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Communication with children : an aspect of foster home placement with social work with children Bryenton, Joy Gertrude


This study is concerned with the social workers ways of communicating with children in foster placement and related situations. It examines what, exactly, is communicated to the child by the social worker, operating within Agency policy and structure; and the effect that this communication has on the child's ability to respond to placement as treatment. It is concerned, also, with the various methods by which the child's needs are communicated to the social worker; and the ways in which the worker responds to those needs, with special emphasis on when, how, and why the social worker communicates directly with the child. The study proceeds from a review of some of the recent literature on semantics as well as recent child welfare literature. This is supplemented by material gathered from interviews with twelve professionally-trained social workers, currently employed in child welfare work in and near Vancouver, and illustrated with brief summaries of six cases from their practice. The workers were interviewed with the purpose of ascertaining from them: what they judged to be the more effective ways they had found of communicating with children; their definition of the use they make of direct communication with children, indirect communication through parents or foster parents, and of joint interviewing; what they see as their particular contribution to the child in the placement situation; and some of the difficulties they encounter in performing their work. The results point up the differences between children and adults, and the effects of these differences on methods of communication. They emphasize the treatment aspect of placement, and the importance of structure, plan, and clear definition of treatment goals in order to enable the worker to channel her communications, both to the child and on behalf of the child, toward establishing hope and confidence in the possible achievement of those goals. It indicates a need for further study of communication and casework, with some implications for further refining the definition of the scope and limits of the casework method.

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