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42 Cards Presenting Powerful ‘Snapshots’ Of The Strengths That Bond Families And Communities.


42 Cards Presenting Powerful ‘Snapshots’ Of The Strengths That Bond Families Ori gi nal ConceptAnd Communities. Russell Deal

Illustrations by: Carolyn Marrone Design by: Tim Lane Booklet authors: Simone Silberberg & Russell Deal


St Luke’s Innovative Resources

137 McCrae Street Bendigo VIC 3550 Australia Telephone (03) 5442 0500 Facsimilie (03) 5442 0555 Email info@innovativeresources.org Website www.innovativeresources.org Incorporated as St Luke’s Anglicare ABN 99 087 209 729

First published 2003, New Edition 2008 Copyright: © St Luke’s Innovative Resources and Family Action Centre 2003 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise), without the prior written permission of the publishers. ISBN: 978-0-9578231-8-1 New Edition edited by John Holton & Jennie Mellberg Printed in Bendigo by Espress Printers

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~ f o re w o r d ~

‘Nothing in the world could make human life happier than to greatly increase the number of happy couples and strong families,’ according to the late Dr David R. Mace, a pioneer in the couple and family enrichment movement. The University of Newcastle Family Action Centre has conducted a groundbreaking study of strong families in Australia, focusing on people who love and care for each other, in order to learn their secrets of success. More than 600 Australian families from every region of your magnificent country participated in the research, and helped the investigators identify relationship strengths from a uniquely Australian perspective. Our Scrapbook of Strengths springs directly from that initial research and combines social

science insights with the artistry and educational expertise of St Luke’s Innovative Resources in Bendigo, Victoria. Our Scrapbook of Strengths reminds all of us that every couple, every family, and every community has the power to create stronger, happier relationships. The path to doing so is through positive communication that builds warm, emotional bonds of connection. By helping people—young and old—learn how to talk about their strengths, Our Scrapbook of Strengths can be an invaluable aid for those wishing to build a more satisfying life together.

Dr John DeFrain Extension Professor of Family and Community Development University of Nebraska-Lincoln U.S.A.


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C o ntents

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Foreword iv Acknowledgements viii Celebrating collaboration 1 The Australian Family Strengths Research project

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The list of Our Scrapbook of Strengths cards 7 Tips for using Our Scrapbook of Strengths 15 Cautions 16 Building resilience

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Strengths-based storytelling 18 Working on family of origin 19 With couples 20 With blended and step families

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Pictures of the future 22 For family workers 23 For caregiver assessments 25 For teachers and schools workers

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About St Luke’s 28 About Innovative Resources 29 About the authors 30 About the artists 31

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~ ac k n o w le d g ements ~

Firstly, thanks to all the families who

Our heartfelt thanks to Tim Lane of Woosh

knowingly or inadvertently lent their expertise

Creative who enthusiastically took on the

to this publication. Some 600 Australian

task of reinventing his original design for

families participated in the Family Strengths

Our Scrapbook with stunning results. Tim,

Research Project out of which Our Scrapbook

your design has breathed new life into this

of Strengths was conceived. Many more

important resource.

families over the years have informed the work of St Luke’s and added a practise

Former Managing Editor, Karen Masman,

perspective to the research findings.

deserves many accolades for bringing the

Many of our colleagues, including those

original Our Scrapbook to fruition. Thanks

from Unifam, Creative Times and Latrobe

to the editorial direction of John Holton and

University Bendigo, participated in focus

Jennie Mellberg, the new edition displays the

groups and tested out the logic and

same high production standards and eye for

consistency of our ideas.

detail.

Special thanks are due to Carolyn Marrone

John DeFrain generously contributed the

whose monumental task was to create over

foreword to this booklet and we wish to

130 original watercolours! Carolyn had to

acknowledge and celebrate his seminal

interpret our sometimes vague suggestions

role in articulating the need for a strengths-

for how the 42 identified strength statements

focused voice in research on the family. John,

might be represented and ensure that

if there is ever a Nobel Prize to be awarded

diversity in all its forms—race, culture, age,

for understanding family strengths you are

sexuality and gender—were respected. Not

our nominee!

only did she do this with continual good humour, unending enthusiasm and humility, but she also provided extra images and beat our deadline. Carolyn, your skill has made Our Scrapbook a resource many, many

Russell Deal Creative Director Innovative Resources

people will cherish.

