Social Workers: Influence of the Ecological Approach on Social Practice

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'Social workers have a professional and ethical responsibility to (...) interact and intervene with clients and their environments' (Teater, 2010, p.4). According to this premise, the ecological approach in social work interventions offers an effective method of relating children, young people and their families to their environment. It is an approach that allows social workers to intervene in cases where a child is abused or neglected, while providing a good theoretical framework for social workers' direct work. This essay is going to assess the ecological model within a social work practice directed at children. It will stress the importance of this model, and explain its application in today's child protection work.
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Assessing cases within the ecological approach
Social worker in charge of particular cases of a suspected child maltreatment must initially complete a core assessment of the child and his family's situation. This process is crucial for planning of an intervention with a positive outcome (Parker and Bradley, 2003). In the assessment, under the ecological model, the practitioner must recognise different systems, such as the child, family or neighbours, and surrounding environments. If the assessment asserts that a child fits a category of a child in need within these systems, defined in the Children Act 1989 as a child 'unlikely to achieve or maintain (...) a reasonable standard of health or development without the provision for him of services by a local authority' (Children Act, 1989, section 17), the social worker must organise a form of an intervention. He or she must assess which part of the environment requires a change, and where are stress factors negatively affecting the child and the family. At the same time, the child should be given resources, and a certain level of autonomy, and to be treated as the centre of the assessment (Teater, 2010). In the ecological perspective, it might be easier for the social worker to relate to the adults' needs (Davies and Davies, 2011). However, the focus of the assessment should be child-centred, protecting the child's health and wellbeing (Every Child Matters, 2004)(Department of Education, 2011).
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