Collaboration is not a useful add-on in child welfare; it is the critical link to resources that the system needs for success (Children and Family Futures, 2011). School age children that live in an environment where substance abuse is present need a variety of services. CPS is not the only agency that can assist children and families of SUD; other agencies are needed to serve the needs of the child and family to address any trauma or stressors/challenges that the family may have as a whole. The school social worker and child welfare can both work together by collaborating effective interventions, resources, etc. for the child and family as a whole unit. Two opportunities of cross sector collaboration is that both agencies can collectively achieved their goals of service delivery and contribution of strengths they both have. Rosenberg, 2009 states that School social workers generally work in teams often known as a “school-based support team.” The school social worker will conduct a psychosocial assessment to understand where the child is mentally and socially and to understand the child’s environment. This assessment includes a social and developmental history and the child’s current behavior at home, with peers, and in the community (Rosenberg, 2009). After assessing the child the social worker can than provide the needed information and resources to child welfare, to establish the team overall goal moving forward. Secondly, after the assessment the school social worker can also inform child welfare about and developmental or behavioral issues that the child may have. Child welfare can connect the child to a speech therapist and behavioral therapist than can help the child achieve his/her academic performance goal. Both agencies can share the strengths such as being creative of what interventions to use, the dedication to help the child and family overcome substance use, and the patience of understanding the family and their environment.
Cross sector collaborative challenges that may arise during treatment for children and families with substance use is lack of communication between agencies and cross training. To communicate effectively about case practice and administrative issues, partners must identify the content, methods, roles, and responsibilities in cross-system communication protocols (Children and Family Futures, 2011). Agencies need to clarify how they plan to communicate, such as using: meetings to discuss the family cases, email using security measures, or telephone. To complicate matters, the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) Code of Ethics does not provide guidance about the confidentiality of minors (Rosenberg, 2009). The School Social Work Association of America (SSWAA) recognizes that school social workers often encounter ethical dilemmas relating to confidentiality and has issued a position statement to provide greater clarity (Rosenberg, 2009). A child or the parent may share vital information that is needed and one agency may not be able to communicate that information, because of the agency policy and procedures that they must abide by. One of the challenges facing school social workers is maintaining confidentiality (Rosenberg, 2009). Establishing clear communication and information sharing protocols will allow practice-level staff to share client information while adhering to each system’s confidentiality requirements (Children and Family Futures, 2011). Confidentiality exceptions in Federal regulations allow providers and systems to share de-identified administrative information for program management (Children and Family Futures, 2011). It is important for the agencies to discuss in the beginning how and what information is allowed to be communicated.
Cross training is also a challenge that may arise during collaboration. Child welfare, substance abuse, and court practitioners need to understand how substance use and mental disorders affect child safety and family well-being and how each system works and interacts with the other systems to serve this population (Children and Family Futures, 2011). It is important for agencies to share what programs they use, assessments, and other tools, that way everyone is on the same page and aware of what applications are being used. Agencies can create an information list stating all the website, programs, assessments, and other systems they may use so that the other agencies can see if they can get those same applications. Effective training initiatives help staff understand substance use and mental disorders, as well as treatment and recovery, child safety, child welfare laws, State and county procedures, court timelines, and each system’s roles and practices (Children and Family Futures, 2011).
Inter-Agency Collaboration Concepts
Social Worker Role
A child welfare social worker main focus is the child over all well being. The child welfare social workers are oriented toward promoting preventive services that keep families together (Rosenberg, 2009). Social workers seek to promote and protect children through a myriad of interventions that may be directed toward individuals, families, and toward effecting community change (Rosenberg, 2009). The role of the social worker in enhancing cross sector collaboration for children and families with substance use treatment are connecting them to resources that they can benefit from. A social worker working a school setting can assess a child that is suffering from substance abuse or is living in a household of substance abuse. The social worker can look for signs or behaviors of parental substance abuse that may indicate that the child is at risk.
Providing family therapy, parent training and education, play therapy, social skills training, and coping skills training either in individual or group therapy in an outpatient, school or in-home therapy setting are ways that social workers can be helpful and maybe a referral to CPS (Lander, Howsare, &Byrne, 2013). It is also the social worker role to build relationships with the family because some information that may be asked may be sensitive such as history of substance abuse and client may become defensive. Working with families requires a great deal of skill and sensitivity, because families are naturally often mistrustful and reluctant to have their child participate in special-needs services (Rosenberg, 2009). Motivational interviewing strategies can be employed to build rapport, increase motivation for change, and decrease resistance (Lander, Howsare, &Byrne, 2013
Social workers dealing with families with school age children can provide them to resources such as: afterschool care, tutoring services, or mentoring agencies such as Big Brothers Big Sisters, In-home and outpatient family therapy and education, supporting parents in being more effective with parental supervision and discipline, providing structure, rewards, and consequences for school attendance and performance and supporting parents in communicating with the school systems can help as well. Social workers can also help by participating in Individualized Education Plan (IEP) meetings, making school referrals for special education, and requesting psychoeducational and neuropsychological testing. Referral to a child and adolescent psychiatrist for a medication evaluation may also be helpful as well as assisting teachers with behavioral interventions in the classroom (Lander, Howsare, &Byrne, 2013).
Diversity & Inclusion Considerations
Issues that should be integrated into the collaborative plan in order to encourage client engagement are being competent and aware of the effects of substance use in a family environment. Social workers must be culturally competent when engaging families from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds (Rosenberg, 2009). When family members do not speak English, language fluency becomes essential (Rosenberg, 2009). The family system must be factored into the understanding of the disease development and maintenance as well as be included in the efforts necessary for successful ongoing treatment (Lander, Howsare, &Byrne, 2013). Low motivation, denial, and resistance are common characteristics of persons with a substance use disorder (Children and Family Futures, 2011).
The population that is at an increased risk of substance use and chemical dependency are lesbian, gay, and bisexual minorities compared to heterosexuals. There has been limited research on substance use disparities comparing sexual minorities with heterosexuals within racial/ethnic minority groups (Mereish, & Bradford, 2014). Researchers have found that sexual minority women of color are at greater risk than heterosexual women of color, whereas sexual minority men of color are at comparable or less risk than heterosexual men of color (Mereish, & Bradford, 2014).