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CELEBRATING COLLABORATION

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Our Scrapbook of Strengths is the fruit of

The Family Strengths Research Project was

collaboration between two leading Australian

funded by the Australian Federal Department

organisations that focus on family strengths:

of Family and Community Services and was

the Family Action Centre of the University

assisted by Professor John DeFrain from the

of Newcastle and Innovative Resources, the

University of Nebraska who has researched

publishing and training arm of St Luke’s

family strengths for over 20 years in some 27

Anglicare.

countries.

The idea emerged in 1999 when the Family

St Luke’s Anglicare is well known throughout

Action Centre initiated the Australian Family

Australia and New Zealand for its innovative,

Strengths Research project; the first wide

whole-of-agency incorporation of a strengths-

scale investigation into how Australian

based philosophy. In the late 1980s St

families identified their strengths. The

Luke’s pioneered its then radical model for

result was the production of the ‘Australian

delivering family services.

Family Strengths Template’, a framework of eight themes of strengths (communication,

This initiative by St Luke’s subsequently

togetherness, sharing activities, affection,

provided the impetus for other strengths-

support, acceptance, commitment and

based developments—including possibly

resilience) comprising 58 strengths

the first client-directed, client-owned case

statements.

recording system called ‘Service Folders’. It also spawned Innovative Resources, St

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Luke’s unique publishing and training venture

Our Scrapbook of Strengths emerged from

that has equipped countless human service

Innovative Resources’ experience of matching

workers, educators and facilitators around the

key concepts with appropriate graphic

world with practical, hands-on materials for

images or visual metaphors. The number

identifying and mobilising people’s strengths.

of items from the template was reduced, some of the language simplified and initial

St Luke’s became involved in the Family

graphics suggested. All these changes were

Strengths Research project by facilitating the

tested with focus groups conducted by both

participation of a group of rural community

organisations.

members and through Di O’Neil’s role as one The end result is an original, highly versatile

of the project evaluators.

‘conversational prompt’ for exploring the Having successfully completed the project,

strengths that can be found, not just in

the Family Action Centre was keen to

families but also in groups, organisations and

see their findings translated into useful

communities.

resources such as a family strengths kit. They approached Innovative Resources with their vision and this initiated another round of research to create a strengths-building tool.

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THE AUSTRALIAN FAMILY STRENGTHS RESEARCH PROJECT

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The aims of this project were first of all to

from the surveys and interviews, a theme

identify those qualities Australian families

analysis and a language analysis were

perceived as family strengths, and secondly,

conducted. The findings of the analysis

to capture the language families used to

resulted in the identification of, initially,

describe those strengths (Geggie, DeFrain,

seven family strengths: Communication,

Hitchcock and Silberberg, 2000). Over 600

Togetherness, Sharing Activities, Affection,

families throughout Australia participated in

Support, Acceptance, and Commitment.

this study. Once these seven strengths were identified, The ideas for Our Scrapbook of Strengths

it became clear from the families' stories that

are based on this project, and in particular

these strengths contributed to their resilience,

the qualitative research aspects. For the

i.e. their ability to bounce back from setbacks

qualitative component of the research,

and crises, and to adapt to changing

families were asked to fill out a survey

circumstances. To reflect this finding, an

with open-ended questions and/or to be

eighth family quality—Resilience—was added

interviewed. Based on the stories collected

to the list of themes.

