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School referrals to a family agency : a study of non-voluntary referrals of school children with family problems to the Family Welfare Bureau of Greater Vancouver Kenyon, Eva

Abstract

This study is concerned with non-voluntary referrals of school children with family problems to the Family Welfare Bureau of Greater Vancouver. Because the children's difficulties arose mainly from disorganized family situations, help was sought from the Family Welfare Bureau. The study deals only with referrals in which the clients did not participate. Not only did the clients not ask for help from the agency, but in many cases they were not even notified by the schools of the referral. The clients' first contact with the Family Welfare Bureau was, therefore, through a letter or a visit from the agency worker. The study is based on case records of the families concerned, over a two-year period (June 1947-June 1949). Forty-six out of fifty-nine cases were utilized, the remainder having been erroneously marked "school referrals", or relating to clients who made their applications for service personally. The cases studied were grouped into three categories in terms of the types of problems which had caused the school referrals: (1) behaviour of the child at school; (2) family discord brought to the attention of the school personnel; (3) apparent economic need. Twenty-five cases were analyzed in detail to find out what actually happened to the clients in the process of their contact with the Family Welfare Bureau. Examination showed that it would be unsatisfactory to use this classification for an analysis of outcome. The sample was, therefore, grouped into four new categories in accordance with the clients' response to the service offered by the agency: (1) direct rejection of help; (2) passive resistances (3) use of environmental help; (4) use of help for changing family relationships. There is evidence that a major number of unsuccessful school referrals (seventeen out of twenty-five cases) was caused both by an inadequate referral process and by confusion on the part of the agency worker in her initial contact with each client. The study bears out, particularly, the importance of the first contact between the family and the worker, showing that a worker who has certainty of purpose, warmth, understanding, and respect for the client's right to refuse the agency service, can often make that service acceptable to the client in spite of both an inadequate school referral and a strong initial resistance on the part of the family. On the other hand, there are indications that neither the Family Welfare Bureau nor any other social agency can meet all the needs of the child with school problems. Consequently, there is urgent need for the establishment of social work service within the framework of the schools.

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