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A school contacted child protection services about an Aboriginal youth called Eddie (aged 13) whose behaviour had changed dramatically over the last six months. He had changed from being a hard-working, successful and popular student to one who was withdrawn and anxious. His attendance had fallen dramatically and he had been caught sneaking out of school several times. His class teacher tried to speak to him but he wouldn't discuss any worries and became agitated when the teacher suggested a home visit to meet his mother Jenny. Eddie became angry when the teacher referred to Eddie's stepfather Jack as his 'dad'. Jenny (an Aboriginal woman) had missed several appointments with the education welfare officer and he had been unable to meet her at all.
A neighbour then made an anonymous call to the police describing shouting and screams coming from the family home. The police visited and found that Jenny had obviously been severely beaten. They asked Jack to leave the family home and took Jenny to the hospital for treatment. Jenny refused to say who or what had caused her injuries and insisted that she had fallen down the stairs.
This prompted a referral to child protection services. Clare, the child protection social worker, visited two days later to find Jack back at home and Jenny saying all was now back to normal. The social worker did some direct work with Eddie at school. He said that his mother had been beaten on a regular basis over the six months since Jack had lost his job and had increased his consumption of alcohol. He was really scared that she would be killed. Eddie was clear that he had never been hit by Jack but said that Jack is always picking on him and calling him stupid. Eddie would like his mother to leave Jack but thinks she is scared to do so. He asked that no one tell Jack what he said in case he took it out on his mother.
Clare asked to meet Jenny alone at the office to discuss their concerns about Eddie, but when Jenny arrived she had brought Jack with her, who refused to stay in the waiting room while the social worker spoke to Jenny. Jenny also said that she wanted Jack to come to the meeting as he was Eddie's new dad and have every right to be there. Clare found Jack to be intimidating and was anxious to avoid a confrontation that might put herself, Jenny or Eddie in danger; she chose to hold the meeting but kept away from the topic of domestic violence and discussed general concerns that the school had about Eddie. Jack dominated this discussion, saying that Eddie was lazy and not very bright. Jenny sat quietly agreeing. Clare strongly felt that Jenny was intimidated and scared.
Clare tried to meet Jenny alone on a number of occasions over the next week by calling at odd times, but either there was no answer or Jack answered the door saying that Jenny was not home.
Clare decided that she could no longer avoid tackling the issue as she was concerned about Eddie's safety and the safety of his mother. She decided to discuss her concerns with Eddie. Eddie agreed that the violence had to stop and was concerned about his mother. He was also scared about the potential consequences. Eddie explained to Clare that he often stayed with his maternal grandmother who lives very close to his mother when he wants to get away. According to Eddie, Jenny and Jack were happy with this informal arrangement as long as they knew of his whereabouts. The grandmother was also worried about the safety of her daughter and grandson and wanted the police and 'the welfare' to get involved and 'sort Jack out'.
Clare made an appointment to discuss her concerns with Jack and Jenny. Clare spent some time getting to know Jack and Jenny and engage in a stance of 'respectful uncertainty' and focus on the emotional impact on Eddie. Instead of taking an authoritarian stance Clare addressed the concerns in a therapeutic environment. Jack initially rebuffed any attempts by Clare to engage on the topic but recognised that the situation needed to change. He and Jenny agreed to attend a family meeting to determine how best to access support, to make changes and ensure that Eddie is safe emotionally and free from fear and anxiety. Jack and Jenny both decided to invite some extended family members. Jenny wanted to invite two male elders from her community in Coober Pedy who have experience in working with domestic violence.
In preparation for the meeting, the worker met each invited member to discuss the situation and the intent of the meeting. Clare also met with Jenny and Eddie, and then, Jack and Eddie separately to engage in further assessment and discussion and preparation the family conference. Eddie expressed that he felt able to attend the meeting and wanted his maternal grandmother to also advocate on his behalf. Eddie had strong opinions about what should happen and where he would like to live.
The family meeting was convened. Many decisions were made to ensure Eddie and Jenny's safety. All family members agreed that Jack and Jenny were committed to each other and to Eddie. The extended family members who attended the meeting were ready to provide any support that Eddie, Jenny and Jack required. There was a high level of motivation for change to occur and make sure the Eddie's best interests were paramount. Eddie was to live with his grandmother in the short term and have regular contact with his mother. The grandmother was happy to take responsibility for this and she would contact Clare if she had any concerns for Eddie's safety. Eddie was keen to spend time with an Aboriginal trauma counsellor to make sense about what has been occurring in his family and help him with the emotional trauma and sense of confusion. Jack was to attend a cultural program with Aboriginal elders from Jenny's community about domestic violence and alcohol abuse and Jenny was to seek personal trauma counselling to facilitate healing. Jack and Jenny, were to then attend couple counselling to resolve the issues that had resulted in violence in order to enable progress.
The family were well connected with people from the Aboriginal community who conducted trauma counselling. Clare was provided with the contact details and updates about progress. Furthermore, Clare was to maintain contact with Eddie to assess and review his progress both within his family and at school. Family meeting to be reconvened in three months time.
According to Geffner (2014), domestic violence is the primary problem of today’s society. Many families are suffering from this particular aspect. This concept of domestic violence also creates an ample amount of effect on their other family members, such as the children of the family. In this particular case, Eddie is suffering from that aspect, and his performance in studies is getting worst. Therefore, the teachers are very much aware of his situation. In order to mitigate this issue, the teachers, along with the social worker, Clare, needs to intervene in this matter. After that, they have decided to hold a meeting with all the family members, along with the other Aboriginal people, in order to resolve the issue of domestic violence. The primary aim of this study is to evaluate the impact of domestic violence on Eddie. The study also aims to satisfy the fact that how this issue can be mitigated.
Assessment of Eddie's well-being
As a result of domestic violence in the family of Jack and Jenny, the most affected person is Eddie, who is literally a child. He was losing his interest in studies, and he also withdrew his participation from the different activities of the school. This certain aspect mainly holds back the growth of Eddie (Lansford et al. 2014). Along with that, he was feeling the mental trauma that anything can happen to him also. In addition to that, his behaviour was changing drastically over a long period of time. Earlier, he was a hardworking student; however, this incident of domestic violence in his home got his morale down, and several times he was caught sneaking from the school premises. The teacher tried to spoke with him; however, it resulted negatively. Eddie was not eager to discuss any kind of problems with his teacher. However, when the entire incident of domestic violence came in front of everyone, then Eddie started to cooperate with his teacher and the counsellor. The counsellor, Clare, had arranged a meeting with Eddie’s family where she spoke to every individual regarding the matter. She discussed the matter with every member and gathered the view of every member. Then they had decided to shift Eddie to his grandmother’s place for a certain period. Along with that, the counsellor also provided time to Eddie’s parents to sort out the matter in between them. However, in that particular time period, Eddie would be in regular touch with his mother, and his mother would be in regular touch with the teacher. As Eddie enjoys staying with his grandmother, therefore it may increase his performance in his studies and other activities. Along with that, Rodrigues et al. (2016) said that the constant touch with his mother would also make him feel that his mother is safe enough with his stepdad. Therefore, the decision regarding this issue can be considered as a good one, and that can enhance the performance level of Eddie and make him comfortable to participate in different school activities.
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