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Co mmunicati o n The majority of families included communication as one of their strengths. They particularly referred to communication as a strength when it was frequent, open, positive and honest. Some families found using humour in their communication a strength. ‘We talk freely about our joys, concerns and plans… We share a freedom to discuss anything that comes our way whether it be a worry or joy…’ Mother of a two-parent family

To getherness Many families referred to the ‘invisible glue’ that bonds a family and gives its members a sense of belonging. An important ingredient to this ‘glue’ is sharing similar values and beliefs. ‘When someone in our family has a problem… We pull together to find the solution… We have found that the only way to face life is to do it together no matter where we are.’ Mother of a two-parent family

Sharing Activities Many families saw sharing activities as a way to reinforce and strengthen the family’s sense of togetherness. ‘Over the years we have done a lot of family activities—skating, camping, walking, boating, swimming, et cetera. We believe this is helping our children catch the idea of strong family bonds.’ Mother of a blended family

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Affection Most families described the ability to show love, concern and interest for each other on a regular basis as a strength. ‘The affection we show towards each other is simple stuff—like a cuddle in the morning, or just a pat on the head; and a question on how things are going, how you slept and what’s on the agenda for today and being genuinely interested in the answers.’ Father of a two-parent family

support Families talked about being there for one another in times of need. They used words like assisting, encouraging, reassuring and looking out for each other to describe this strength. ‘Being a strong family unit means if one of the family has a challenge, there are many family members to listen, advise and support them through this time.’ Sole parent mother

Acceptance Families talked about the importance of acknowledging, valuing and tolerating each other’s differences and allowing each other some space. They included showing respect, appreciation, and understanding for each other’s individuality and uniqueness as some of their strengths. ‘We see each other as individuals, and respect and celebrate our differences.’ Mother of a two-parent family

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Co mmitment Many families placed the well-being of the family high on their list of priorities. They believed that showing dedication and loyalty toward the family as a whole was an essential strength to use in overcoming the challenges of life. Commitment was expressed in many ways—to the family, the partner relationship, the children, the extended family and/or the community. ‘Commitment is to stand firm regardless of the situation and not to let the situation turn you away from your commitment to each other…’ Mother of a two-parent family

Resilience The above strengths are features of the family’s resilience; that is, a family’s ability to withstand setbacks and crises, to adapt to changing circumstances and to have a positive attitude towards the challenges of family life. Many families mentioned the following strategies as ways to deal with challenges: • Talking things through with each other, • Supporting each other in times of need and/or seeking outside support when it is beyond the family’s capability to deal with the situation, and, • Pulling together to form a united front and to find solutions. ‘We rally together in crisis. In our time together we have encountered several trying situations which have had the capability to tear us apart, but which have in fact bonded us together.’ Mother of a two-parent family

Each quality was assigned six to ten key expressions drawn from the language analysis. A conscious effort was made to represent each strength theme with key expressions using the terms and the language of the participating families.

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THE LIST OF OUR SCRAPBOOK OF STRENGTHS CARDS

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Our Scrapbook of Strengths consists of 42 colourful cards, each of which contains a statement of a strength identified by the Family Strengths Research Project and subsequent focus groups. The 42 strengths fall into the eight themes that emerged from this research:

Communication

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affection

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Togetherness

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Commitment

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Support

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Sharing Activities

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Acceptance

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Resilience

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TIPS FOR USING OUR SCRAPBOOK OF STRENGTHS

The cards in Our Scrapbook of Strengths may work best when they are spread out and can be scanned in their entirety by an individual, family or group. Spreading the cards out like this enables participants to make choices, to sort and stack cards, and to make comparisons with other participants’ choices. We have discovered that creating opportunities to physically handle the cards is a powerful catalyst for insight and conversation.

some people family can be an overpoweringly negative experience due to the trauma, sadness or abuse they have experienced within the family setting. For people in this situation other relationships may be more important than family; friends, colleagues, neighbours or members of leisure or community groups may provide the identity and intimacy missing in their family life. So, Our Scrapbook is a tool to explore strengths not only in families (however we choose to construct them) but in a wide range of other relationships as well.

