The Case for Journeying with Families
No one picked up my phone calls. No one answered the door.
The boy was missing, my phone was running low on battery, my palms were sweaty, my heart was racing.
One of my client’s children had not attended the After-School Care centre for two days. I rang the father and he’d curtly said that the boy was home and hung up. Subsequent calls went to voicemail.
I rushed down to the home. My knocks were met with silence. I was exasperated.
After much panicked searching, the boy turned out to be at his grandmother’s house. He’d stayed there for two days without anyone knowing. I was relieved that he was safe, but troubled that the father didn’t seem to care about his missing child.
It’s cases like these that make my heart go out to the families in Singapore.
There’s no denying that there are multi-stressed families in our community. They often go by unnoticed, invisible. There is a plethora of funds and services that families can tap on to alleviate their situation, but in this complex landscape, the unfamiliar and weary may find it difficult to navigate. That’s where case management comes in.
It all started a time ago
I stumbled upon case management some seven years ago when I discovered that I enjoy bringing people together. A Case Manager first understands the needs of the client and prioritises them, then connects them with the relevant resources and checks in regularly to ensure that they are receiving the help they need. Morning Star deals with cases that are flagged up by our After-School Care, CareNights, NOVA Learning Intervention Programme and Family Wellness Division.
I like to think of myself as being the guide for individuals or families in the community. As we journey up the mountain together, we tackle financial boulders and brave relational storms.
It gets tricky
No two days are the same. Some days are stormier than others. The challenge comes when the parent and child have different expectations of each other.
The parent may seek a ‘quick fix’ to magically change their child’s behaviour, but I am no shaman. Relationships take time to build. The child, on the other hand, may think that Mummy or Daddy will understand her need for attention if she throws a tantrum. It hardly ever plays out that way.
One child had not seen her mother for two weeks because of her new work schedule, but she was afraid to tell Mummy. She grew moody and refused to cooperate, disrupting her classes in school. Her behaviour was brought to our attention and I met with the girl and her mother to help bridge the communication gap.
Sometimes children appear to have a lot of behavioural issues, but if you take the time to understand them deeper, you may realise that the behaviour is a manifestation of their cry for attention or help. They could just be afraid or uncertain of how to voice their feelings.
It’s always a blessing
When I see a family get back on their feet and renew their strength to go on, I am reminded that people are more resilient than we think.
One mother was working ten to thirteen hours a day, her husband was unemployed and the children had been eating biscuits for a week. She did not know about social services, so I linked her up with a family service centre and we were able to provide a care package for the family. Now the mother is more forthcoming and she approaches us when she needs help. The children benefit from the school pocket money fund and are happier at home.
Receiving help doesn’t just change the family’s situation; it changes their mindset. When they suddenly realise they aren’t alone and help is there if they only reach out, it takes away the sense of gloom and spurs them on; they are empowered to overcome their situation.
Journeying with a family as a Case Manager can be a steep climb, but it is worth it when you look back from the peak and see how far you’ve come together.
In the end, the best thing we can do for our children is just to take time to understand them and show that we love and care for them.
Case Manager, Family Wellness Division