Practices focused on the family as the unit of service has been important in thedevelopment of change-oriented strategies in working with difficult andunmanageable adolescents. The shift in practice from the individual to the familyassumes that supporting the family as a unit will ultimately benefit the individualswithin the family unit. There have been many significant developments infamily-centered practice including promoting parents as experts on their childrenin evaluation, intervention, planning and treatment efforts, giving familiesconsiderable authority over decisions affecting their children such as out-of-home placements and promoting belief in families as healing agents in identifying andresolving their own problems.
The importance of collaboration in building solutions with families cannot beunderestimated. In building collaborative teams that are inclusive of children, parents, foster parents, extended family members, peers, teachers and school personnel, friends and neighbors, pastors and inspirational, significant others Ihave discovered the power of natural supports to be critical to the process. All thework that has been accomplished would not have occurred without the support of what has become known as “managing partners.” I have been astounded by theresource system that has been built, the good will that has been spread as we work together with families to the solve problems. There are many advantages toworking with collaboratively including having all involved parties on the same page marching to the same drummer and developing cooperative rather thanadversarial relationships with each other.Developing the Adolescent Leadership GroupI have been kicking around ways to enhance the foundations of my own practice and a very old idea that I didn’t dream up might add to growth of strengths-based practice in our work. That idea is that one of the greatest ways tohelp oneself is to help others. In many of our teenage youths, especiallyungovernable and unmanageable teens I have found they have difficulty gettingoutside of themselves and appreciating the viewpoints of others, especially parents and other authority figures, such as teachers, caseworkers, therapists, etc.This dynamic is of course developmentally appropriate but complicated by thefact the youth we see in Children & Youth Services have often been subjected to a process of disempowerment through unfortunate family circumstances,overlabeling by helping professionals and agencies and interventions emphasizingcoercion and control strategies. For the most part the youth we are charged withserving do not in fact believe we are serving them in that we tend not to recognizestrength, ability and resilience. How often do we create opportunities for youth toserve us or others? How often do we seek feedback directly from difficult, problem saturated youth regarding how we as helpers can change to serve them better? How often do we create circumstances for our client teens in which theycan serve in leadership roles?I am proposing we give the teens involved in Adams County Children &Youth Services an opportunity to demonstrate leadership skills and assist in building