Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

The SAFI Model as a Critical Link between Marginalized Families and Schools: A Literature Review and Strategies for School Counselors

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

The SAFI Model as a Critical Link between Marginalized Families and Schools: A Literature Review and Strategies for School Counselors

Article excerpt

As a society, we have failed to adequately support and nurture many of our youth. In many instances the paucity of social and emotional skills, coupled with a lack of parental involvement in the educational process, has created a generation of children who are unable to function successfully in school or social environments (Coleman, 1987; Comer, 1990). These deficits often manifest as maladaptive behaviors, placing youth at risk for failure in educational, social, and occupational endeavors. Dryfoos (1994) identified four categories for children at risk that threaten the well-being of America's youth--unprotected sex, substance abuse, school failure, and juvenile delinquency--noting that 50% of adolescents exhibit more than one of these problems. Many families of youth who exhibit these at-risk behaviors are overwhelmed by the complexities of their children's problems. Although school counselors possess the necessary skills to intervene with families of students at risk, neither they nor the schools they work in have adequately tackled this problem. This article reviews the education literature about family involvement in schools and discusses the benefits of engaging families, emphasizing what we call "marginalized families," families with a history of alienation and disengagement from schools. Recommendations for transforming the role of school counselors to reengage and generate collaborative partnerships between schools and marginalized families are presented through a new model called "The School and Family Integration Model (SAFI)."

In countless schools, children's at-risk behaviors interfere with their ability to progress academically. Knowing that the behaviors of children at risk may be exacerbated by the lack of family involvement or "faith" in the educational process, it is essential that schools take remedial steps. The importance of academic and personal achievement and the school counselor's role in that achievement are supported by the national standards set forth by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA). More specifically, ASCA states that students will acquire both "the attitudes, knowledge and skills, that contribute to effective learning in school and across the life span" and the "attitudes, knowledge and interpersonal skills to help them understand and respect self and others" (American School Counselor Association, 2000). This is further supported by research that has demonstrated the efficacy of school counselor's interventions with at-risk students (e.g., Bauer, Sapp, & Johnson, 2000; Rappaport, 1999).

With background and training in understanding at-risk behaviors, interpersonal-family dynamics, and the complex reasons that contribute to family absence in schools, school counselors are positioned to play a key role in more effectively linking with families to improve school performance and mental health. Despite this, some parents feel a sense of exclusion, hopelessness, or even low self-esteem in relation to school involvement and, as a result, are less likely to involve themselves in their children's education (Comer, 1980; Eccles & Harold, 1996). Such a parental perception may be due to past experience or simply a misperception of the situation. It is important to note that, in some cases, parents who express an interest in involvement experience a sense of powerlessness in the educational process (Eccles & Harold, 1993; Fine & Gardner, 1997), partially due to school administrators and teachers who discourage a systemic level family involvement due to a fear of losing control or power (Comer, 1980; Kroth & Scholl, 1978). Although "discouragement" is frequently a mixture of factors (parent-based and system-based), what is covered in this article is intended to address a wide variety of factors regardless of their origin.

DEFINING MARGINALIZED FAMILIES

Public schools across the country regularly have great difficulty reaching or engaging some families, particularly families of children identified as "at risk. …

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