You may not wish to use all the cards at any one time. For example, you could select cards from one or two themes in order to explore those strengths in particular. As with most other strengths-based materials, Our Scrapbook of Strengths relies on the creativity and adaptability of the user. It does not require prior training for the user to experience success. In this booklet you will find numerous suggestions for using Our Scrapbook but there are no ‘instructions’ and certainly no ‘recipes’ to be followed. People with flair will create ways of using this resource not imagined by the authors when they wrote this booklet. Creative workers with an eye for incorporating metaphor in their practice will undoubtedly invent countless ways of introducing Our Scrapbook to those with whom they work. Even though Our Scrapbook grew out of the Family Action Centre’s Family Strengths Research Project, we purposefully left the word ‘family’ out of the title and strength statements to ensure we did not confine the use of this versatile resource only to family situations. In part, this was because ‘family’ is notoriously difficult to define. Furthermore, for

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It is a tool that works as a ‘conversational prompt’ to help identify, mobilise and celebrate the strengths in relationships. The authors believe Our Scrapbook can provide insights into the question ‘What makes a strong family?’ and many other related questions as well: ‘What makes a strong group, a strong team, a strong organisation, a strong community?’ Maybe there are similar strengths that make relationships in all these settings work for us? No matter what the application may be, Our Scrapbook can provide an antidote to the all too common, problem-saturated stories that can dominate our consciousness. It is easy to be seduced by deficit-celebrating stories. It is easy to become blind both to those strengths that do exist but also to the possibilities for change. As well as opening up possibilities to reflect on our experiences of strengths, Our Scrapbook can build resilience and optimism for future change. It can identify the strengths we want to strive for and suggest strategies for how a vision of new possibilities might be realised.

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~ CAUTIONS ~

As with any tool, Our Scrapbook of Strengths

While the authors believe all families have

needs care and attentiveness in the way it

some strengths, to anticipate that everyone

is used. No tool is guaranteed to work in all

will be able to recognise strengths in their

situations and the use of any tool may have

experience of family is at best presumptuous

unintended consequences.

and may be harmful.

The most important ingredients are a

If used as a tool for identifying strengths in

mutually respectful relationship and flexibility

other groups, organisations or communities,

so that if Our Scrapbook triggers strong

Our Scrapbook of Strengths should always be

feelings these can be attended to or the tool

introduced with respect and care.

can be set aside and perhaps reintroduced at In any event, time must be carefully

a later time.

considered. Participants should not feel hurried in telling their story; sufficient time

No single metaphor works for everyone!

should be provided for everyone individually While the graphics on the cards are designed

to work through any issues that arise. This

to illustrate and amplify the meaning of the

can be difficult to predict and is always

statements, they may not be experienced by

difficult to determine on the spot.

everyone as helpful. Why this is so may itself be the source of a rich discussion but no one

Setting too is important. Confidentiality issues

should feel trapped into using the cards.

need careful consideration when activities with any resource are being planned,

Most people have a mixture of positive

particularly in group settings.

and negative experiences of family and community. But some people have a story that is dominated by tragedy, trauma, sadness or abuse.

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~ BUILDING RESILIENCE ~

other? How did any difference hinder resolution?

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from the challenges of life and to adapt

• What would other people (who know your group) say were your greatest strengths at this time of struggle?

to change. The resilience of a family is constantly evolving. With each adversity, the family's resilience is not only challenged, but

• At the time, how did that adversity affect your view of the group and yourself?

also strengthened. Each adversity can be seen as an opportunity to fortify the family's is in the thick of a problem, they forget that

• What meaning did you assign to the crisis when you were in the thick of it?

every struggle comes to an end and that they

• What meaning do you assign to it now?

have conquered other setbacks in the past.

• Did your group learn any new skills or strengths that had previously been dormant? If so, what were they?

resilience. Sometimes when a family or group

When people are struggling with a problem in their family or any other group, Our Scrapbook of Strengths can be used to reflect on past struggles and to gain insight into the coping strategies they used during that time. Questions can then be asked about the success of those strategies and how useful they would be in dealing with the current

• Is the group using any of those strengths and skills that were useful then, now? • If not, what has stopped the group from using them? In what way could those strengths and skills be helpful/unhelpful now? • If so, which strengths and skills are the group using and how helpful have they been?

issue. Members of a family or other group can be asked to identify a previous time of challenge or crisis to begin a resilience-building exercise: • What strengths did the group (or family) use to overcome the issue? • Did different group members use different strengths? How did they complement each

• How do you think the group will be able to use what it learned about its strengths in the future? • When your group has overcome this crisis, what strengths and skills do you think your group will have developed? How do you think these strengths could be useful in the future?

