As a student social worker, I was required to complete a Child observation over a period of six weeks. In order to prepare I had to decide the child and family I wanted to observe, on this occasion I decided I would observe a child from a mixed race back ground of age 0-12 months. The child I observed was 12 months from a single parent family and had three older siblings, the observation took place at her home after I acquired consent from the mother I started my task. It was essential to understand what observation was and I determined that it is an informed way of viewing or looking at something that raises awareness and increases understanding.
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At the start of the observation I felt very uncomfortable being in unfamiliar territory, I felt that it was unfair for me to subject this family to my own values, principles and prejudices. Although I felt that my chosen environment in which to observe was the right one, I had great concerns of my lack of experience and how the family would respond to me as an outsider in their lives. I was also very anxious about how this process would affect me as a parent and my parenting skills or lack of it was an intense moment. I questioned whether my role as an observer was really necessary but I had to get understanding of what observation was and meant to me. Trevithick (2012, pg: 169) stated “that we learn a lot by observing others and as such learn what is being transmitted through tone of voice, volume, intonation, posture and gestures.”
As I observed the child I realised that I learnt a great deal not only as an observer but as a mother and reflection on my own childhood, upbringing and previous job role. There was a great deal of thought about the emotional impact of the observation on myself as the observer. Firstly I learnt the importance of observation, I realised that it was very essential to watch and listen than to speak because a great deal is achieved by watching, listening and being silent. Baldwin (1994, pg 83) stated through observation one is “hearing and valuing the voice of the observed”, and I believed that without words being said there was a connection between the child and I. (ability to remain detached to suspend judgement and refrain from participation, being aware of feelings and attitudes evoked, not initiating interaction, Precise recording which distinguishes what actually happened from what interpretation,
Secondly I learnt that observation is a skill that is learnt and acquired with training and practice. Before this task as a family support worker I was required to observe people and make decisions, I had no prior train or knowledge but I did it .In addition Fawcett (2009 pg 16) stated that “We learn much from our observations but we must accept that what we see is the tip of the iceberg.”Observation assists the observer to get a better understanding of the child’s internal and external world.
Furthermore had a great awareness of the environment I was in and of verbal and non-verbal interaction between the child and parent as well. Fawcett (2009 pg 17) conquers as she states that observation is a rewarding chance to discover ways that people communicate and also how different gestures mean different things in different cultures. I was more aware of how power and hierarchies operate and how relatively powerless position of children, and this is clearly emphasised by (Fawcett 2009 pg18).
Despite the advantages of the observation there were a few disadvantages such as: I felt that one hour was a very short time and I was not getting the whole picture from the family. The observation was taking place on Friday and that was a lot of time in between visits. Inexperience was a big deal because I continually observed the child as a mother I was unable to detach my role as a mother with my role as a student. Healy (2012 pg 34) argued that “it is a practice which recognises the centrality of the emotions, body and mind of the worker and service user”. It is essential to note that while there may be a few disadvantages as social workers the skill of observation is crucial to the day to day practice (Tanner 1995 pg 50).
As part of the process I had to present my findings to the group and use PowerPoint presentation on reflection I learnt a great deal. As a social worker one requires good written and verbal communication skills and I believe that through presenting to the group I demonstrated the skills above. Stogdon &Kiteley (2010 pg 147) emphasised that contributions to discussions and note- taking is the beginning of acquiring these skills.
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The feedback given to others made the subject area and what was expected clearer in the presentation. In practice we are given feedback from service users and colleagues this was a preparation process for what is expected. The importance of keeping eye contact and the audience interested in the subject matter, I had to ensure that the group was clear on the points that were being made. Verbal presentation by individual students is a chance to increase, advance and offer different methods of learning in the lectures, visual presentations. I had the benefit of the feedback and expertise, not only from the lecture but from my peers as well. My peers had an opportunity to ask questions and this helped me make my points clearer. By presenting to my peers, I was able to get constructive ideas which I used in order to make changes to the final draft. I also learnt that it is important to provide constructive feedback and how essential critical thinking was during this process. Furthermore I gained insight into other areas of child observation.
The disadvantage of presenting was that it I felt time was too short and it took time for me to limit my information to present. I was very emotional and nervous and this may have come across during my presentation.
During the observation I picked up from the mother that the child’s father was not there for the first six months .Furthermore she stated that he only came to see the children when he felt like and on most occasions unannounced. On the two occasions that he came round as a woman and mother, I was very angry and disgusted by his behave and I felt that he was not a good parent. I then reflected back to my childhood and the close relationship I have with my father and this made me cross. As I observed him and the attachment he had with his children I realised that we are all human and can only do our best and I had no right to Judge him. This was a lesson for me and to realise that in practice there may be situations that will test my values beliefs and that I have to deal with them in a professional way. Gibbs (1998 pg 9) stated that ” it is from feelings and thought emerging from reflection that generalisations or concepts that allow new situations to be tackled effectively”.
Thomas and Pierson (1995pg 16) define anti discriminatory practice as “a term used in social work training to describe how workers account of structural disadvantage and seek to reduce individual and institutional discrimination on grounds of race, gender, disability, social class and sexual orientation”. Observation was listed as one of the five key stages that influence social work because it helps the worker to see and what to look for beyond race and gender (Howe 1987 pg 82).Thompson (1997 pg 34) model of anti â€“oppressive practice demonstrates the three areas that are joined personal prejudice, cultural beliefs and ethos and social and structural factors. When working to safeguard and promote the welfare of a child the family, environmental factors, parenting capacity and a child’s development are looked at which provides holistic view of a child. As social workers vital and complex decisions are made based on observations therefore it is essential that the skills to observe and assess are achieved. This is due to the fact that decisions and actions have far reaching consequences it helps to come to objective conclusions while dealing with a family. In social work practice all children and their families should be treated the same regardless of their colour, gender, race or religious beliefs. On reflection the observation was a learning curve ready for actual practice.
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