The Department for Children and family Services is the Government body responsible for the provision of social services to people facing difficulties and problems. Preventive as well as remedial services are offered to help them with these problems and increase their potential as persons and members of society.
Personalised services are offered mainly to :
* persons with personal, marital or family problems;
* children in need of protection or residential care because of neglect or abuse;
* couples waiting to adopt or foster children;
* young single mothers;
* adolescents with behaviour problems or who may be in danger of, or already on the way to, delinquency and criminality. Social workers may be required by the courts to undertake supervision of those adolescents who have infringed criminal law.
The Department works hand-in-hand with other social work services providers whether they be statal, non-governmental or voluntary in the interests of both employees and clients. Close rapport is maintained and the best utilisation is made of human resources.
The Department also collaborates with foreign social work agencies, reciprocating the services that these extend to the Department regarding cases abroad.
All the work conducted by the Department of social workers is strictly bound by confidentiality.
Social Workers and Social Support Workers
There was a substantial increase in the number of social workers in the Department in 1996. With the introduction of the Social Support Workers Scheme, University students studying for a social work qualification also work with the Department. This system is working well and is giving positive results as far as alternation between work and study, practice and recruitment are concerned.
The Department continued its
programme of internal restructuring into units with specialised functions
and a management system that encourages autonomy and initiative. Promotions
were also given in accordance with the 1993 Agreement between the Government
and Unions in respect of Social Workers in this and other Departments.
Social Work Units within the Department
To ensure a better service in the field of social welfare, the Department is divided into the following five specialised units :
* Intake Unit
* Family Services Unit
* Adoptions and Fostering Unit
* Socio-Legal Unit
* Social Work Services Unit (Gozo)
To avoid duplication, cases involving persons with a disability referred to the Department in 1996 were passed on to the National Commission Persons with Disability.
In 1996 the Department handled 1579 social cases of which 695 were pending from the previous year, 673 were new and 211 were reactivated ones. Another 43 cases were referred to other agencies. Of these 695 cases were closed. Help-line cases requiring urgent or after-hours intervention totalled 386.
The Intake Unit is the first to see cases which are urgent, critical and those which can be dealt with within a few days. Priority needs are identified and home visits are carried out if these are indicated. Each case is examined and a plan of action drawn up.
The Unit is normally involved in short-term intervention. Where long-term work is required, the case is referred to the other specialised units as appropriate.
In 1996 the unit handled around 326 cases, of which 199 were new, 51 from the previous year, while another 76 cases were reopened. 180 cases were closed. The unit's Central Case Register was, in the course of the year, computerised for greater efficiency.
The unit social workers regularly meet to review their cases, identify needs and requirements and make recommendations. From time to time they attend practical and management courses.
One of the challenges facing the Family Services Unit this year was the consolidation of its services, addition of a social worker and four social support workers helped to strengthen and broaden the unit's services, especially with its participation in drawing up Programm Fejda. The unit is staffed as follows :
* Principal Social Worker
* Accredited Social Worker
* Registered Social Worker II
* Registered Social Worker I
* 4 Casual Welfare Officers
* 4 Social Support Workers
The Unit's work was mainly addressed to the family as can be seen below :
* There was an intensification of social work with children under Care Orders;
* Case reviews and case conferences about children in residential care were conducted;
* The services of a psychologist were offered to clients; the psychologist also acted as consultant within the context of a multi-disciplinary team;
*A study of facilities for the protection and care of children in the case of family problems was made;
* Through Programm Fejda, a therapeutic centre for girls with emotional and behavioural problems, was set up. The documentation was finalised and the Programme is expected to start operations in 1997;
* The Unit participated in the cases of couples and minors before the First and Second Halls of the Civil Court and the Social Workers made their contribution in these cases before the family Court;
Throughout 1996 the unit had, in all, a total of 783 cases, consisting of 343 cases from the previous year, 235 new cases and 205 reactivated ones. 275 cases were put away. The cases were of various types : matrimonial problems, single parent families, Care orders, child abuse, children and adults in care, housing, work with young persons and social reports to the courts.
Among the most common cases were families with various complex problems, parents going through a difficult time as a result of particular problems such as lack of agreement, lack of control over their children, financial problems, unemployment, housing and illness.
A large number of cases concerned couples in need of counselling because of matrimonial problems. Such cases generally involve also the children as these are usually affected by the problem situation in the family.
