurance of confidentiality (Dale et al., 2008).

Social work is dependent on the interaction of individuals. In this case, we can, therefore, stipulate that the extent to which the social worker is able to skilfully communicate and interact with the party or parties has a direct effect on the results which will emerge in the course of delivering his or her duties. These skills, which improve the interpersonal communication, can be referred to as “Microskills”. In a summative aspect, they can be condensed in to the interviewing, verbal and non-verbal cues, and, finally, the ability to create a relationship with the clients. These are categories, but the skills are many.

Attentive listening is a skill that emerged as an important tool in the placement period. It involves ensuring that all that the client is communicating in verbal and nonverbal communication is received and noted. In this case, a reference can be made to something mentioned earlier, so that a comprehensive understanding can be made. For example, Billy’s case required attentive listening to see area that were sensitive and ones which he seem to be withholding (Dale et al., 2008). Billy’s mother’s complaints required listening too, so that a neutral and logical reasoning can be made to avoid future confrontations.

Interviewing skills are important since in this work, the conversations had are not ones intended to past time, but to yield results. Therefore, strategies had to be made on how to bring up issues in conversation that would encourage the client to open up and stipulate what was troubling them and also create a relationship with them. Nadia’s case of felony, which was a follow up, required this to ensure that all was good. In that situation, new developments that could be barriers to normalising the underlying issues would be discovered and dealt with.

To further improve the atmosphere of work, that involves making the client comfortable and in a position to trust, empathy, warmth and genuineness were the skills invoked (Dale et al., 2008).  Especially for people who are speculated to have underlying complications that may be affecting their lives, it is not possible that they will let you in unless you show that you can be reliable and trusted. In all the cases, these skills were used to ensure that no underlying issue was left unattended. The relationship created must be string depending on the matter in hand and the age of the client.

In the course of work, the community at large was at heart; thus it was imperative that skills that would be used at that level be actually used. Needs assessment, consultation, and strategic planning were the most evident macro skills used. In intent, the aim was to improve service at the community level by involving many people, even at the organizations. Consultation, for example, was an important tool in reference to scenarios which were not showing promise or dilemma areas. Sensitive information like Billy’s sexual harassment was the most sensitive case encountered and in action, what was to be done was a dilemma.

In the same fashion, strategic planning was a useful tool in the creation of methods to solve particular cases at the placement. Unlike an open conversation, the social worker should have a plan, which in essence is a strategy to uncover the bugging issues that are causing the behaviours that brought the client to the organization (Dale et al., 2008). Upon briefing on a case, a strategic plan would be made, so that a road map to the objectives would be clear. Afterwards, a routing check on the conformity with progress would be done, and necessary adjustments made if needed.

As the first thing that one should realise in the first interaction and pick up during the conversation, needs assessment become a useful tool that can shed light on the means through which tough situations can be achieved. Worries that one may harbour are obstacles in the creation of a relationship that would help in achieving the objectives. In the cases allocated, the skill was useful in establishing the solution(s) as well as establishing a relationship with the client. Those among other needs are instrumental at individual and community levels of social work.

My client system was one that had involved sexual abuse, trauma that caused by coping issues, and an encounter with substance abuse. Billy was sexually abused during a summer vacation and developed trauma and coping difficulty that was accompanied by a drug abuse problem that currently holds him liable to penalties by the state (Dore, 1998).

In their findings, Chen, Tyler, Whitbeck, and Hoyt (2004) found an intense relationship in the behavioural pattern of homeless children and those encountered sexual abuses in the past. In the research, children who are homeless are arguably exposed to drugs as compared to other children. Nonetheless, in the sample they used, they found that drug abuse was more prevalent or started earlier to ones pre-exposed to sexual abuse. In that, the children exposed to sexual abuse had a 70% chance of getting into drug addiction, while 68.7% of the non-sexually abused children engaged in drug abuse. In these categories, drugs were used by many. In aid to my client system, I viewed the multiple drug use to be a factor to look at in the course of interviews.

Lee, Lyvers and Edwards (2008) investigated the link between child sexual abuses, substance abuse, and the ability to cope with life. Their study was based on an Australian population of 79 adults, who at that time were seeking treatment for child sexual abuse or substance abuse. In their findings, 51% of the cases of child sexual abuse were likely to find difficulty coping in terms of the use of drugs to curb negative moods, severe depression, lack of optimism, and, in worse case scenarios, long periods of substance abuse. However, the rate was higher among women than men. In the case of substance abuse that rocked Billy’s situation and the change in behaviour that showed inability to cope, it is this research that propagated the need to find out if there was a history of sexual abuse.

