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Gordon and Joan Flanders (Foster Carers) Jul 10

“The assessment process was very professional with warmth and sensitivity. We were given all the information we needed about immigration legislation and we were supported before and after the children came to live with us. We are happy to endorse this agency as the social worker helped us to increase our family. We still ring for advice about behaviour management, books to read, attachment issues and to get support for other families in our situation.”

Mr and Mrs Roberts (Foster Carers) Jul 10
 “We lost a relative during the assessment and we were able to carry on because of the professionalism of the assessing social worker. She continued to support us when we went on hold whilst we grieved. When we could continue we had every faith in the social worker. She helped us understand the social work jargon that is used and made everything understandable. We travelled to see the child and understood about bonding and getting the child accustomed to living in another country. She explained about accessing education health and educated us whilst we were having our assessment completed. We are a very happy family. We know we can continue to get support when we need it and have kept in touch with 2 other families in similar situations to ours.”

"I am a grandmother in my 60’s, I was referred to ICAS from a local authority who required a special guardianship assessment on me in respect of my 2 grand children aged 3 and 5 years who were in their care living with a foster carer. The experience of assessment was quiet daunting for me, particularly at my age. I found it hard to accept that I had to go through this process to care for my grand children. ICAS were very good, the worker spent a great deal of time with me explaining the process and giving me the assurances that I would not be judged, this was really important for me. I also gained faith in the fact that all information which was written as part of the assessment was shared with me and I was given copies. The process was made much easier by the worker taking things at my pace and not rushing me, there were times when I became upset by the discussions but this was ok and not held against me. In essence my experience was very positive and I would certainly recommend ICAS services to others."

"I am a mother who was assessed by ICAS as part of a home study assessment in respect to my daughter who was resident in US at the time. I was pleased with the service I received, the worker was efficient, she contacted me promptly after receiving the referral from ISS, she came to visit me when she said she would and showed regard to my feelings and emotions whilst completing her assessment. I was particularly pleased at her willingness to look at my support needs in planning for my daughters return to my care."

"I am a student social worker who completed my 85 day practice placement with ICAS. I found my experience to be excellent, I was exposed to learning about the culture of Jamaica and the practice standards and challenges that workers face on a day to day basis. I was pleased that my experience was not contained to one organization, I worked with the CDA, SDC and ICAS, this provided me with knowledge and experience of Statutory, Voluntary and International Social work practices. My practice assessor was very knowledgeable of the UK assessment processes which helped a great deal as I felt supported in identifying relevant opportunities to enable me to meet my key roles and units. I was also afforded the opportunity to attend some lectures at the university of West Indies, this experience was invaluable in providing me with a perspective on how social work is taught in Jamaica. One of my initial fears was about the lines of communication between the university and my placement , this was soon overcome by the efficiency and organization of my assessor who ensured that all of the required meetings took place at the right time throughout the placement with the use of Skype. I would definitely recommend this as a placement to other social work students."


Rebecca Fawssett

Embarking on a social work placement in Jamaica I felt would be an excellent opportunity to be challenged. I wanted to become a more culturally competent practitioner and enhance my experience in the international arena particularly with social work's ever increasing blurring of borders. The reality was something I could never have predicted or be prepared for. My eyes were opened to a number of ethical, cultural and personal challenges. I was exposed to bad practice, a lack of accountability and a dire lack of resources. However, these were all hurdles to be overcome by adhering to social work codes of practice; remaining human, compassionate and empathic and being mindful of personal expecations as well as limits to resources which is exactly what made this a unique and invaluable opportunity. 

Familiarization with language, exposure to issues affecting young people in Jamaica, and seeing first hand the consequences of generational physical chastisement were all characteristics pertinent to a Jamaican placement. Moreover interdisciplinary collaboration between ICAS and UK local authorities afforded me the opportunity to conduct assessments that were culturally sensitive and, from a legislative perspective, enabled comparison of the 1989 UK Children Act and the 2004 Jamaican Child Care and Protection Act. This provided the opportunity for personal and professional growth and embedded in me the importance of managing service users' expectations to prevent disappointment but also to acknowledge growth and improvement in situations. 