The unit social workers followed up cases of children who, for various reasons and because of family problems, needed to spend sometime in a residential home. Problems included disagreement between the parents, serious incapacity of the parents to look after their children, lack of adequate housing, and conditions in the family liable to be dangerous to the children.
In certain cases the social workers collaborate with the Adoptions and Fostering Unit so that the children can be found foster families until the problem situation becomes less threatening. In such cases due recognition is given to the right that children have to remain within their family as far as this is possible.
The nature of these cases necessitated various and frequent interventions, especially where small children were involved whose family environment was not conducive to normal emotional and psychological development.
In such cases the social workers counsel the parents, refer them for training in parenting skills and conduct counselling sessions with the children and their families, with the help of other professionalists.
Where the problem is one of lack of control over the children, parents are counselled about child behaviour and control, and about the causes for conflict. Where necessary, contact with the school authorities is made to obtain more information about the children.
The unit was required to write a number of reports about child care and custody, as well as mode of access by the First and Second Halls of the Civil Court.
These cases increased substantially over 1996 largely as a result of the increase in the number of young couples who started the process of legal separation. In these cases information needs to be gathered about the case and the couple's situation examined so that a report can be drawn up recommending one or other of the parents for care and custody of the children, as well as the modality of access to the children.
There were certain cases where the children's best interest led to the recommendation that they be entrusted to their grandparents or some other member of the family until one of the parents was in a position to give them sound education and upbringing. In other cases, it was recommended that the children be temporarily sent to a residential home.
In a number of cases it was decided that parental access should be granted only under supervision by suitable persons experienced in this kind of work. This was mostly indicated where there were serious doubts about the parent-child relationship, or where there were allegations of child abuse.
A number of the unit's members participated in a course of Family Therapy for social workers and other professionals engaged in family case work. Other social workers also took part in seminars and workshops on themes relevant to their type of work.
These courses, seminars and workshops provided an occasion for the social workers and other professionals to discuss and share ideas, experiences, common problems and new aspirations.
In 1996 five one-day seminars were organised at Casa Arkati in Mosta, while another seminar was held at 'Oasi' premises in Gozo during which the unit continued with the compilation of its Manual of Procedures. This manual will guide the social workers in their everyday work and will ensure uniformity of service and professionalism.
Themes in the Manual include : Social Workers and Supervision, statutory duties and rights, communications, contact with other Departments and agencies, crisis management, care orders, annual reports and statistics, public relations and the news letter.
The unit's staff also had regular unit meetings to discuss their work, cases and other relevant matters. Fifteen meetings were held in all.
Within the past two years, the Department in liaison with the Family and Social Affairs Division, initiated this new programme for girls with emotional and behaviour problems. The need for this had long been felt and throughout 1996 the unit worked intensively on the development of the programme and on the refurbishing of the premises in Conservatorio Vincenzo Bugeja in Santa Venera.
The programme was already at an advanced stage by the end of 1996 and it is expected to receive its first clients early in 1997.
Programm Fejda is aimed at young women the age of twelve who are experiencing behaviour or emotional problems. This therapeutic programme is designed to cater for individual needs through individual and group counselling, and social work with the client's family.
The programme includes residential facilities and also a day programme for those not in need of residential care.
Programm Fejda is far-reaching in its intervention in the client's life and is an instrument of rehabilitation and reintegration into family and social life.
Case Reviews and Case Conferences
In collaboration with the Adoption and Fostering Unit the cases of children in residential care continued to be reviewed. Such case reviews are important in the work of monitoring each child's progress towards reintegration with their families, or, alternatively towards adoption or fostering.
A substantial number of clients availed themselves of the psychologist's services. This service compliments the social work conducted within the Centre and means that clients do not have to be referred elsewhere. At present, one of the Department employees in pursuing her studies in this field so that in future the Department will be able to offer this service on a permanent basis.
A number of social workers gave talks on various subjects related to their work both on radio and on television.
Cases referred to Social Workers
Adoptions and Fostering Unit
A brief overview of the work
of the unit shows that in 1996 there were :
On 30 July 1996, an agreement was signed in Tirana with the Albanian Adoptions Committee for the adoption of children from that country. An Albanian delegation came to Malta in the same month to discuss the agreement and visit applicant families. The first couples are expected to go to Albania towards mid-1997 in order to finalise their respective adoptions.
In this respect there were in
Parents whose children have gone into foster care periodically meet their children at the Centru Hidma Socjali in Santa Venera.
About 150 cases of children in Residential Homes were reviewed. These case reviews are also attended by the social workers assigned to each case and the Directors of the Homes.
