Facilitating children's participation within multi-disciplinary meetings in a child and youth care centre: a social work intervention
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On both a South African and international level there has been an increase in both literature and research on children's participation in society. This includes research that has been conducted on children's participation within the family environment, as well as children who have been found in need of care and protection who have consequently been placed into alternative care. Within the field of child protection, there continues to be various challenges with regards to children's participation for both children and the adults working with children in this environment. A child and youth care centre forms part of the broader field of child protection where children have the right to be part of daily decisions as well as more significant decisions. Within a child and youth care centre, multi-disciplinary meetings act as an institutional mechanism for children to participate in matters affecting them. These meetings usually include various role-players but are not limited to children, families, designated social workers, residential social workers, child and youth care workers, and therapists. The purpose of a multi-disciplinary meeting is to discuss the progress of the child and family in terms of family reunification and to consequently make decisions in terms of the child's individual development plan, permanency plan and care plan. Furthermore, children have a right to participate in the decisions that are made within multi-disciplinary meetings as these decisions affect them directly. International research in the subject field of the participation of children in alternative care reveals that children do not experience meaningful participation in multi-disciplinary meetings. No research could be found on the facilitation of children's participation within multi-disciplinary meetings in a child and youth care centre within a South African context. In addition, no guidelines exist in South Africa for the facilitation of children's participation within multi-disciplinary meetings. This means that residential social workers facilitate these meetings differently according to their experience and personalities. This leads to inconsistencies in the ways in which multi-disciplinary meetings are facilitated which in turn may have an impact on the nature of children's participation within multi-disciplinary meetings. This study aimed to address the identified void in literature, as well as the challenges and limitations observed in the practice field of child protection. In line with this aim a social work intervention was developed for the facilitation of children's participation within multi-disciplinary meetings in a child and youth care centre. The research process was conducted in four phases. During phases 1 to 3, data was collected from children, residential social workers and child and youth care workers from three different child and youth care centres in the Cape Peninsula, South Africa. Data collection methods included individual semi-structured interviews and focus groups. During phase 4, a social work intervention was developed using literature, the theoretical frameworks, as well as the data collected in the previous three phases. The social work intervention consisted of five guiding principles for the facilitation of children's participation within multi-disciplinary meetings in a child and youth care centre. These five guiding principles were as follows: 1. Preparation of children prior to the multi-disciplinary meetings. 2. Creating encounters and relations with an adult in the child's professional network. 3. Creating a child friendly environment within multi-disciplinary meetings. 4. Encouraging children's involvement in decision making in multi-disciplinary meetings. 5. Taking a child's evolving capacity into consideration during decision making in multi-disciplinary meetings. The social work intervention that was developed filled the gap that was identified in both literature and practice.
- Health Sciences