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STRENGTHS-BASED STORYTELLING

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• Can each of you tell me a story of the group at its best?

It is not at all uncommon for families and other groups to develop negative dominant stories. This is not surprising given the ever-

• What was happening at the time? Why was the event or situation so successful?

present prompts we are given to notice the deficits that surround us; deficits which are

What strengths were evident?

constantly reinforced by so much of the electronic and print media.

Other participants can be asked to listen carefully to each story and identify other

It can be very easy to forget the positives and overlook strengths. Any exercise or activity

• What strengths did the storyteller (and other participants at the time) contribute to the group’s success?

that prompts us to consider strengths can re-balance this tendency. Building on the maxim ‘you are what you notice’, activities that remind us of the strengths in our families, organisations and other groups may be powerful antidotes to the jaundice and ‘stuckness’ that deficit-saturation can cause.

of strengths and success can be a powerful re-energiser. Participants of a group can be asked to scan the cards and choose one that life:

• Do the strengths that each story identifies continue to be evident in the group? If they have disappeared, why might this be so? • What can be learned from these stories? Do they suggest strategies that need to be relearned or new strengths that can be developed?

Inviting members of any group to tell stories

reminds them of a highlight in the group’s

strengths that contributed to the success:

• How were the stories of success celebrated by the group? Does the group have a culture of celebrating the strengths that are noticed? Are there strengths that have gone unnoticed and uncelebrated?

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WO R K I N G O N FAMILY OF ORIGIN

Reflecting on families of origin is a common part of individual, couple and family counselling. The impact on our lives of the family or families we grew up with is a crucial aspect of our identity. For many human service workers coming to terms with their experience in their families of origin is a key component of their professional education and development of a skills base.

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• Which situations most tested your family’s strengths? • Were there times when your family’s strengths were depleted and problems took the upper hand? • Were there times of adversity when your family learned new strengths? • Were you ever surprised at the strengths you saw in the families of your friends?

Our Scrapbook of Strengths provides a tool to identify the strengths we experienced and continue to experience within our families.

• Which strengths did your family find most difficult to sustain?

• What were the main strengths you had as a child?

• Which family strengths do you think most contributed to your sense of identity; of who you are today?

• What about as a teenager? How are the two perceptions similar and different? • What strengths were most evident during the good times when things were going well?

• From you own family experience, which strengths did you particularly want to keep in your family of choice?

• What strengths emerged during the bad times when difficulties arose?

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~ WITH COUPLEs ~

• No family is perfect. How do you think you will compensate for the strengths absent from your family of origin?

Our Scrapbook of Strengths is an ideal tool for use in relationship and pre-marital education because of its ability to highlight similarities and differences in the partners'

• What strengths are the highest priorities for each of you in your relationship?

experiences of family. Putting these experiences ‘on the table’ in the context

• Which do you think will require the most effort?

of strengths rather than deficits is a nonthreatening way of opening up conversations about the possibility of different expectations and thereby heading off tensions. Many of the same questions (with minimal reframing) could also be used by relationship counsellors to explore the resolution of conflicts that have already occurred.

• Who can you draw inspiration or support from in developing or maintaining these strengths? • What are the strengths that give your relationship its resilience; that allow it to survive the ups and downs? • Are there particular strengths each of you encourages in the other?

Here are some suggested questions for building insight and intimacy within marriage and relationships: • What were the strengths in each of your families?

• What would other people who know you both say were your greatest strengths as a couple? • What might they say you could work on?

• What are the commonalities? What are the differences?

• What are the strengths in other couples you most admire?

• What strengths do you most admire in your own family and in each other’s family?

• What would you most like your partner to strengthen?

• Can you imagine any of the strengths from your own family of origin getting in the way of your relationship?

