Advanced practise in social work
A complex child protection, mental health, homelessness, domestic violence, drug and alcohol and justice scenario
Mark and Jen have been together since they were both 17 years old. Jen accidently became pregnant at 18. She says she loves Mark and wants to keep his baby.
As a child, Mark’s dad was abusive towards him and his mother. He ran away from home at 13 years old and then spent a lot of time in youth homeless services or at his friend’s houses. Jen was also removed from her family by child protection services when she was a young child after having experienced child hood sexual abuse. Jen identifies as bisexual and before she met Mark, she had a girlfriend called Jane. Jen ended their sexual relationship when she met Mark but Jen and Jane are still close friends and see each other regularly. Jane would like to ‘get back together’ with Jen. Jen lived in four different foster homes during her childhood. She has never met her biological parents. She would like to meet her mother and find out where she comes from.
Mark started using methamphetamines at 16. He is involved in some criminal activities such as stealing and dealing to buy drugs. He has spent short periods in jail but Jen said it was not his fault that he was treated badly as a child. Mark can become aggressive, especially when he is using ‘heavy drugs’ and Jen feels scared of him then. Nonetheless, she feels sure that having a baby would ‘settle him down’. Now that she is pregnant Jen is trying her best to stop using drugs (mainly marijuana) and alcohol, but this is hard in their current accommodation.
Mark and Jen live in temporary accommodation, they ‘couch surf’ with different friends and occasionally they rent a caravan or camp in the local caravan park. They move around a lot because they frequently have arguments with their friends. They fight about finances but mainly when they have been drinking or taking drugs and have no money left to buy food. They occasionally access services that assist them to obtain basic material needs such as food, bus tickets and clothing, especially when their Centrelink benefit is cut off or they run out of money.
When Jen was first pregnant, they went to the local public housing service to find permanent accommodation. They were told that they had to wait for many years for public housing unless they got on the ‘priority list’.
Jen is now 6 months pregnant and they still have no permanent accommodation. She asked the child protection service who had supported her in foster care to write a letter for public housing. However, her old case manager had left, no-one knew her in the office and they said she was ‘too young to have a baby anyway’. The worker she spoke to however did say she would take this request to the next allocation meeting.
Mark is feeling more and more stressed about his impending fatherhood and using drugs more frequently. There was a violent incident one day when Mark was ‘really out of it’ and he pushed Jen when she was pregnant. Jen rang a crisis number and they referred her to a domestic violence service. She did not go because she wanted to make sure Mark was ‘okay’. She said ‘he is only like that when he is taking drugs anyway’.
Jen is feeling more and more anxious and depressed. She is having suicidal thoughts, thoughts of self-harm and experiencing symptoms of bulimia. She tried to explain how she was feeling to the hospital nurse where she attends for prenatal ‘check ups’. She said that the nurse ‘just seems to be worried about the unborn baby and whether his or her heart was beating or not’. She did find a list of accommodation services for mothers and babies at the hospital but then thought they would be trying to ‘tell her what to do’ so she hasn’t approached them for assistance yet.
The baby is due in a few weeks. Jen hasn’t seen Mark for a few days. She is still staying at a friend’s house and nothing has been sorted. She does not know what to do.
You are working as a social worker in a drop in youth service. Jen walks in the door heavily pregnant, asking for assistance.