The first meeting of the Foster Carers support group was called in April and this was attended by 5 couples. Subjects discussed included the relationship between foster and natural parents and the latter's contact with their children, as well as rights and obligations of foster carers. At the second meeting, attended by 9 couples, the Department's work with the Children's Homes and the Social Welfare Development Programme (SWDP) on a plan for a fostering service was explained. A couple also shared their fostering experience.
In December the first newsletter for foster carers was issued.
The need is being increasingly felt to compensate foster carers in some way under the Social Security Act (under 'allowances for carers') or later on under the Children's Act when this becomes operational.
Since November the unit has started another awareness campaign. Letters and posters on fostering have been sent to all towns and villages and parish offices have been asked to register their interest with the unit if they want talks on the subject to be held in their locality. By the end of December the unit had given talks in 6 parishes. Programmes were also prepared for radio and television, particularly for T.V channel 12.
In May, 2 social support workers were added to the unit. Four social workers are employed on a contractual basis. These help with the assessment of prospective adoptive couples and prepare the Home Study Reports.
The unit intends to follow up on the project of Fostering Systems which it had worked on the previous year, together with the SWDP, the Children's Homes, Cana Movement and St.Patrick's School. Priority will still be given to awareness campaigns and pre-service training to prospective foster carers.
Unit staff members attended the seminars organised by the Family Services Unit to continue their work on their common Procedures Manual.
In 1996 the unit comprised an Accredited Social Worker, 3 Casual Welfare Officers and a Social Support Worker. The Accredited Social Worker also assumes the responsibility of acting head of the unit in the absence of a Senior Social Worker.
At the end of 1996 the unit had 187 cases. 79 new cases were allocated, 24 reactivated, while 130 cases were put away.
There were 14 cases that were referred by the Commissioner of Police to the Unit in 1996. Of these, 6 cases were dealt with directly by the Unit whilst the 8 other cases were referred to other Department units or agencies either because the clients already had social workers, or because of the nature of the case.
[Click here to see chart re: cases referred to the Unit by the Commissioner of Police between 1991 and 1996]
In 1996 the Juvenile Court held 20 sittings to hear criminal cases, and 21 sittings to hear objections to care orders. The number of cases before the Court in 1996 (75) was double that for 1995. The number of court sittings also doubled.
Every case brought before the
Juvenile Court was assigned to a social worker and an initial/progressive
report was given to the Court during each sitting. In certain cases the
Court recommends that a social worker follows up on a case even after this
has been decided upon by the Court.
The unit also has the responsibility of appointing Assistants for the Juvenile Court, of requiring Police presence during the hearing of Objections to Care orders, and of co-ordinating work between the Court and the Department.
Probation Orders and Supervision Orders
The number of probation Officers on probation work in 1996 amounted to 4, of whom 3 were males and 1 female.
The number of probation cases during the year was 138, of which 18 were referred by the Courts during the same year. Work was also carried out on 10 supervision orders of which 2 were assigned in 1996.
Of the 20 new Probation or Supervision Orders referred to the Department, 19 were assigned to the Unit.
Besides preparing monthly statistics for Agenzija Sedqa, the Unit held meetings with representatives from this Agency and the Department in the interests of mutual collaboration. The problems encountered by the two agencies were discussed and a procedure was introduced for the referral of cases between Agenzija Sedqa and the Department.
Quarterly meetings were held between staff members of the unit and members of the Sedqa Research Team to analyse the information supplied by the unit for the previous three months.
During 1996 the unit staff members held regular meetings - 10 in all - to discuss the work in hand.
Visits were made to private homes, Residential Homes, hospitals, Police Headquarters, Santa marija Therapeutic Community, Gubbio Community Home in Santa Venera, San Blas Residential Home, Dar iz-Zernieq, Caritas and others. The purpose of such visits is to meet clients and discuss new developments.
Staff also attended seminars, conferences, workshops and other activities relating to Social Work organised by the Department or other agencies.
In June 3 casual welfare officers
were presented with an attendance certificate after they had attended a
number of lectures organised for casual welfare officers by the Department
between April and May.
Social Work Services Unit (Gozo)
The unit, known also as the Centru Hidma Socjali t'Ghawdex, is located in a part of the building which used to function as the old hospital in St.Francis Square, Rabat.
The unit carries out social work with families, youths and the elderly, persons with special needs, drug addicts, alcoholics, as well as other problem cases. It is staffed by a social worker and seven casual welfare officers.