Conversely, half of the placement was spent at a residential unit for young women, where on occasion I instinctively put myself in harms way as a response to situations I felt required intervention. Reflecting on this called into question personal risk assessment as well as risks to others. In managing situations like this I struggled with the required response to step back because it did not seem humane particularly when individuals involved were often of varying ages. I was struck by the lack of protocol and consequence for both the staff and young people. It was considered the norm to let things play out. I could not understand this and it was only when my practice educator was on site did she fully understand my internal moral dilemma. As a first year student on placement in a different county should I have known that this was not acceptable? Or was it not acceptable compared to my own personal standards based on UK cultural norms?

Social work is messy whether you’re in Jamaica or the UK. This placement exposed me to the harsher realities practitioners can face and put me in situations that tested me both physically and emotionally. I feel lucky to have been given the opportunity to do my placement in a severely resource deprived environment whilst training for the social work qualification in the UK. Comparatively we offer a wealth of services which I will remain mindful of in the future when working for a local authority where budget cuts are rife. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Julie Morris, my practice educator who supervised and looked after me beyond her role description and my colleague Phoebe Blades, both of whom were pillars of support and encouragement. Moreover, thank you to Karleen Jackson for facilitating this placement.


Dr Claudia Bernard (Goldsmiths University)

Social workers are required to be culturally competent practitioners that are mindful of both local and international issues, and what better way to equip them for the task than by providing them with an enriching international field placement experience?  One way we are fascilitating this notion at Goldsmiths is by fostering connections with International Care Assessment Services (ICAS), a child care agency based in Jamacia.  ICAS works closely with the Child Development Agency, the statutory body in Jamacia responsible for providing services for children in need of support and protection from abuse and neglect, and students placed with ICAS experience a range of challenges, both cultural and istitutional, by gaining work experience with ICAS on the island. 

On a recent visit to ICAS’ headquarters, near the bustling town of St Ann’s Bay, I talked with the Director, Karleen Jackson, about the work of the organisation, to discover how students can contribute to and benefit from their interaction with the programme, as well as the challenges they face on placement. She highlighted that students will not only get exposure to a wide rainge of statutory and voluntary settings, but that their learning will be enriched by being engaged directly with the complexities and ethical issues arising in practice with disadvantaged children and young people in Jamacia. In particular, she highlighted that in situations where differing child-rearing practices and values operate, it can be very challenging for students from the UK, but also provides an enriching educational experience.   Karleen was keen to stress that the opportunity to practice social work in a different country is particularly beneficial for developing cultural competence in practice.  

While visiting ICAS, I also had an opportunity to talk with two MA students, Rebecca Fawssett and Phoebe Blades, who were doing their placements at ICAS at the time of my visit.  One piece of work they were planning was a workshop with vulnerable and marginalised adolescent girls in a residential home.  This workshop, they felt, will enable them to use some transferable skills from previous practice with young women who have conduct disorder and problem behaviour. Importantly, they acknowledged that it is essential to recognise that working cross-culturally requires students to reflect critically on their values, belifes and assumptions, to better understand the subjective world view of of the young women in the Jamaican residential home. Essentially, they needed to strike a balance between supporting the young women to develop problem-solving skills to manage the group dynamics in the residential setting, yet at the same time pay attention to the norms shaping their lives in Jamaica. A challenge for them is how to utilise an anti-oppressive approach to work with the problems and concerns of families, whilst also having an appreciation of the local cultural values and principles. 

Providing an enriching educational experience that prepares students for work with diverse ethnic and racial groups is something with place high value on at Goldsmiths, and the link with ICAS in Jamacia allows us to extend this remit internationally. Not only does this kind of placement provide excellent opportunities for students to develop their knowledge and skills for working cross-culturally, but it also helps develop understandings of the links between local and global issues. The placement is also an excellent way for students to bring international and cross-cultural perspectives to the social work programmes in general. 

