While romantic interests or relationships are normal during adolescence, many adolescents experience several issues, including violence, abuse, and emotional or cyberbullying. According to the [CDC] (2016), adolescent dating violence involves any physical, sexual, and psychological aggression within a dating or intimate relationship. Dating violence also encompasses stalking and aggression transmitted electronically. A 2018 survey of youth showed that nearly 19% of high school students had undergone physical dating violence, nearly 15% had witnessed another friend experienced sexual dating violence, and nearly 12% had been forced into involuntary sexual activities (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2016). Furthermore, several cases display the assumption of teen dating violence being inadequately reported, especially among the LGBTQ population youth (Orpinas, Hsieh, Song, Holland, & Nahapetyan, 2013). Unhealthy or abusive relationships have both short and long-term consequences, including heavy drinking, depression, suicidal ideation, drug use, delinquency, and domestic violence in adulthood (Dank, Lachman, Zweig &Yahner, 2014, Exner-Cortens, Eckenrode & Rothman, 2013; Gomez, 2011). A community based mental health agency offers to collaborate with Deerfield high school, located in Sunrise, Florida, in order to address these issues through two invaluable programs.
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Preventive education is a key component of primary mental health care (Cohen-Konrad, 2013). It has shown significant success in reducing the rate and risk factors associated with teen intimate partner violence (Lundgren & Amin, 2015). In this constituent of the collaboration between the community mental health agency and Deerfield high school, mental health professionals would offer two training sessions to all teachers and appropriate staff members at Deerfield high school. The first training session would aim at educating staff members on the incidence and presentation of teen dating violence, symptoms, and preventive resources for prospective victims. A second training session would be provided in a much comprehensive fashion as it would solely pertain to professors appointed to teach the Safe Dates prevention curriculum. In a longitudinal study, the Safe Dates curriculum has displayed a reduction in teen dating violence ranging between 46%-92% (Foshee, De Koker, Bauman, Ennett, Linder, Benefield, & Suchindran, 2004). Thus, other schools with victims of intimate teen violence should follow this Safe Dates prevention curriculum as it has proven to be efficient.
Group counseling represents an ideal manner to offer services to adolescents because it is economical, proficient, and effective (Schechtman, 2017; Kaminer, 2005). It enables mental health professionals to administer therapeutic services therapy to multiple individuals in the shortest time. It further creates a supportive peer group for those victims. The collaboration’s primary purpose would be for mental health professionals to offer biweekly group sessions for victims at the school setting.
When two entities agree to work together, this can likely produce many benefits as well as several challenges or undesirable situations. For instance, funding streams can create great challenges since both entities work against a budget that becomes tighter annually. Recently, school districts’ annual funding has been cut and the school’s mental health staff has been downsized due to lack of financial help (NAMI, 2011). Oftentimes, the federal government awards mental health agencies with few grants, which lead them to seek for supplemental monetary means to compensate for the lack, including private contributions. Thus, there is a debate about which entity would assume financial responsibility. These issues should be acknowledged and resolved before the collaboration could even proceed in a productive fashion.
Another great challenge has to do with appropriate support for all pertinent host setting parties because in any collaborative effort, every party involved is responsible to provide resources, goods, supports, and services that complement the other party’s efforts. For example, a lack of support or cooperation from the high school’s essential departments might negatively affect the cohesion of the partnership. While the principals, teachers, or parents might be supportive of the collaboration, the administration must also coordinate with them to allocate a closed space for the group counseling, a large room for professors/staff training and meetings, and the custodians must be predisposed to furnish all the rooms with appropriate equipment as well as ensuring their availability for use on the days all meetings are scheduled.
Issues surrounding mental health have been highly stigmatized, undervalued, and unrepresented worldwide, especially within school settings (Overstreet & Quinn, 2013). The space designated for administering group sessions should be consistently available every week. This latter would further create a great sense of safety and security that promote engagement and successful intervention.