The unit's intake team consists of 2 casual welfare officers, who catered for 331 cases, of which 96 were new. There was an increase of 21 cases over 1995, and 18 cases were put away.
Cases are referred to the Intake Team by clients themselves or by people working in the social field such as doctors, lawyers, teachers, nurses, Police officers, members of the clergy or voluntary agents.
Around 2115 visits to private homes and the workplace, as well as 345 community visits were conducted to ensure continuity of service to clients. The Corrective Facility at Kordin was also visited 25 times to follow up 6 inmates, while a further 16 visits were paid to patients in hospitals.
The unit was requested by the Gozo Court to present 5 social reports about minors in problem families. As there are no resident probation Officers in Gozo, the Court placed 6 persons under the Surveillance of a social worker in Gozo in their best interests and for their progress to be monitored.
In May, casual welfare officers from the unit successfully attended a training course in social work at the Centru Hidma Socjali in Santa Venera.
With the collaboration of the Department, the unit organised a course in social work at the Adult Training Centre in Ghajnsielem, between the 7th and the 11th of October. These sessions were attended by the unit's casual welfare officers and other workers in the social field in Gozo. In October, Ms Grace Galea attended a 3 day seminar held by Misco, while Ms Pauline Camilleri attended a similar course in Malta.
Where possible, the unit organised supervision sessions for the casual welfare officers at the Adult training Centre in Ghajnsielem. There were 30 such meetings, during which the employees and their cases were supervised.
Meetings were also held by the unit's staff as is done in all the units of the Department in Malta. These are attended by the Principal Social Worker in charge of the unit and other members of the Department. On the Agenda featured items such as the running of the unit and the exchange of ideas and discussion of plans in relation to the unit and its work and the Department's Agenda. This is done to co-ordinate the provision of services with the Department's policy. peter Paul Portelli, unit head, also attended the Senior management staff meetings which are regularly held in Malta. In December, members of staff had a meeting with Mons. N Cauchi, the Bishop of Gozo, where social work in Gozo was discussed. The unit also participated in 6 discussion programmes on social work on the national radio station, among others. These exercises in public relations have increased awareness of the unit's work in Gozo.
In 1996 a library was set up within the unit, consisting of books on social work. Plans are in herd to increase both the book and periodical collections.
Although the on-call service cannot be provided in the same way as in Malta due to the lack of social workers, the unit has introduced a paging system (Skytell) for emergency calls outside of office hours.
Throughout the year the unit maintained contact with other social work agencies, Government Departments, Church and non-governmental organisations in Gozo. Social workers attended meetings and seminars, and themselves organised seminars in the interests of co-ordination and for the better deployment of resources.
Adult Training Centre
The Adult Training Centre in Ghajnsielem provides social work services to 32 clients and their families. Casual welfare officers attended 9 case conferences at the Centre, presented social reports about these cases and made new assessments about the situation of those attending the Centre and in certain cases also paid them visits at home.
The General Hospital
The unit extended a service at the General Hospital (mental Section) to 64 patients and their families. Casual welfare officers assist the psychiatric consultants in their ward rounds and during out-patient treatment sessions. They conduct home and community visits to co-ordinate the services offered and to enable the patients to stay within the community.
A casual welfare officer from the unit works at the Detoxification Centre in Gozo on a part-time basis. Clients are thus followed up on their rehabilitation programme.
Five clients successfully terminated their rehabilitation programme at the Sant'Anna, Santa Marija and San Blas Centres in Malta, and at Oasi in Gozo. At present the unit is working with 9 other cases in this category.
The unit organised 19 meetings in various localities in Gozo : 6 of these concerned drug abuse, 3 services for the elderly, 5 preparation for marriage for young couples, 2 talks for parents and 3 for school children.
There are plans to increase services offered, especially a crisis intervention centre. At present this service in on offer only at Lourdes Home, and the need is felt for a Government Centre so that crisis intervention services can be stepped up.
The unit's offices are presently situated in 3 separate rooms. Space is very restricted, and there is no room that can be used for counselling purposes. Alternative office accommodation is being sought which it is hoped will give welcome work space to the staff.
It is necessary to increase the trained social work staff in Gozo. The University Centre in Gozo runs BA., but not Diploma Courses in Social Studies. Diploma Courses in Gozo are to be recommended. Qualified persons could also be employed as part-time social workers.
