18 May 2022


Social Work and the Process of Working with Families

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The various expressions of the social question place limits and intervention challenges for the Social Worker, demanding a close examination in the world of work, particularly in institutions dealing with the health-disease binomial, where the contradictions and society with high levels of social exclusion emerge strongly (O'Byrne, 2000). It is extremely important that the professional, when working with families, adopts a socio-educational position, of exchanges, in a horizontal relationship, always having in mind that the social reality and the family dynamics require that the professional respect the individuality of each family (Schwartz et al., 2007).

Do You Think There Is Enough Ignorance Of What Social Work Is?

Yes. Social Work has also been heard more in the last years, because before, was called Diploma in Social Worker, then Social Worker associated with him as an assistant. The housekeeper goes home to do household cleaning and caring for the elderly. Then there was also a confusion because Social Work was confused with Social Graduate although they are related things and, in fact, the Faculty is Social Studies, within the social studies, you find Social Work, the Diploma of Social Work, and the Diploma of Social Graduates. Then I think there was a little confusion with the nomenclature. Today I think it is a little clearer, what is Social Work and a social worker, and yet according to which people, older people concretely still do not have it very clear. They continue to call us, and in fact, I have been called ‘the assistant.’ Or for example, where I work, an anecdote also that I have is that they called me asking for ‘the social’: ‘Listen to me socially.’ And, well, now, you hear more.

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After finishing school, how were your beginnings as a social worker?

After graduating from Pittsburg University, I did various career internships at community association. As a social worker, I participated in a program in which training sessions were given to parents of persons with challenges. I entered voluntarily in helping children in Children’s Hospitals across the country, knowing first the institution and the association, being with the sick in the reception center and later with the social worker knowing a little about the work, the work they did. Then, as a result of volunteering there, they hired me.

What steps are followed since a social worker detects a problem in a house until he sends the child to the foster home?

In the first place, the social worker identifies the problems of the family and makes a diagnosis, and with this one sets goals to work with the family to improve the situation of all. If all the resources they put in place do not work, and the children suffer abandonment, neglect and are not well cared for, it is when it comes to the one that goes to a home. They make a report proposing it to the Pennsylvania Institute of Family and the Child, where the case is studied, and a response is given to whether the minor will enter the home, or not. If yes, it is seen in Coordination of centers, which is a branch of the Family Institute, which places are available in the CAM, and which is the most suitable place for the child.

What traits, profiles or psychological deficiencies do most of the minors have?

 They hardly ever know why they end up in a home, they are accustomed to living as they live and they think it is because they are bad. They tend to be children with low school level since in the families they do not give importance to the following of duties, schedules of study, habits, etc. So they often fail at school, not integrate well into the classroom for these reasons, their peers do not value them either. They may have behavioral problems, due to lack of limits; they are restless children, who do not attend to norms nor indications because they have never had them. They are often sad and lack affection and attention. They do not have social skills or psychological strengths; they are hard because that is their defense, not because they are.

In many cases, they end up medicated, depending on the problems that are being discovered;

most attend Special Education Schools or with Accommodations in the Regular Curriculum.  

What Is Your Role As A Social Worker In These Foster Homes?

Social educators are responsible for caring for, and teaching in all aspects since are the people who work directly with them. As psychologists, I do a transversal work. Social workers coordinate the CAF, meetings where all the professionals meet, to define and diagnose the case, agree on objectives and tasks and share the work to be done. It

What Is The Status Of The Social-Educational Situation Of Minors?

This year several of them have changed center since it no longer offered more courses.

The older ones go to the Brot School in Pittsburgh, which is an innovative educational project of the Learning Foundation with a methodology valid for all and suitable to attend to Specific Learning Difficulties: dyslexia, dyscalculia, attention deficit, among others. To help this type of students to develop fully and avoid school failure. It is a concerted school, with a novel educational project, and with a preferential integration to students with specific learning difficulties. The purpose of the school is to reach the curricular contents marked but by another way, without changing the knowledge but the way to reach them.

The attention is personal, achieving that ‘a school is a place where to want to be and want to stay, and students can reach where they want, not as far as the system allows.’ The child is the protagonist and takes the reins of his life. The younger ones go to the Dionisia Plaza Rehabilitation Center. The Center has a team of professionals with extensive experience and training in speech therapy, graphotherapy, psychomotricity, psychology, music therapy and physiotherapy, offering a personalized treatment in which the priority is the lowest.

