Jose is an 18-year-old who is caught in a conflict among the school he attends, his wrap-around social worker (in the role of behavior specialist consultant), and the school district administration. Jose was referred for community-based mental health services (that provide treatment in the home, school, or community) to help him succeed in his urban high school. Jose started attending his school within the last few months. Prior to this, he lived in a cottage within large residential treatment facility that had a school on campus. Jose lived in residential treatment facilities for over six years. His grandmother, who raised him (mother was incarcerated for drug sale and prostitution), had trouble handling him because of his aggressive and often violent behavior. Jose experienced a multitude of adverse childhood experiences during his early life with his mother, including neglect, exposure to drug use, and abuse. While in residential treatment, Jose was able to decrease the incidence of his aggressive behavior dramatically, although at times he was still aggressive towards peers and adults. He also carried the diagnosis of mild intellectual disability and attention deficit disorder, for which he was taking Adderall. When Jose turned 18, he was discharged from his placement and returned to the community. He found an inexpensive room near where his grandmother and mother (now on parole) lived. Jose decided that he wanted to attend the local high school. Although he had not attended public school in over five years, he stated that he felt tired of going to “dummy schools.” Still mandated to provide educational services for Jose, the school district placed him at his local high school in a special education class designed for students who are have mild intellectual disabilities. Although Jose is very happy being in the community high school, he is dissatisfied with being placed in this class. He recognizes that he has “learning problems,” but he does not want to be in a class with adolescents who are lower functioning than him. After two weeks in class, Jose became very verbally aggressive with the teacher’s assistant and his classmates. Jose was unresponsive to de-escalation strategies and begin to act out physically as well. The school personnel (teacher, assistant principal) identified that his emotional and behavior problems may exceed the level of services they can provide. Jose, on the other hand, sees his aggression as being a function of his placement in a classroom that is not to his liking. During a family meeting, school personnel told his mother, grandmother, and him that he was suspended from school for two weeks or until he had a one-on-one aide with him for the entire school day. School personnel saw this as an intermediate step until a more appropriate school setting could be found by the school district administration. A treatment conference meeting was organized by the school social worker. It included Jose, his mother, grandmother and aunt, school personnel (teacher and assistant principal), a representative of the school district, the new aide, the school social worker, and the social worker from the community mental health agency. They met to discuss the problem and to make recommendations to the principal and the Committee on Special Education (they could not put new services in place on their own). The conflict can be succinctly stated as follows. Jose is in conflict with the school, as he wants to return to school immediately, and does not want an aide with him full-time. The school district does not want to pay for a private school placement, and thus is not in conflict with Jose, but with the high school representative. There is also recognition on the part of the district representative that the school’s sending Jose home indefinitely until he obtained an aide could be viewed as a violation of his rights. Yet, school personnel did not want him back in school at all, but certainly not without full time intensive support. The social worker from the community mental health agency who was there to advocate for Jose (to ensure that the school is meeting his needs) was, nevertheless in conflict with the school about how to handle the situation. The school social worker and the community mental health school social worker recognizes that it is the school’s responsibility to provide an appropriate educational program for Jose, and that while wraparound services can help Jose deal with his emotional and behavioral problems; it is the school and the school district’s responsibility to meet his educational needs.
WHAT TO DO
Answer the following questions from the point of view of the school social worker who is leading the treatment conference meeting.
Group Facilitation of Meeting
What potential difficulties do you see arising during the group meeting?
What strategies would you use in the group to help negotiate a resolution of the conflict?
What might be some tasks assigned to different group members in order to help resolve this situation?
How could a group-based intervention would benefit Jose? Consider specific goals and domains of functioning.
What type of group would suit Jose based on the information that is presented? For example, social / emotional / academic focused.
What size of group would best fit his needs?