Guidelines for case discussions

Presenting Cases

Presenting a case to a group of peers / colleagues is a unique opportunity to develop our knowledge and professional practice in child protection, and to gain support and validation.  The ultimate aim, of course, being to improve the work we do collectively with children and families as it should be a learning experience for all.

Case presentations should always be carried out with the understanding that the purpose is not to be critical or negative, but to be open and honest in a supportive way.  It can be difficult for workers to ‘expose themselves’ in talking about their work with families, so a degree of bravery is needed from the presenter.  Similarly those participating need to remember that it is always easy to be wise from a distance!

Presenting a case also provides a way to develop empathy with families.  Every day we ask family members to explain their situation and account for the choices they make.  Presenting a case gives an insight into what it might be like for families to be asked questions that sometimes they cannot answer or feel they have to justify.

Some things to consider when presenting a case:

Timing  – why now? 

Cases which are closed / resolved – Give an opportunity to reflect on what worked and what did not work so well so lessons can be learned for the future.  The also provide a chance to share good practice.

Cases which are active / open – Present an opportunity to get alternative views and ideas.  This can be helpful to feed into decision making, or when everyone is stuck and looking for what else they can do.

Information  - Avoiding Overload

Remember if you have been working with the case closely  you will have a lot of knowledge and information. However it will be impossible for those participating in the discussion to process all the information you have quickly so try to present only the KEY FACTS and Events.  It is not necessary to give the whole history and background, just the main points (maximum 5 minutes).  If people want  / need to know more they can ask during the discussion.

The template below might help you in organising your presentation / introduction to the case.

Prepare a genogram to share with the group as this will save time (as you won’t have to explain all the details) and also will be a helpful reminder of ‘who is who’ during the discussion.

Confidentiality

Remember to remove / change any details that might enable the family to be identified – including locations.

Purpose – what do you want from the discussion?

Think about why you are presenting the case, and what you want to get from it.  Do you want questions answered (such as ‘How can I engage the father?’ or ‘How can we include the boy in the assessment?’) or is it just about sharing practice?

Develop, and share with the group, two or three key questions to give a focus for the discussion.

Template for Case Discussions

  1. Introducing the family – genogram and brief explanations of family dynamics
  2. Background – why the family were involved and initial concerns (two or three most relevant points)
  3. Intervention so far & Current Situation – summary of five or six most relevant points
  4. Points for discussion – two or three key questions to be addressed through the discussion or objectives for the discussion

Genograms

A genogram is a way of visually representing the members of a family and significant events in a family’s history.  A genogram is a picture of the family, and the relationships (a kind of family tree).  This is done using special symbols to represent different people and relationships.

It can be very useful to develop a genogram for use when discussing a case, as a lot of relevant information can be seen at once which is helpful for those who have not worked with the family but are discussing the case and so need to process a lot of information.  Keeping a copy on the case file enables workers to quickly ‘get a picture’ / refresh their memories of the family members and significant information without having to read through the whole case file.

While a genogram can be produced by a worker alone it can also be developed with the family.  This is preferable since it provides an opportunity for workers and members of a family to co-operate together in a shared activity, developing relationships, and also ensures that all family members are included.  Working on the genogram with the family also provides an opportunity to discuss a family's history in detail and to explore how members of the family feel about what has happened. Workers should try to involve parents, children and other appropriate family members (e.g. grandparents) as fully as possible in the activity. 

If developing with the family is useful to use a large sheet of paper and pens or pencils of various colours.

Genograms can be developed to include many different parts of the extended family, e.g. children from previous relationships, cousins, new husbands and wives.  It is generally useful if the Genogram covers at least three generations, i.e., grandparents, parents, children.  Extra details can be added to the Genogram, such as important places and significant events, e.g., an accident, which leaves someone with special needs.

Working on a Genogram is also an opportunity for the Child Protection Worker to observe how members of the family interact with one another.  For example, how open they are with one another, how well they respond to each other's needs and how much they know about each other.   For example, if anything revealed about a family member that has not been mentioned in the family before.

Workers who are not experienced at drawing Genograms, might find it helpful to practice the technique with colleagues using their own family as a basis.

Genogram symbols

Symbols

A dotted line should be drawn around the people who currently live in the same house.

The example genogram shows:

  • Family with four children, three girls and a boy.  
  • Date of birth only known for two children – Lindita and Shkelzen
  • For one girl only the age is known - Gabriela
  • Age of one girl note know – Daniela
  • Also another girl died, although date of death is not known - Mirlinda
  • Mother and father separated but not divorced
  • Two girls – Daniela and Gabriela live with mother
  • Not known if the other children live with the father.

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