Dr Claudia Bernard


Phoebe Blades  

When asked what drew me to the ICAS placement I find it difficult to answer, as there are a multitude of things that initially caught my attention. The uniqueness of the organisation, and the work that it does offered me a new and exciting experience, both personally and professionally. During my 5 month placement in Jamaica I had exposure to working in a variety of settings. I was continuously encouraged and supported, to challenge myself and learn as much as possible. As a first year MA student in Social Work, at Goldsmiths, University of London, I was lucky to be able to train internationally and across the Jamaican statutory and voluntary sector. Through my time at the Child Development Agency, I undertook intake - initial assessments and referrals, and additionally court exposure. My case load included many complex and highly charged situations. I understood the application of academic theory, and had the freedom to use my creativity to research and apply specific approaches. The level of direct work meant I dealt specifically with child protection issues, and the complex cross-cultural tensions that this afforded. I was the case worker for a number of young people, including adolescent males with behaviour problems, young female victims of sexual assault and was responsible for supporting parents, running workshops and undertaking pre-care interventions. .

I was placed at a residential unit for adolescent females, due before the court. This was an intense and valuable experience. I had a true insight into the situations faced by children and young people under the care of the state. Being in the unit was often challenging, and at times intimidating. I came to learn a lot about myself whilst working there, as well as witness the effects of violence and the potential effects a lack of stability can have. I worked on a one to one basis, dealing with grief, and severe distress, as well as a number of mental health/behaviour issues. I also gained experience in group facilitation. I  learnt  a great deal about trauma response, and how to manage my emotional reactions to things that I witnessed and worked with.

By working directly for ICAS, I was able to engage with a variety of communities, through resource distribution. I enjoyed this piece of work very much, and was able to liaise with local businesses, schools and individuals, to provide support and resources, post Hurricane Sandy. I also used a variety of assessment frameworks, to carry out viability and parenting assessments for Wandsworth, Westminster, Southwark and Canadian local authorities. I was able to advocate for and liaise with families in need across Jamaica, and begin to understand the scope, and complexities of international social work.  

The level of supervision and support offered by Karleen Jackson and Julie Morris, allowed me to learn and grow in a safe environment and develop effective practice. From the practical side of the placement; housing, budget, food and transport, to our ongoing safety and emotional wellbeing, the practice educators were a constant source of support. For this I would like to thank them, and my colleague Rebecca Fawssett, wholeheartedly.

Working with ICAS truly has been a once in a lifetime opportunity and it has given me the tools to continue my learning with confidence, reflection, responsibility and compassion. It gave me the invaluable opportunity to get to know, and love a country, in a way I never would have otherwise come to understand with such depth. The numerous effects of this will continuously inform my practice, in a way that I believe is second to none.  



Overseas Testmonials


My name is Gloria Willis. (Aug 11)

‘Family Background. ’ I was born in Tottenham, North London to West Indian parents who came to England in the Windrush years when the Caribbean was a part of the Commonwealth.  My parents were very traditional and believed in strict discipline and biblical values and were very family orientated.   At the tender age of 10 my parents believed the UK education system was failing young black children and decided the only way forward was to send me and my siblings back to the fatherland to be educated and to ensure traditional values were instilled in us. 

‘My Experience’ .  I could hardly contain my excitement going to Jamaica; however upon entering the country it was a shock to the system; nothing was as I thought it would be. My father introduced the harsh realities that a third world country had to offer. 
 -       he did not let us live in a like for like house as we were used to in the UK.
 -       he did not let us live in a built up area with regular transport, shops or leisure services that we were used to.
 -       he did not let us have a usual mod-cons like tv, walkman, etc that we were used to.   I had to adopt and fall into tradition at a quick pace. I rebelled but it got me nowhere. Being thrown in the deep end was difficult for me. My parents then decided to give me the best gift I could ever hope for; sending me to a boarding school.  

‘School Life’
.   Being in a boarding school was a little like living back in the UK in terms of everything  being modern to some extent, however, it meant learning to lead a independent life in the absence of parents.  My benefits were:
 -          I made making life decisions with surety and confidence
 -          I became  incredibly resourceful with tools that would not even have been considered    possible in the western world
 
-          Using my  initiative became second nature, like driving a car
 -          My confidence increased;
 -          My appreciation of people and material things increased
 -          I learnt to be less judgmental of people

These qualities I now possess have allowed me to become a well rounded individual who can work, survive and live in any situation that is thrown at me. I am very adaptable and that would not have been possible had I not had my Jamaican experience of boarding.   Being educated abroad in a boarding school is one of the greatest gifts any child can have from a parent. The values gained turns out a well rounded individual who any parent will be proud of.   I can share many experiences with interested parties and /or allay fears to parents or children thinking of a Caribbean education.