IFPS is a strengths-based program that focuses on keeping families together while teaching them problem resolution skills so that they can reduce the conflict in their lives and increase their overall safety.
Safety of all family members is the primary focus of IFPS. In order to help families, IFPS practitioners must also protect their own safety. Since IFPS services are provides in families’ homes and neighborhoods, IFPS practitioners sometimes find themselves in situations where their own safety is at risk.
Here are some situations IFPS practitioners have faced followed by suggestions for ways for staying safe. How do they compare to your own experiences?
- Have you ever had a child stand poised to hit you, spit at you, or bite you?
- Have you ever had to walk through a stairway or stand in an elevator with the décor of urine puddles or broken glass?
- While driving, have you ever had to drive up on the sidewalk to get away from a police chase?
- When walking to the client’s home, have you ever had to run back to your car as you feared a gang was coming after you? (But later you realize that they were just competing with each other to get to you first so as to sell you their drugs.)
- Have you ever encountered a 7-year-old child running outside to catch up to you after your session was over to hand you a drug vial (just to prove that his mother was actively using), leaving you now to drive off with drug paraphernalia in your car?
What can we do to stay safe in these and other risky situations?
Here are some ideas about ways we, as IFPS practitioners, can keep ourselves safe in the field while providing the most effective services to our IFPS families.
In potentially dangerous neighborhoods:
- Wear appropriate attire. Wear clothes that don’t stand out but still are professional. Avoid wearing provocative clothing.
- Wear covered shoes.
- Avoid wearing jewelry that will bring unnecessary attention to you.
- Carry a minimum of belongings with you.
- Be careful where you park. Generally, park as close to your destination as possible.
Wherever you are:
- Always be alert and on guard.
- If you are entering a building with an elevator, always check the elevator before getting inside. Send the elevator to the basement and wait for it to come back to you.
- If you are assigned to work in a high rise or apartment building, always check your surroundings when you walk through the public areas.
- Never enter a home unless you are invited in.
- When you enter a client’s home, assess the surrounding areas to plan an escape route.
- Keep your cell phone fully charged and close at hand.
- Program emergency contact numbers into your cell phone.
- Keep your gas tank full.
- Check your car prior to getting into it.
- Carry a spare car key and keep it close to you.
- Avoid parking in front of your clients’ home.
- Carry a small flash light.
- Always have your agency’s identification with you.
When people are angry:
- Use active listening and other diffusion techniques.
- Stay calm.
- Maintain a respectful and empathetic demeanor.
- Set limits and clearly state expectations with clients.
- Remember to always trust your gut feelings.
- Do not forget to reach out to your supervisor for help.
There are a host of other safety ideas that will not be enumerated at this time. Why? Because we would like to hear from you! So please share with us your experiences and your safety tips so that we all can benefit from keeping ourselves safe in the field.
Posted by Moneefah Jackson
This is the first in what we hope will be a series of IFPS success stories from programs around the country. To make this series possible, we need to hear from you. If you are interested in sharing a success story as a guest blogger, please e-mail Peg Marckworth (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Walker Family
The Walker story shows us how an IFPS intervention unfolds, with each step reinforcing the last and setting the stage for the next. It also illustrates the vast array of factors that influence outcomes in IFPS interventions.
We see how attention to concrete services including fixing a gas leak, obtaining a cell phone, and putting up curtains facilitates relationship and trust between the therapist and family members—as well as resolving stressful and potentially dangerous situations.
At referral, CPS had decided that Christie and Billy would both be placed in foster care unless the family agreed to intensive services.
- Christie Walker was born premature and spent the first three months of her life in the hospital. She was ready to come home but there were concerns about what Christie would face at home
- Christie’s brother Billy, age three, was diagnosed as hyperactive with some brain damage.
- Billy had suffered three concussions over the past year
- Another infant in the family had died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
- CPS was suspicious of the injuries sustained by the 3 year old, and about the former infant death
- The family had had an open CPS case in another state, but left that state when the mother became pregnant with the current infant
The family’s public health nurse and the CPS caseworker discussed their concerns with the parents and the CPS caseworker referred the parents, William and Judy, to Intensive Family Preservation Services (IFPS).
Click here to read the whole story and its outcome.
Posted by Peg Marckworth
In our last post we discussed the role of good communication in building relationships and resolving conflict. In this post we expand on ways to improve our communication skills.
As IFPS staff we know how to use effective communication skills. The following suggestions are a reminder to pause and recall what we know.
1. Think about the problem prior to taking action.
What is the situation? What are your assumptions? What do you hope to accomplish?
2. Reach out to others with sincerity by engaging and listening to them.
3. Try to see the other person’s viewpoint.
They have specific reasons for what they are doing which we can’t know until they tell us.
4. Contribute to open communication by staying present.
If you are thinking about what you’re going to say next you can’t fully listen to the person now.
5. Seek to understand the situation and avoid personalizing it.
Focusing on the other person and your relationship with that person keeps it from being all about you.
6. Ask for clarification as needed.
Don’t assume you know what the person is thinking or feeling or all aspects of the situation.
7. Maintain good self-control.
It may feel good to lash out, especially if you are angry, but it won’t help you reach your communication goals.
8. Find opportunities to help the other person.
With their permission you can clarify or problem-solve with them.
9. Remember that every interaction builds or erodes the relationship.
Maintaining and building a relationship is easier and more pleasant than trying to repair it.
Posted by Moneefah D. Jackson and Peg Marckworth
Communication is a skill that needs to be developed just like any other skill.
It appears that some people are able to master the art of communication very easily while others seem to have a challenging time. Even if a person belongs to the latter group, it is still possible for the individual to learn to share their thoughts in a pleasant and respectful manner in order to communicate effectively. Ronald R. Sims (Organizational Behavior, 2002) states that “communication is the sharing of information between two or more individuals or groups to reach a common understanding.”
If we are having difficulty helping IFPS families to resolve conflict because we lack good communication, we need to ask ourselves, “Could we improve our communication skills?” It is imperative to know that communication is a vital tool that can help us to understand one another, why others make the decision they do, or perhaps making just a simple statement.
How can we develop mature communication skills?
First, we must have good self-control. Second, we will need to try to see the other person’s viewpoint. Third, we need to seek clarification.
Good communication does not mean saying everything that we are thinking and feeling, especially if we are angry. Good communication helps us establish and maintain peaceful relationships. If we work hard to do what we can to improve our relationships with others, it can improve our communication with them.
So, when it comes to resolving conflict through good communication, why not try the following:
- Contribute to open communication.
- Reach out to others with sincere kind acts.
- Find opportunities to help and give a gift from the heart.
- Think about the problem prior to taking action.
- Avoid personalizing the situation.
- Seek to understand the situation.
We must remember that “every interaction is an intervention.”
Posted by Moneefah D. Jackson