Discussion: External Factors Impacting an Organization
Last week, you explored how systems theory and the ecological perspective emphasize the interaction between a human services organization and its environment. Any change in one part of the system effects change in another part of the system. Because organizations are not immune to their environment, local, national, and global events affect them.
Social workers in administrative roles must be able to identify and analyze the external factors that affect the function of the human services organizations for which they work. Though you may apply leadership and management skills as you assume an administrative position, you may also be able to repurpose many of the assessment skills you use in clinical practice for macro social work. Just as you gather information about a client and develop strategies for treatment at a micro level, so too, at a macro level, you gather and analyze information about a situation or program and identify appropriate strategies that will support positive organizational functioning.
For this Discussion, you address the Phoenix House case study in the Social Work Case Studies: Concentration Year text.
By Day 3
Post by Day 3 an analysis of the supervisor’s role in the Phoenix House case study and identify leadership skills that might help the supervisor resolve the issue. Identify which aspect of this situation would be most challenging for you if you were the supervisor. Finally, explain how you would use leadership skills to proceed if you were the supervisor.
Plummer, S.-B., Makris, S., & Brocksen, S. M. (Eds.). (2014b). Social work case studies: Concentration year. Baltimore, MD: Laureate International Universities Publishing [Vital Source e-reader].
- “Social Work Supervision, Leadership, and Administration: The Phoenix House” (pp. 82–84)
Social Work Supervision, Leadership, and Administration: The Phoenix House
I am the senior social worker at a program called Phoenix House. Phoenix House is an after-school program supporting at-risk middle school youth. It is funded in part by local school districts. Students are generally referred to Phoenix House by school administrators or parents.
I supervise a staff of four full-time social workers and two social work interns from a local university. Staff responsibilities generally include helping students with homework, individual and group counseling, field trips, and recreational games and activities.
Students are usually referred to Phoenix House when school administrators feel that the student is on the cusp of expulsion or long-term suspension from their school, usually due to disciplinary issues. Parents of students may also enroll their children in the Phoenix House program if they feel it will be beneficial. Parents are made aware of Phoenix House and its services through PTA meetings and via school administrators when a disciplinary incident takes place. Although it is free of charge and funded primarily through school district funds, parents are discouraged from using Phoenix House as an after-school or extracurricular activity for their children.
The average clients of Phoenix House are boys and girls between the ages of 11 and 14. The clients possess a range of presenting issues, mostly relating to inappropriate behavior. Some of the clients have been involved with the juvenile justice system in some form or fashion. Almost all of the clients have been suspended from their school at one point or another. Common problems with clients at Phoenix House include fighting, bullying, stealing, and vandalizing.
The staff I supervise have quite a bit of experience working with juveniles with behavioral issues. Some of them have worked in juvenile detention facilities and others have worked at court-mandated youth programs.
We have recently accepted a new client named Daniel. Daniel is a 13-year-old, Caucasian male. Daniel was enrolled by his mother when he was suspended from his school after a marijuana cigarette was found in his book bag by school security staff. It was the first time Daniel had been suspended from his school and the first time a disciplinary report had been filed on him.
Sarah, one of the social workers, asked to speak to me concerning Daniel. Sarah had spoken to Jim, one of our social work interns, about Daniel and the appropriateness of his presence at Phoenix House. Jim is concerned that Daniel is not a “good fit” at Phoenix House because he does not seem to match up with the character and attitudes of the other clients. Sarah shares Jim’s concern and is also concerned that the other clients may be a harmful influence to Daniel.
Sarah is Daniel’s counselor, as well, and has gotten permission from Daniel to share some of his statements from their counseling sessions. The statements indicate Daniel has no idea how the marijuana cigarette got into his book bag and that Daniel suspects it was put there by another student as a joke or as a means to get rid of it during bag searches. Sarah, who has years of experience working with at-risk youth, indicates that she believes Daniel. Daniel has also gone on to state that his mother has a tendency to overreact, and this may be the reason why she enrolled him in the Phoenix House program instead of listening to his explanations.
In response to Jim and Sarah’s concerns, I contacted Daniel’s mother, Lisa. Lisa listened to my concerns but did not feel that it would be right to remove him from the Phoenix House program. She said that even if he had done nothing wrong, Daniel could learn a valuable lesson about consequences by being in the Phoenix House program. I attempted to explain to Lisa that this is not really the purpose of the program and also indicated that Phoenix House is not meant to be a typical after-school or extracurricular program. Lisa retorted that it is her right to enroll her son in the program, and in her opinion, the end result of Daniel being in the program will be positive in nature.
I have shared this conversation with the staff at our weekly meetings. The staff seem convinced that Daniel will not have a positive experience at Phoenix House and feel he is being picked on and bullied by the other clients despite their efforts to prevent it. Some staff members have also pointed out that this may be an ethical issue because they feel the situation violates the social work value of “Do no harm.”