Network Interventions with High-Risk Youth and Families Throughout the Continuum of Care
Elizabeth M. Tracy, James K. Whittaker, Francis Boylan, Paul Neitman, and Edward Overstreet
Delivery of services to families in their own homes provides a unique opportunity to identify, assess, and enhance ways in which formal and informal supportive services can complement each other. The home-based worker is in a better position to understand and appreciate social support needs and resources of the family and the family's usual ways of coping with the environment. In addition to gaining greater access to all family members, home- based interventions allow for more effective facilitation of natural helping relationships within the neighborhood or community. It is through these forms of social network interventions that the social environment can be enlisted as a resource and aid in service to the family.
This chapter describes methods and techniques for network assessment and intervention at various points in the continuum of work with families. It is our conviction that social network interventions must be individualized to fit each family's unique needs, based on an assessment of the family's social network resources and perceptions of social support ( Tracy & Whittaker, 1990). We also believe that family support is an appropriate service strategy at all points in the continuum, even when placement has occurred or when reunification efforts have failed ( Maluccio & Whittaker, 1988).
The potential for supporting families is greatly enhanced, though, when programs define the family in its broadest context, as consisting of a family surrounded by a social network of friends, relatives, neighbors, and other helping resources. Social network interventions attempt to facilitate or mobilize positive changes in the social environment, the primary goal being