A Safe Harbor of Freedom, Progress and Hope in the Humanitarian Sector
Children in dysfunctional families experience crises and are being considered at risk of abuse and neglect. The term ‘dysfunctional family’ is defined as one which develops a sense of powerlessness (Mishe and Mishe, 1977) that pervades the lives of the members in the family and which is unable to cope with adversities of life effectively and accomplish the life tasks. In the context of the proposed project a dysfunctional family is considered to be incapable of a) giving attention to the children’s needs b) ameliorating or preventing negative effects on the family and c) bringing about changes in children’s environment through the provision of opportunities for improving the standard of living.
There are a number of factors correlated with family dysfunction that force the children at risk. It is noticed that many families in India who are either economically or socially or psychologically stressed are unable to send their children to school. These children do not consistently get their needs met and they lead a life devoid of the rights to childhood. The problems of these school-aged children are multi-faceted which call for preventive family support services which range from available services (primary prevention services), through early intervention services to assist families of children as ‘at risk’, to intensive crisis intervention services.
In point of fact, the need for family strengthening is being greatly realised in the context of child development in developed and developing countries. The role of the family as primary carer/s is to accept responsibility for or directly meet the physical, individual guidance, educational, spiritual and developmental needs of the child. The way this role is fulfilled is shaped by the family’s cultural context. Failure to fulfill this role leads to the vulnerability of the child in the family. "If a family is unable to meet the needs of the child, the family unit per se is vulnerable in terms of physical survival, within its own relationship and within the community in which it lives. The vulnerability of the child then reflects the vulnerability of the family”. Since the child becomes disadvantaged due to varied causes of family dysfunction, there is a need for sustaining the families from being dysfunctional and rebuilding such dysfunctional families through a spectrum of family support services.
Family support services have a special contribution to make in meeting the needs of families and the children. They prove to be highly beneficial to the families and the school going children in as much as they are
d. combine practical assistance and therapeutic counseling e. involved with the family long enough to ensure change is sustained
f. grass roots organisations
g. based on a model that recognizes and builds on strengths and
On the basis of our experiences in working with dysfunctional families, our centre conducted an evaluation study on ‘An intensive family preservation program for children in dysfunctional families in Madurai, India(1991-1996) The study has revealed the fact of the 361 families selected on a random basis that a sizeable section (34.90%) of the families fell under the type ‘female headed families’, whereas a lower proportion of them (5.54%) were classified as ‘families likely to disintegrate’.
Families of street children and working children accounted for 17.18%. It was found that 24.95% of the ‘stressed families’ had both father and mother alive. Sadly enough, 6.37% of the families got disintegrated owing to marital discord. Offending families in ‘fights’ arguments’ ‘drunkenness ‘aggressiveness’ indulging accounted for 41(11.36%).
An analysis of the causes has indicated that lack of means of livelihood, marital disagreement, financial difficulties, death of spouse, problem of ill health of spouse (husband), alcoholic behaviour of husband, domestic violence (wife/husband battering), lack of understanding of family values, shirking of family responsibility by the husband, and neurotic/psychotic behaviour of spouse have resulted in families becoming ‘dysfunctional’, which have forced children to child work. In all of these families, children were the worst sufferers who have either become school dropouts or had to take up employment to supplement their family income.
During the period 1991-2007, 19775 have received family support services. Of 19775 dysfunctional famlies covered,7761 families belong to Scheduled Castes(socially oppressed communities,194 families belong to tribal communities,9287 hail from socially and economically backward caste groups, and 1709 families belong ‘Most backward/Denotified tribal caste groups’. The rest (824 families) belong to upper caste groups.
It is quite revealing that Children ‘at risk’ have been prevented from being placed out of their home. Families in crisis have been rehabilitated through family support services. Families likely to disintegrate have been strengthened. Families have been empowered to manage their own needs and problems. Educational support and assistance have offered to many school children to succeed in formal education programmes. Many a child in dysfunctional families have been empowered with life skills.
The Intensive family preservation for children in dysfunctional families program has been launched with a holistic care approach, keeping in view the following core principles:
1.All children have the right to survival, protection, development and
2.Growing up in their own family enhances their opportunity for their wholesome development
3.A family which is socially and economically stable is a strong family
4.Helping the family is helping the child
5.When the family is vulnerable, the child is vulnerable
6.When a family is dysfunctional, a support to assist it to address the difficulties and build on its strengths reduces the vulnerability, and therefore of the child
There is a great need for the expansion of this innovative program to cover more number of ‘dysfunctional families’ in the larger community at Madurai, India where the population is growing thick and fast and problems of coping behaviour continue to affect the functional ability of many a family.
We are replicating this program to reach out to many children in dysfunctional families in our project locations,Tamilnadu,India.
You are most welcome to partner with us to support our cause for the children in need of family centered and children focused support services.
I have posted full text of our case study titled
'INTENSIVE FAMILY PRESERVATION PROGRAM FOR CHILDREN IN DYSFUNCTIONAL FAMILIES, MADURAI, INDIA-THE INDIAN EXPERIENCE' http://goodwillsocialworkcentre.posterous.com/intensive-family-pres...
The case study has been published in the book titled 'CHANGING CARE',SWP Publishers,Amsterdam,The Netherlands,2002.
Goodwill Social Work Centre