A broad spectrum research on the effect of adverse childhood experiences was conducted by a group of professionals from renowned institutions, who teamed up to shed light in this area. The group comprising of Felitti, Anda, Nordenberg, Williamson, Spitz, Edwards, Koss and Marks (1998) found interesting results across the many experiences. Pertinent to this article, they found out that more than a half of the population was exposed to an unfit childhood experience, and a quarter was exposed to 2 or more such situations. Most importantly, a relation was drawn that for those who had four or more of such exposures the rate of susceptibility to alcoholism, suicide attempts, depression, and drug abuse ranged between 4-12 fold. Other diseases were also linked to the exposure of such scenarios. In this client system, the fact that the substance abuse exposed could be a tip of the iceberg that would mean there are more issues underneath the matter. Such possibilities ensure that the situation is dealt with in an open mind.

The United States has regulation that bans the use of drugs such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and morphine among others. These crimes are punishable by different counts as specified in the individual states. In recent years, there have been attempts to introduce softer legislation to provide for particular circumstantial use. Arguably, this has been witnessed in the marijuana kind of drug. These attempts have failed so far, and we can attribute this to the conflict of the state laws with the law of the United States.

In order to curb this, the courts ruled that all laws on drugs that were in conflict with the one of the United (Federal law) were not valid. In Florida, the policy on marijuana is dependent on various factors inclusive of the amount, use (personal or selling), and the place in which the drug is found. The place has special consideration of schools and play grounds among other special areas. Penalties vary from a 1 to 15 year incarceration and a fine varying from $1000 to $200,000. The policy affects my client system, as it involved marijuana and it was referred to social services because of Billy’s age; his age (minor) puts him in a special category. In the policy, he would face a sentence of up to one year depending on the case defence.

In the client system, there emerged social justice issues that had a hindrance on the understanding of the situation. This was brought to light by Billy’s mother, who viewed the arrest of her son as an injustice citing that the culprit was still at large. Racial discriminatory issues, due to the fact that her son is Mexican and his friend whom his mother alleged that he had a hand in the matter, arose frequently. In that line, she relied on previous experiences in her stay in the United States, where she stipulated that there was double-standard application in the justice system and lifestyle.

Critically, she said that it was rather painful that some activities which occur in the “White” community were accepted to some extent in the sense of not being severely punished. This is interlinked with the notion that the activities in the majority groups are more acceptable, and if the same is done by persons from the minority groups another view is adopted, which is not similar to the one in the majority group (Beitchman, 1991). In addition to that, the fact that Billy’s mother claims that it is during the summer period when Billy went for sleep overs at Dan’s that this started is true. However, the reasons she gives are unjust due to the judgement she passes on the parenting skills of Dan’s parents. Her perception of Dan being liberal as a problem is also an issue.

Economic justice issues did not come out as much as the social justice issue. That notwithstanding the fact that the two children, Billy and Dan, come from different economic backgrounds and, at one point, the difference came out as a possible reason for the exemption of Dan according to her mother. Needless to say, it was sorted out and straightened out to an extent that bitterness was eliminated to avoid possible confrontation.

Cultural and social diversity issues erupted during the psycho-social assessment. In background, the mother of Billy traced back the origin of the behavioural change to when his son was close to Dan. Though, she notes that they still are; she says that at that time they were very close and some of the weekends during the holiday were spent in “sleep-overs”, which she articulates as a likely source of menace (Kendall-Tackett, 2002). To that fact, she threw accusations to the family of Dan for recklessness and, as she claims, the immoral behaviour is a kick start from Dan.

“Dan’s parents have failed to raise their child in discipline and this is now overflowing into my family,” she lamented bitterly. She states that Dan is too liberal for a youngster and most of the time she would notice that he would be a bit cocky when she told them what to do at her house. At one point she said that Dan too should be apprehended since in her view, he was the mastermind and likely owner of the drugs.

Cultural and racial backgrounds came in strongly at one point. Dan is “White” while Billy is Mexican. To this, Billy’s mother attributed the insusceptibility of Dan to be implicated in the saga. “This justice system is corrupt.” She stipulated. “My boy is good, he has been good and disciplined but the liberal nature of Dan took away his innocence and exposed him to this.” Although the bitterness was not from both factions, it is important that we avoid a possible confrontation that would erupt in the course or post-trial stages of this incident.