1. The Training and Development Unit at the Department invited a number of experts to give talks at the Centre in Santa Venera about particular aspects of social work. These included :
* Mons. Joseph Bajada from the Ecclesiastical Tribunal, who in January discussed "Marriage in Malta Today" in the light of civil and canon law and the church-state agreement on marriage;
* Ms Rose Sammut from Karin Grech Hospital talked in March about "Adolescent Mothers";
* Ms Angela Callus, Director of the Department for the Advancement of Women spoke about "Women's Rights and the 1995 Beijing Conference" in May;
* Mr Frank Mifsud and Mr Jesmond Schembri from Agenzija Sedqa considered "Alcohol and Drug Abuse" in July;
* Mr Manwel Dimech and Mr Mark Jaccarini explained the work of the Employment and Training Corporation in September;
* Ms Sina Bugeja from the Health Promotion Unit of the Health Department talked in November about physical and psychological problems in middle life.
2. Between the 18th and 12th July, the Department hosted Ms Monica Carroll and Ms Gita Aldrige, two senior officials from the Children and family Department in Swansea, Wales. They gave various talks on the care and protection of children in England and Child day care Centres in Wales to the staff at the Centru Hidma Socjali and other social workers. Ms Aldrige also gave lectures on the 8th and 11th July on 'Relationship with Parents' and 'Organisational Aspects and Running of day care Centres' to the participants in the course for child carers organised by the Parliamentary Secretary for family Affairs. On 11th July, Ms Carroll also conducted a seminar for teachers at the Girl's Secondary School, Mriehel, on 'An inter-disciplinary Approach to Child Welfare'.
3. In the same period, Ms Sharon Davies, a psychologist from theEducation Department in Swansea, Wales, talked at CHS about 'Multidisciplinary Work in the Interests of persons with Special Needs'.
4. During Monica Carroll and Gita Aldrige's visit, exchange visits for social workers in the two Departments were planned. The aim is to initiate an exchange of ideas and experiences on the different social work practices employed by the two Departments.
5. Between April and May a two-month course in social work practice was organised for the Casual Welfare officers of the Social and Family Affairs Division. The need for such a course was a long-felt one and it helped to update the Welfare Officers with developments in the field of social work. Attendance certificates were presented by the Director General on 11th June.
6. In February, many Department employees received their certificates from the University after they had followed a course in Social Work Management in 1995.
7. Between 30th May and 1st June the Council of Europe concluded its programme on Childhood Policies with a conference in Leipzig, Germany, in which the 40 member states of the Council participated. Malta was represented by a delegation from the Ministry and the Department, as well as by two youngsters, Ms R.Vella and Mr F.Zarb Adami who won an essay competition about themes from the conference. The delegation addressed the conference and participated in the discussions and workshops.
8. Between 15th and 18th May, Dr Llmije Mara, president of the Adoptions Committee in Albania, visited Malta for discussions with the Division and the Department. Between 8th July and 1st August, a Maltese delegation visited Albania to sign an agreement on adoption procedures to be followed by Maltese couples wanting to adopt children from Albania. The first adoptions under this agreement are expected to take place around mid- 1997.
9. In August the Department represented Malta at the Conference on 'Commercial Sex Exploitation of Children' in Stockholm, Sweden.
10. The Director attended the meeting of CDPS (Steering Committee on Social Policy) of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg, France. Subjects discussed included Parenting Skills, Human Dignity and Social Exclusion, as well as the new Recommendation from the Council of Ministers about the role of social workers today. So far, there has been one Directive in this respect, No.13 of 1967, and a Recommendation about Social Work and Fundamental Human Rights (No. 16 of 1991 ). During this meeting Malta was chosen, along with four other countries, to make recommendations. The group is expected to meet in March 1997 for this purpose.
The Department prepared a draft Children's Act, translated the UN Convention
on the Rights of the Child into Maltese, and prepared the national report
about the situation of children in Malta as required by the above-mentioned
Convention. These three documents are at present under the consideration
of the competent authorities with a view to publication.
As its name indicates, the Department is at the disposal of those who in some way or another in the course of their normal life, or because of special circumstances, need guidance or protection to better their life status. To provide a good enough service, social workers as well as all the staff in the Department need to be well-prepared, dedicated and ready to give best possible service.
The scope is indeed vast, so much so that, because of the very nature of social work, it is difficult to mark limits and set parameters because the human spirit and condition are not delimited or self-contained as so many other things are. This is especially so where the up and coming generation and its family environment are concerned. It is this vision that guides the Department in its work and its plans for the future.