Solution-Based Casework (SBC) (Christensen & Todahl, 1998, Christensen et al, 1999) is a child welfare practice model based on three theoretical foundations:
- family life cycle theory ( Carter & McGoldrick, 1980)
- relapse prevention/CBT theory (Irwin, 1999, Marlatt & Gordon, 1985; Parks & Marlatt, 1999)
- solution-focused family therapy (Kelly & Berg 2000, Berg, 1994; deShazer, 1988)
These theoretical foundations translate to the following assumptions of casework:
- that full partnership with the family is a critical and vital goal for each and every case
- that the partnership for protection should focus on the patterns of everyday life of the family
- that solutions should target the prevention skills needed to reduce the risk in those everyday life situations
When applied to the child welfare population, a SBC assessment utilizes the family life cycle to frame and locate the “problem” in the difficult developmental challenges that create safety threats to the family in their everyday life (supervising young children, keeping the house clean and safe, teaching the children right from wrong).
SBC case planning organizes those challenges into efforts (Specific Plans of Action) the whole family can work on (Family Level Objectives), and those efforts (plans) that certain individuals in the family need to work on (Individual Level Objectives) so that the family challenges go better. These Specific Plans of Action are not the typical service delivery plans that measure service compliance, but are behaviorally specific, and are co-developed by the family, provider, and caseworker. These plans target needed skills in critical risk areas that can then be demonstrated, documented, and celebrated.
Throughout assessment, case planning, and casework management, SBC builds on solution-focused tenets (see Berg, 1994 and Christensen et al., 1999) that child welfare clients:
- need significant encouragement to combat discouragement
- possess unnoticed and unrecognized skills that can be used in the anticipation and prevention of child maltreatment
Clients are assisted within a forward-looking partnership that searches for exceptions to problems in everyday life and recreates or builds upon their social network with supportive others (Berg, 1994; DeShazer, 1991, O’Hanlon & Weiner-Davis, 1989).