Adam (not his real name) is a primary school boy whose parents are on the verge of divorce. His father often hits his mother. Sometimes, he also hits Adam. This has been on-going for many years.
When Adam was first brought to the hospital by a social welfare officer from the Social Welfare Department, he was found to have lacerations on his scalp and bruises on his back.
The hospital-based or medical social worker arranged for his admission and worked with the paediatrician, nursing staff and other specialists to help Adam.
“In child abuse cases, the social workers aren’t just responsible for managing the case and keeping the child safe, they also need to ensure the the well-being of the family of the child involved. Where there is child abuse or neglect, they may need to act in accordance to the Child Act 2001. All this is taught in social work education,” says Malaysian Association of Social Workers president Dr Mohd Suhaimi Mohamad.
“It’s the responsibility of hospital social workers to look after the welfare of the children or victims while they are hospitalised and ensure they’re protected and helped,” says Universiti Malaya Medical Centre (UMMC)’s Department of Social Work senior community development officer Khalidah Mustapa.
The medical social worker contacted Adam’s mother and found a safe place (with a relative) for them to stay until the situation was resolved.
The proposed Social Work Bill to recognise social work as a profession seeks to establish a Malaysian Social Work Profession Council to register social workers and set social work standards, and this will better empower social workers to help and protect those in need.
“With the tabling of the Social Work Bill, and the profession recognised through licensing and registration, there are better career development opportunities and more people would be willing to become social workers,” says Khalidah.
“Passing the bill will also increase the professionalism and competency of social workers through mandatory training and supervision,” she adds.
UMMC medical social worker Fatimang Ladola reveals that on a daily basis, social workers are responsible for investigating allegations of child abuse, endangerment or neglect.
“If we learn that a child is being harmed, we’ll speak to the child to find out more about their family situation, as well as to their parents, caregivers and members of the extended family to find out what is happening and identify difficulties faced by the child and his family.
“We then discuss with members of the Suspected Child Abuse and Neglect (SCAN) team, which includes paediatricians, nursing staff and specialist doctors, on what needs to be done to ensure the safety and well-being of the child,” she says.
“We also communicate our findings and recommendations with the social welfare department (officer). If the child has significant injuries, a police report must be made.
“If the child is at risk upon returning home, we collaborate with the social welfare officer to look into alternative accommodation, and the Court of Children will assign a suitable caregiver (usually an extended family member).
“For children who haven’t any physical injuries, but the parents are having difficulties coping and handling the child, we also help to counsel the parents and identify individuals or agencies to provide additional support,” adds Ladola.
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