To address the brewing cloud of hatred and discrimination, it was best to maintain a neutral stand lest a pool is generated that would be consumed in the cyclone that Billy’s mother was building. She was looking for any loopholes that would vindicate her son. Firstly, a strategy was made to be the listener to all that she had to say. Considering that it would seem biased, no refutations to any claims were made as she stipulated her thoughts (Kendall-Tackett, 2002).  Afterwards, after she calmed down, a stand on the matter and the jurisdiction of my work was made clear, to make it clear that no implications on anyone would be made. Social barriers that included racism and cultural diversity were the most crucial in this case.

At a neutral point, Billy was a start. Billy’s nature as an accommodative person with no inclination to people of the same cultural background or racial issues was a point which she accepted. When a consensus on the importance of the sensitivity of the matter to Billy and the community was made, the importance and limitations were discussed at length. At last, she agreed that it was best not to brew up those issues which will affect Billy more and bring unwanted tension.   

In the area of Social work, there are values which should be upheld at all times for the administration of duties to be successful. In this case, these set of values encompass professional ethics. As a person responsible for the community, sobriety and accuracy in the dispensation of duties is very important. Some of the values that were instrumental include respect, honesty, impartiality and confidentiality.

At times, the conversations would get heated up, and some direct commentaries or claims would be given towards the social worker. In the client system, Billy was particularly cold and rude at some point; also, his mother was keen to subject me to comments or statements that were aimed at linking one to part of the problem (Siegel, 2003).  In these cases, the decision of what to do was derived from respect of the feelings of the parties and avoidance of confrontation, which in the end would jeopardise the objective of the activities.

Claims were made by Billy’s mother. In this scenario, to pull the accusations a notch down before they resulted in unwanted friction, there was a need to take an approach that single out the role of a social worker in the matter, which is not to say what is true or false, but to avoid situations that are based on no grounds to cause rifts that would go on even after the trial period. Impartiality and honesty helped me in giving guidance to throw out fallacious and ill will in the course of justice. Likewise in Billy’s situation, a stand of a un-judgemental third party whose interest was to help the client had to be created for objectivity. In that case, honest relations to some of the activities that took place, as well as impartial advice, were instrumental in getting a formidable solution to the underlying issues.

Moreover, there are accusations and details that emerged in the dispensation of duties that if they leaked, it would be a destabiliser rather than a solution to the on-going problems. Case in point is the feelings and attitudes that Billy’s mother had towards Dan and his family. Friction would emerge if the family found out that their son was being connected to the case. Investigations did not show any link, but any stand on the matter could not be taken as the truthful one until conclusion of the case. In the same fashion, the elements mentioned in the conversations with Billy were to be handled professionally for effective solutions. Some of the things mentioned required consultation from experienced personnel on condition of discretion. What Billy’s mother was to be told regarding his son was to be carefully assessed and vice versa.

Social work is an area of work where you never exploit the possible situations that may arise. In the course of dispensation of duties, the situation described in this article was one to reckon with. The complex nature of the system that formulate the action of Billy was one that proved to be very elusive to a point that one would not establish the real force behind the recent actions. Arguably, I would say that the main professional challenge was in the availability of experience in similar situations that would give clear guidelines as to what may be the cause condition.

Moreover, regardless of the classroom orientation that is done to existing theories that help in addressing social stalemates, it is also true that in my situation, referring to the theories and literatures was a common scenario to ensure that the right things were done. Reliance on confirmation may be too late at times and may not be possible when the client is there. Thus, it is important that professional exposure goes hand in hand with application, so that the experiences can remain as a practical experience, which is easily remembered in comparison with written material.

On the other hand, there are strengths that emerged in the placement. Analysis of situations to deduce the true root of the matter is an achievement that is in tandem with the aims of the studies. Interaction and application of knowledge in social work is a strength which upon practice can be beneficial to the worker and community at large. As a young worker, getting the attention and respect of older clients is important. In addition, it involved dealing with teenagers, who are very secretive on sensitive matters. In the placement, the interaction with Billy to establish what was a professional achievement on the ability to relate for objective purposes.

The placement served as a moment of truth that shed light on the areas in which more effort has to be put to and the areas which need to be upheld. On a general perspective, a lot has to be done even in the areas that are currently emerging as comfort zones or areas of triumph. Social work bring dynamic challenges that are not duplicate or repetitive in nature in the respect to the systems in which they are in. Areas of professional ethics and relation to client matter have emerged as areas that are good (Pennington, 2005).  Areas of concern include those of understanding the theories in such a way that no reference has to be made but only more information from research to add. Exposure also fits in that category, and volunteering in such community facilities during the long vacations can be an area to start building a strong professional foundation.