Geoffrey is a 12-year-old African–American boy in junior high school. He once lived with both parents but the parents divorced when he was 9 years old. He currently resides with his father who has since become a habitual drunkard and irresponsible. The father does not provide effectively for Geoffrey and his younger brother, Junior, who is only 8 years old. Geoffrey’s mother divorced the father after a 10-year marriage when tensions between the mother and grandmother heightened to intolerable levels. Geoffrey’s mother then went on to marry someone else with whom she has lived for the past two years. On the other hand, the father has kept numerous relationships, each of them unsuccessful due to various factors. He eventually resigned to fate and prefers to take care of his children as a single father, a task that proves to be uphill for him most of the time due to his drunkenness.
Geoffrey’s grandmother is verbally abusive, and refers to the children’s mother most of the times when they misbehave either intentionally or accidentally. Moreover, she prefers to insult their father in their presence, citing him as a typical example of what his children should not be. The children can do nothing concerning this matter as they live under her roof and she provides for them more than their father does. Geoffrey has reportedly been engaging in activities that are considered illegal such as petty theft and sale of small volumes of marijuana. It is believed that he has also been initiated into drug use although he does not speak much and has told no one about what he does. Moreover, he is intensely aggressive and does not respond politely to any questions about his personal life. However, Geoffrey performs exemplarily in academics and is liked by the teachers at the school. He is also a good soccer player and has been identified by the school coach as possessing the necessary qualities to be considered for soccer scholarship. The only person Geoffrey is close to is his younger brother, who he protects viciously and does not tolerate any negative intentions on his brother. Besides this, he also takes care of his father in his drunken status and is positively spoken about by the dad.
Family Development System Perspective
The family systems perspective views the household as a whole devoid of consideration of the constituent parts. According to the perspective, the family components are connected and interdependent such that any change in any of the components affects other components (Johnson, 2010). In the case of Geoffrey, the client can be considered as an individual component of the family, affected by the changes in other components of the family. From the beginning, he was used to having his parents together and can be said to have enjoyed the relationship he had with both parents. However, the parents’ divorce, abusive nature of the grandmother and the drunkenness of the father have all contributed to the change of the boy towards negative behaviors. The need to adapt to changes through providing for himself and his younger brother where the father fails may have driven him to begin engaging in activities such as drug sales. Moreover, observation of the father’s behavior with regards to abuse of alcohol may also have contributed to his desire to experiment with drugs. The aggressive behavior can directly be associated to the grandmother’s verbal abuse in the home context. This connectivity in negative changes can also occur where positive changes prevail.
Apart from this, the family system perspective also portrays families as unique in their own ways. Members of the families share their history; they have a certain level of emotional connectedness and develop strategies for meeting individual members’ needs together. Because of these distinguishing features, families have dynamic natures which help them to balance the unique family changes with the resources they have for addressing those challenges (Granic et al., 2006). In the presented case, the uniqueness of the family is clearly visible in the characterization of each of the members. Despite their struggles to continue surviving as a family, the break in the family ties that came about due to divorce still persists. Regardless of struggling to find alternative sources of income, the challenges of running the family are immense and Geoffrey has to be considered as enhancing the goal oriented nature of his family. It is therefore essential for Geoffrey to find ways of maintaining his family balance without interfering with his education or social performance.
Necessary Changes in the Client’s Life
Geoffrey can be helped through dedication and continuous support. Being a bright student, it will be possible for him to understand the dangers associated with the continued use of alcohol and other drugs. After understanding the dangers associated with drug use and the legal implications of being found in possession of drugs with the intent to distribute, it may be easier for the social worker to explain that it is essential for Geoffrey to avoid such negative behaviors. The boy should then be guided on the best strategies to use in order to avoid sales of drugs or even to abstain from drug use. This will be able to take him to a next level where he can act as an advocate for positive behavior reinforcement in the family. It is however difficult for the boy to completely stop his negative behaviors if there is no support from the dad.
Secondly, Geoffrey’s father should deal with the issue of drunkenness in his family. If the father can be able to deal with his drinking issues, he would probably be able to address the children’s needs more effectively and also offer guidance to the younger children who may be misled by what they see. It is advisable for parents to offer a positive example to their children through portrayal of acceptable behaviors. Moreover, factors such as poverty, drunkenness and drug use among family members causes stress among the remaining members which leads to strained relationships (Cournoyer, 2011). For instance, in the case above, Geoffrey has the potential of creating even greater disorder in the family based on the learning received from the external environment. On the other hand, Geoffrey’s father can steer the family into the right direction through effectively catering for his children’s needs and thus saving them from the abusive grandmother. By standing up to his mother, Geoffrey’s father can help to bring back order in the family and redirect the paths walked by children.