Inter-Agency Collaboration Concepts
Inter-agency collaboration usually offers invaluable services and benefits to children, youth, families, and communities ([NTAECSC] 2008; McDonald & Rossier, 2011). Nonetheless, successful collaboration can be challenging, complex, and time-consuming. Fortunately, various strategies are deemed proficient to resolve a few encountered challenges. Cooperation/teamwork, communication, and coordination/harmonization, the three C’s, are concepts debated at the onset of any successful collaborative partnership (Chen, 2010; Horwath & Morrison, 2007).
Shared vision. An effective collaboration can be launched after the two partnering organizations agree to uphold a shared vision that equally benefits their mutual alliance. In this condition, the shared vision, which mainly focuses on supporting physical and emotional health for adolescents, must be reinforced by both school officials and the local mental health organization.
Benefits to all. Every participant must clearly comprehend that the collaboration should emphasize on similar benefits and outcomes. For example, it is important that both parties understand and value mutual support in order to achieve their vision. This recognition further creates a relationship that promotes mutual appreciation and respect.
Assessing strengths and resources. Both parties can begin to collaborate on their shared vision after they have finished identifying each other’s strengths and resources to not only function proficiently but also to provide a complete service. This latter further allows both parties to address their primary encountered obstacle, which pertains to sharing the burden of monetary responsibility for the collaboration. Nevertheless, this program’s overall’s financial price can be reduced if both the school and the mental health agency decide to interchange their resources, including school printers, learning materials, agency’s student interns, and mental health providers.
Developing constructive relationships. The process of creating a mutual relationship must be clearly defined and communicated before a true collaborative program can be implemented between both entities (Politi & Street, 2011). Both providers should accentuate on promoting constructive relationships during meetings. For instance, this collaboration must allow the school’s professors to rely on the mental health agency for educational supplies and tools. Likewise, the mental health providers must be able to depend on the professors for student referrals and support, specifically those who miss classes to attend group counseling. The mutual support that both the school and the agency agree to provide each other would fade away or weaken without positive relationships.
Addressing concerns and conflicts. During cross-agency meetings, both providers should implement question/answer surveys and other similar formats because this will help them to address potential concerns and conflicts ahead of time, as well as the effective way to resolve future conflicts.
Harmonization (coordination) is the third strategy for effective collaborative efforts. This phage begins right after both partners have finished identifying how they would participate and contribute to the alliance and clear avenues of communication have been properly set. This phase mainly describes the partnership’s agreement, including individual responsibilities, duration of the program, assessment measures, collaboration’s procedure, and a program’s plan evaluation. Doing so can help both entities to address the second challenge for practical support of the host setting, ensuring that all parties involved are cognizant of what space to use as well as the person being responsible for both furnishing and unlocking it.
Social Worker Role
To effectively implement this plan, the social worker must be familiar with useful tools and knowledge that relate to the problem and chosen intervention. The social worker is legally mandated to effectively report all cases of teen dating violence occurring at Deerfield high school. Additionally, the social worker should be cognizant of the way to effectively report teen dating violence as the laws for each state vary, with the majority necessitating the involvement of child protection agencies or law enforcement. Aside from reporting to the proper authorities, documentation should be immediate, impartial, and thorough.
Moreover, the social worker must be predisposed to collaborate with school administration to prevent additional trauma from investigation, including substantial education on the emotional, physical, and social distress as well as environmental risk factors that can arise with TDV. According to NASW Code of Ethics [NASW] (2008), social workers must thrive to value the importance of human relationships and seek to strengthen, restore, and the well-being of individuals, families, and communities. The social worker, in conjunction with the school and the mental health agency, must know how to thoroughly inform parents and families about the negative impacts of TDV on adolescents and their respective families. When social workers know how to effectively address issues relating to teen dating violence, this will restore and promote health family relationships and constructive communication. As a result, this will facilitate the production of a supportive and safe school climate while positively impacting the surrounding community.
