Academic journal article CEPS Journal : Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal

Co-Creating Desired Outcomes and Strengthening the Resilience of Multi-Challenged Families

Academic journal article CEPS Journal : Center for Educational Policy Studies Journal

Co-Creating Desired Outcomes and Strengthening the Resilience of Multi-Challenged Families

Article excerpt

Introduction

Modern society gives individuals more choices, including those related to the organisation of family life. New opportunities bring new demands, tensions and challenges. Family life has always implied a constant search for a way to meet individual and family needs, making more room for various roles, connections and negotiations, as well as the challenges of handling conflicts. Each family structure is very complex, and the various life circumstances the family faces further increase this complexity.

In Slovenia, many families suffer from poverty due to various social circumstances. It is well known that few life contexts bring more adversities and uncertainties than poverty (Maholmes, 2014, p. 4), and that poverty affects people's health, family relationships, the role of the family in the community, etc. Research (ibid.) also indicates a high correlation between poverty and poor educational achievements, bad health and behavioural problems. Life in severe and long-term poverty represents a risk factor for children at a later age as well, increasing the possibility of economic difficulties and related problems in adulthood.

The project "Helping Families in the Community: The Co-Creation of Desired Changes for Reducing Social Exclusion and Strengthening Health"3 aimed to co-create possible ways of overcoming the dominant family stories of exclusion, helplessness and despair, often passed down from generation to generation and created by a life in poverty and the related experience of many stresses. The collaborative projects of help aimed to find a path to the desired changes, to increased hope and power, and to the co-creation of new, empowering experiences and stories.

We worked with several families with different backgrounds, all of whom shared the experience of poverty. The present article presents the results of selected individual working projects of help (hereinafter: IWPH) for families who were, among other problems, faced with the children's poor school performance.

We proceed from the premise that the vicious circle of failures can be broken by a process of providing help to the family in a co-creative working relationship (Cacinovic Vogrincic, Kobal, Mesl, & Mozina, 2005) between all of the participants, involving people from various areas associated with family problems in a joint working project. We can thus overcome the problem of the frequently dispersed help given to multi-challenged families,4 in which each professional begins working with the family by focusing on one part of the problem. Bouwkamp and Bouwkamp (2014, p. 301) provide a vivid description of the issue of dispersion in the processes of help to multi-challenged families using the metaphor of a broken car that is being repaired in different garages, hoping that the problem will be solved once the car is re-assembled. To make it worse, many professionals who eagerly deal with the problems of families in detail in different separated areas represent the burden of multiple entries to and exits from family life. It is, however, unacceptable that the family is left without the required help in the end, despite the intervention of numerous professionals.

In the process of working with families within the project, the topic of children's poor school performance was often considered. Although numerous studies (e.g., in Boyd-Franklin & Hafer Bry, 2000; Maholmes, 2014) indicate the vicious circle of the early experience of poverty, poor school performance, premature school leaving, unemployment in adulthood, etc., there are some rarely highlighted stories that testify to the fact that children living in poverty can succeed and live well despite all of the risks. Although the circumstances related to their economic situation do not change significantly, some children and their families manage to cope with or overcome many consequences of poverty5 (Maholmes, 2014, p. 4). The topic of (poor) school performance often represented the starting point for collaboration with the family, opening the door to the research of other complex topics in a non-threatening way. …

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