Moreover, peer pressure can also result in the development of negative traits among adolescents. If Geoffrey’s father could engage his son in activities that are constructive by spending more time with him, he may teach the child the right type of social relationships that can help him to grow into a responsible adult. It is essential for the adults in the life of Geoffrey to take care of him not only through provision of basic needs but also through increased participation in his life’s activities and strengthening the bonds between themselves and the adolescent.
Family Myths, Rituals and Rites of Passage
In the African–American family context, fathers like to be associated with well-behaved and successful children while the mother is always blamed when any child goes astray. Similarly, in the story context, it could be said that the reason why the children’s grandmother keeps referring to their mother is because of the perception that their mother had not been the right woman for his son. The grudge borne against the mother has become the key descriptive factor for the children as well. It might be suggested that the mother’s dirt always smears them wherever they go. While this belief is strictly among the men and older women who believe that the women should take care of their children fully, it may be the bone of contention between the grandmother and the grandchildren.
The relationship between parents and their kids may also influence the relationship between the grandparents and the children (Granic et al., 2006). This implies that any child who is considered off point by their parents is vulnerable to being rejected by the grandparents too. This is contrary to the observation in Geoffrey’s case where the father continuously recognizes the on as a good boy while the grandmother suggests otherwise through her verbal abuses. It is however explainable from the conventional belief that similar behavior attracts each other. It would be impossible to admonish the son for drug use or for the sale of drugs when father is a habitual drunkard.
Adolescence may also have contributed to the case development since it is crucial stage in life. Not only did Geoffrey begin the negative behaviors at puberty, he also began the destructive behaviors at a time when the family was facing financial challenges and when there was no one to offer explicit guidance with regards to drug use and sale. If not curbed early enough, the negative behaviors will most probably escalate to levels beyond control.
The positive relationship between Geoffrey and his father has the potential of improving the child’s behavior. It is only the father who can convince a child that whatever is observed is not acceptable and can result in future destruction to health ad to social welfare. The child’s grandmother can also help Geoffrey to change his behaviors through treating each mistake as an individual problem rather than constantly reminding the children their mother’s mistakes. It is thus essential for the adults to act responsibly with regards to social behaviors before expecting the children to behave appropriately.
Effects of family changes on the behavior of children
The family system is a unified force in which dynamism and uniqueness are key features. The breakdown of the family causes a potential breakup of individual values in the family. Children who were formerly disciplined and with positive behavior traits develop characters that are contrary to expectations based on the family system (Greene, 2008). A dissociation of the family causes a disturbance in the rather peaceful system, resulting in an imbalance of the mind among all the family members. While adults in the family may find it easy to deal with the separation issues in the family, children may be torn between accepting what has happened as fate and demanding a new outlook on things.
Similarly, the disintegration of Geoffrey’s family may have been the beginning of his problems as an adolescent. Some of the negative behaviors exhibited are potentially due to the lack of unified guiding principles in his life. The patterns formed in each person’s mind when they are members of functional families are aimed at completing the larger picture of a sweet unified family. On the other hand, when the family disintegrates, any thoughts about being in a unified family are lost. The mind begins to form incomplete pictures which make the children aggressive at seeking something else that would lead them to greater satisfaction.
Moreover, the family being unified enables the child’s mind to recognize patterns and be part of the constructive patterns in the family life. Through the changes in the family, the children get to recognize that the complete patterns are no longer present. Jay (1971) recognizes the importance of oneness in the family for the construction of positive social constructs among children. Without the source of positive mental patterns, negative patterns begin to be formed instead. This could explain what is happening to Geoffrey with respect to the changes in his family. While the parents’ separation creates a negative impact on his mind and brings about destructive patterns in his thoughts and behavior, it is also clear that the prevalent behaviors of the adults around him also reinforce such negative patterns and behaviors. The result will be a degeneration of the entire family, where each individual will seek to address their own goals, i.e. to live independently of all other individuals, an aspect which is presently observed in Geoffrey’s efforts to make ends meet through the sale of drugs and drug use.
In degenerating families, a move from organization to entropy is expected. While families are united, cohesion is enhanced through the continued work towards common objectives. However, when the family breaks, a movement towards entropy is inevitable. The term entropy refers to the tendency of untended systems to move towards a disorganized state (Jay, 1971). The disorganization observed in Geoffrey’s family is a typical example of entropy in the family system. Due to the separation of the parents, the family unit fell apart, with each of the components striving to stay apart from other components; the father fell to drinking and consorting with many women, the grandmother resorted to verbal abuse of the children while the children have been left to their own devices through a great period of time. All these point towards disintegration and entropy of the family unit.