Several useful strategies can be applied to facilitate the collaborative process between the mental health organization and the school. For instance, the Children’s Safety Network (2012) enlists several strategies that involve the participation of task forces, the focus of advisory committees on TDV, the proper connection and maintenance of a relationship with the state’s Department of Education (DOE), the support of social environment change, violence prevention, and youth community services as well as the eradication of unnecessary school policies. Safe Dates and The Fourth R/Skills are two Evidence Based Programs implemented to proficiently assist victims of TDV, to promote healthy youth and family interactions/ relationships, as well as to raise awareness and prevention of TDV (Child Trend, 2014).
Safe Dates is a program designed to stop, thwart, and reduce the instigation of physical, sexual, and emotional abuse on dates or within adolescents’ intimate relationships. It targets 9th grade males and females with the final goal to change gender role norms and TDV, promoting dating conflict resolution and peer help-giving skills (Child Trends, 2014). It further enhances the social worker’s ability to help the victims and perpetrators through community resources, which significantly decreases the risk of dating abuse perpetration and victimization (“Prevention Programs”, 2011). There are 14 sessions with a duration of 60 minutes each including group discussions, games, quizzes, case study analysis, surveys, role playing scenarios, and written exercises.
The Fourth R: Skills for Youth Relationships
Similarly to the Safe Date program, the Fourth R targets 9th grade students. The curriculum promotes safe and healthy behaviors pertaining to dating, sexuality, bullying, and substance abuse. This program mainly focuses on the social learning theory and is grounded in stages of social development. This involves three units with seven 75-minute sessions taught by trained professors or mental health professionals, including injury prevention and personal safety, sexuality and healthy growth, and substance use and abuse (Wolfe, Crooks, Jaffe, et al., 2009).
Diversity and Inclusion Considerations
As previously stated, the C D C (2016) describes adolescent dating violence [TDV] as any physical, sexual, and emotional aggression evidenced in a dating relationship. While both males and females often report similar levels of dating violence with TDV, females reported TDV as defensive (Child Trends, 2014). In 2014, female pupils (19%) were more likely to report TDV than male pupils (8%) and gender differences were less prominent amongst African American students than other races and ethnicities. 8.2% African American males and 12% African American females reported being victims of TDV (Child Trends, 2014); however, the report percentages were 13.6% for Hispanic females and 7.0% for Hispanic males. Finally, Caucasian female students reached 12.9% while the male students were 6.4% (Child Trends, 2014). Thus, teen intimate violence cannot be ignored and must be seriously addressed.
Based on the above information, adolescent females are most likely to experience TDV because the key problem has not yet been identified. For instance, basic factors, including physical, emotional, sexual, financial, electronic, verbal, and digital abuses, must be examined before determining the problem (Child Trends, 2014). Abusive behavior,which includes inhibiting a partner from having friends outside of the relationship or guilt-tripping, should stop being justified as jealousy. Adolescents have become very familiar with having immediate access to their partner’s social media platforms. Adolescents’ level of cognizance is still in the pruning stage and thus they are unable to maturely think that their intimate partners do not belong to them (Wolfe, Crooks, Jaffe, et al., 2009). These normalizations are imposed by peers and social media, which significantly proves why one in three adolescents are reporting TDV monthly. Parents and teachers should provide surveillance and monitor the amount of times adolescents spend on social media in order to solve the problem. Moreover, parents should establish better or sterner age-appropriate dating rules or reinforce curfew’s regulations.
People always assume that adolescents should just walk away from abusing relationships as everyone sees the trouble but never the struggle. It is difficult and even risky for victims of TDV to exit abusive relationships as they are afraid to be murdered by abusive partners (Child Trends, 2014). For instance, some might want to seek professional help before daring to leave their abusive partner. Thus, through the implementation of the interagency collaboration, safe places allow victims to overt their emotions/feelings as well as inform them on the awareness and prevention of TDV. While this will not immediately end TDV, acknowledging its level of severity is significant enough because all involved parties can be informed with proficient knowledge that empowers them to make conscious decisions.
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