From Your Point Of View And As A Social Educator, What Do You Think About The Adoption/Care Of These Minors In Families With Standard Situations?

As almost all children have families, adoption does not see a solution, yes the fostering, provided it was done well: First, the child has to want it; and second, it has to accept the family.

Furthermore, in my opinion, fostering should be comprehensive, that is, children should be accommodated by being aware of the existence of their biological family, and not wanting to isolate them from it. The child will live in a standardized environment at the same time that his family is treated to minimize or eliminate this problem and that at some point the minor can return with them. In this way, the child would grow, and the biological family would grow, and they would always have this welcoming family in solidarity as a life raft. But it is very difficult to reach a middle point since families sometimes have the feeling that they can lose the love of their children and that our job is to look for a substitute.  We have had a program called ‘friendly families,' which in some cases worked very well, because there was involvement by voluntary families, to take the kids for a walk and enjoyed with them and their children. In other cases the project failed, partly because the families were not motivated enough, the children generated some problems or even the families of our children felt violated because they went out with other people, often with a social status superior to theirs. Some of these families were candidates to be host families, but it was never possible.

As the last step, and to learn about other points of view about foster homes, we interviewed a boy who lived in a foster home.

You Have Worked As A Social Worker In Foster Homes. Could You Tell Me About Your Association With The People Involved?

There was a lot of demand from families who started having problems. Then, as in everything, we start with some beginnings in which we do not know very well what the challenge is. Then I was there initially, with information, and going to social centers, to social services for home help and teleassistance, resources that were available locally, and then collaborated in one of the programs I had, which was home help, that what was intended was that the patients who are in their home and the caregivers who needed help for their care, had a few hours of care through a caregiver. Then he went to the house and made, from valuations at home to income of people living alone, who had no family, and we had to remove them from the home because it was a risk for him and the community. And then I was responsible for the home help service. I was in charge of following up the cases: initial assessment, follow-up of the same, and management of the home help service: selection of staff, scheduling, time distribution, and staff vacations. 

What Professionals Help Them And What Methodologies Are Used?

The main professionals who interact with the minors are educators and psychologists. Depending on the home, there may be one teacher in the morning, one in the afternoon and the other at night, or some educators during the week and others during the weekend. In my opinion, it is preferable that they are always the same educators, since he will be your referent and if you continually change the educator, it damages the mutual trust that will make the child open and the educator's action easier. With regard to psychologists, in my experience, I had no direct relationship with them. 

In Your Current Center, What Do Social Workers Do? What Do You Do In Your Day To Day?

One of my tasks when I start the day is to read the BOA, take a look at the BOA, to see subsidies, new legislation or resolutions that are approved, with the subject of the law of dependence. It is a usual thing to have an order because, for example, there is a change in the regulations, any subject of subsidies to be able to submit a project, within the deadlines and opt for a grant to receive the entity. Then, for example, I process legal incapacitations; every user has his file, and I follow up on his assistance, to see the reason for his absence and thus to be able to advise the family in some respect, they may need help with a resource. Then we develop projects, social reports as there are both for public institutions and collaborations with private entities. So broadly that is a bit the task that the social worker does.

You have already commented enough on how has been your career, something else you would highlight?

In the center where I currently work as a social worker, you collaborate in many things, being in a multidisciplinary team. The demand comes from their own family, or from their colleagues who say: ‘Hey look, the family has told me, so get in touch,' for example now to get some family pensioner card for the tram. Also if a DNI expires, as we will see to process the DNI, or for example, we have now made a cultural exit, and has done from social work contact with the site of visit, has been programmed little with the companions. And then all that is the processing of the squares is done from social work.

It is necessary for Social Workers to increase their level of understanding to know the institution they work for. This includes their programs, projects, their conjunctural reality, the population target of their intervention, to subsidize their formulations and decisions (Forrester et al., 2012). Working with families becomes a real challenge since there are innumerable obstacles, but it can be seen that through a professional practice based on the Code of Ethics and equipped with a theoretical-methodological framework that will guide all actions.


Forrester, D., Westlake, D., & Glynn, G. (2012). Parental resistance and social worker skills: Towards a theory of motivational social work.  Child & Family Social Work 17 (2), 118-129.

O'Byrne, P. (2000).  Constructive social work: Towards a new practice . New York, NY: St. Martin's Press.

Schwartz, R. H., Tiamiyu, M. F., & Dwyer, D. J. (2007). Social worker hope and perceived burnout: The effects of age, years in practice, and setting.  Administration in Social Work 31 (4), 103-119.

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