Monday, March 22, 2010

Staying in a Client's Life for the Kids

Clara has two children, one who recently came back to the picture after her husband decided he could no longer take care of him. She contacts me every few weeks asking for items like gift cards to get clothing for the kids. She's not a typical demanding client because she's endearing. We've had several conversations where she's confided in me of her struggles. I know she deals with a lot. Budget is tight but she puts her kids first when she plans. Despite this I see that she makes choices that aren't wise -- like sometimes paying minor debts before paying all her rent. I have made several offers to work with her in the year I've known her. On budgeting, changing shopping habits, nutritional concerns. She's mostly resisted my offers but continues to ask for material items.

Sure, it's her decision to turn down case management services. On the other hand though, I began to feel frustrated that I'm only being contacted as a resource of goods. But then I felt for the kids. Last year we were able to tie the older daughter with a Big Sister program and she seems to be flourishing under it. Lately Clara brought up doing the same program for her younger daughter.

After months and months of trying and discussing it with a coworker I understood that I just won't be able to support Clara like I'd like to. As tough as it was for me to reach this conclusion, but I had tried to offer Clara case management services indirectly and directly, made a few home visits, spoke softer and more harshly. But at this time (and maybe even in the future), she's not ready. I realized too that I'd like to continue and give her occasional assistance because of her children. If I would be able to support them that would still make a difference to the family.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this blog Anatolia. I have had many clients like this over the years. I worried that the children in the home were learning the wrong thing if I let the parent continue to get away with not doing the work.

I presume you are working or have worked collaboratively with other services and have taken an integrated team response? If not this might be something to try in order to get this parent on board before she loses the resources you offer? I found this approach the best when adults and youth were stuck. It removes the tug and pull between you and her and distributes it to other members. I have also found that some of my greatest ideas for interventions were inspired by workers and professionals from other fields. Just my thoughts, and again, thank you for yours.

Anatolia said...

I appreciate your comment, Nechakogal! You bring up an excellent point -- collaborating with other agencies when working with a client so each agency knows what we're working on with her, we know where she's at, care can be coordinated, etc. This particular client is mostly tied in with my agency but your suggestion is helpful in many cases.