Theoretical Framework for assessing the case
The social systems theory asserts that a system is a set of components that work together towards the achievement of common objectives (Jay, 1971). The family is considered as a system which comprises of various individuals who work together for the overall benefit of the whole. Through their interactions, the members of family influence each other’s’ behaviors through their actions and through exemplification (Feldman & Scherz, 2006). When the social systems theory is applied to a situation, the objective is mainly to show how degeneration of the system can result in the degeneration of all components to various degrees. The story of Geoffrey makes a clear case scenario of the social systems theory. In this case, the unity of the family is compromised through divorce. Although it is still debatable whether this can be identified as the leading reason for the observed negative behaviors in children, it is essential to note that it contributes to a certain level.
The degeneration of the family described in the social systems theory brings the need for the application of the chaos theory to the present context (Jay, 1971). The theory tries to explain the nature of disorganization that rises due to the formation of destructive patterns and as a result of system entropy. This theory could also help to explain the behaviors of the adolescent Geoffrey during the stages after the parents divorced. The scope of this theory in relation to the present case extends to include the entire family set up, considering the events unfolding after the divorce and the relevant facts surrounding the children’s father after divorce. Even the grandmother that seemed laid back earlier during the periods of prevalent unity, now appears hostile to the children through her words. Although the blame may lie on the broken marriage partially, it is also possible that the child acted on his own impulse and that the issues surrounding his misbehavior are far divorced from the family matters.
The possibility of a different cause of behavior modification in the child brings to mind the cognitive behavior theory, which is applied for behavior modification (Beck, 2015). Unacceptable behaviors can be rectified through cognitive behavior therapy, whereby the negative behaviors are targeted and eliminated through incorporation of formulas such as positive behavior reinforcement.
The case requires strict intervention based on the presumed nature of causative factors. The social worker assigned to this case should work together with Geoffrey for his own benefit by outlining the intervention program objectives and working towards their accomplishment. The following should be some of the goals to be developed for the program:
G1: To directly identify the cause of the negative behaviors – Two main possibilities have been outlined as causing the negative behavior in Geoffrey. The first is family disintegration while the second is peer pressure due to adolescence. It is important for the exact factor that leads to negative behavior to be identified. This can only be achieved by talking to the student and giving them an opportunity to open up on their issues. Effective communication is compulsory in this scenario due to the possibility of reaching a dead end.
G2: To work towards elimination of negative behaviors – the second goal of the process would be to eliminate drug use and sale from the child’s daily activities. This will be achieved through cognitive behavior therapy under the facilitation of the assigned social worker. The best way to approach this would be to provide positive reinforcement for required behaviors.
How to use theoretical frameworks in intervention
The key theoretical framework that will be applicable in Geoffrey’s case is a combination of the family systems perspective, chaos theory and cognitive behavioral theories. The family systems perspective is relevant to the case in various ways and can be mentioned in case interventions. The application of this framework in a social work set up would involve recognition of the family chaos as being the cause of negative behavior in the child. From this recognition, it will be possible for the assigned social worker to apply family therapy as a way of routing out the foundation of the problem. In this way, the social worker can be assured that the behavioral changes gained through cognitive behavior therapy are sustainable. The objective would be to help the entire family deal with their separation issues and subsequently save the children from unnecessary stress of having to cope with their own negative behaviors while also tolerating the uncooperative behaviors of the adults in the family.
The application of this intervention plan will have policy implications for the family involved. Social policy requires that an understanding of the prevailing problems be achieved, followed by a detailed explanation of their occurrence. It is only thereafter that effective solutions can be formed. The state offers support programs for social work clients who may be considered fit to benefit from the state offered programs such as drug use rehabilitation. The social worker therefore has the mandate to choose who benefits from which program and subsequently apply for the same from the state offices.
Core social work values and Ethics
While working with Geoffrey, the social worker will have to adhere to the values and ethics outlined by NASW (2013) in the code of practice. The values associated with the work position include: the consideration of service to others as more important that service to self, advocating for social justice through elimination and avoidance of unjust practices, upholding the dignity of all persons, non-discriminatory operations, competence and integrity (Reamer, 2013). Each of these values are to be adhered to by practicing within a set code of ethics which demands that the social worker is not to show prejudice against any individual for any reason whatsoever (NASW, 2016). Moreover, every person should be respected and their dignity upheld regardless of their social standing in the society.
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