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WITH BLENDED AND STEP FAMILIES

The merging of two sole parent families brings a set of complexities and challenges. All members of both families bring their own perceptions of the history, culture and values of previous family life. Our Scrapbook of Strengths can provide a useful way of ensuring that significant elements in the history, culture and values of both families are made explicit. Our Scrapbook prompts exploration about similarities and differences in how families operate. This can create an attitude of openness to testing assumptions, challenging ‘sacred cows’ and talking about what all members regard as important.

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• Which of these strengths would you most want to protect in your new family? • Which are you most scared of losing? • What are the new strengths you are hoping to create in your new family? • How might you use your existing family strengths to develop these new ones? • Some things are sure to go wrong. How can you use your strengths to make your new family work for everyone?

Finally, Our Scrapbook can be a means of renegotiating rules and building a sense of belonging in the new family constellation. • How would all members describe the strengths in their existing families? • What were the most important strengths for each of you?

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~ PICTURES OF THE FUTURE ~

Taking a solution-focused approach to family work, group work, community building or organisational planning suggests that it is often more useful to start with a vision of the preferred future rather than analysing existing problems. Having a picture of where we want to get to establishes that new possibilities exist. It has an intrinsic message of hope. Our Scrapbook of Strengths can provide a set of prompts for what our relationships might look like in this picture of the future. Coupled with strategic questions Our Scrapbook can be a useful part of any visioning or brainstorming exercise.

• Using the Scrapbook cards, have there been times when relationships have worked well? What was happening at these times? How might these times be recreated in the future? Another 'picture of the future' exercise is back casting: • Imagine in, say, twelve months time you will be receiving an award to recognise your strengths. What particular strengths would you want your group (family, community, organisation) to receive recognition for? • Working backwards from the award ceremony or newspaper report, what will you have done to get there?

For example the cards can be used as prompts to help participants respond to the miracle question:

• What existing strengths might you have drawn on?

• If tonight you went to bed and overnight a miracle occurred so that your problems disappeared, what would be different? The miracle question leads to an exploration of exceptions or those times when the problem is not evident:

• What strengths might you have imported from somewhere else? • What new strengths would your group have needed to develop?

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~ F O R F A M I L Y WO R K E R S ~

For many families, talking about their strengths is a novelty. Such is the pressure experienced that the main patterns of communication are negative. Problem saturation can push families around to such an extent that they forget to notice strengths. The hurt may be so great that they have lost motivation to communicate in affirming ways (such as giving compliments). Certainly, many families who seek help from family workers will be stuck in self-perpetuating cycles of criticism, complaint, put-downs and abuse. Our Scrapbook of Strengths is no panacea for the pain that stressed family relationships can cause. However, if introduced respectfully Our Scrapbook can provide reminders that all families have strengths—even if these are buried under layers of mistrust, anger, resentment or even violence. There will be many situations where the wounds to family functioning are so raw that it would be inappropriate to introduce Our

Scrapbook of Strengths. However, there will be other times when it might just work as a ‘tipping point’ or a catalyst for restoring fragmenting families. How and when Our Scrapbook is introduced depends upon the discretion and creativity of the family worker, but here are some suggested approaches: • Which cards describe how your family works? • All families have ups and downs. When things are going well in your family what strengths make this possible? • If I visited your family during the good times what would I see you doing? What strengths could I identify? • What about the downs, the bad times; what strengths do you use to stay together? Are these the same as or different from your strengths in the good times?

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• Do different family members contribute different strengths? Could you sort these cards into groups according to who in the family takes responsibility for implementing each strength?

For families who find it really difficult to identify any strengths perhaps you could try: • Are there some strengths your family used to have that have now disappeared? • Have they disappeared before but you were able to recover them? How did you do it?

• Which strengths are shared across the family? • Is there something your family needs that none of you do well? • Is there someone who everyone else relies on too much? • Are there particular strengths missing from your family life? • Where do you think you might get support with these? How might you go about asking for this help? • Are there strengths you would like me to help you work on?

• You are finding it hard to find any strengths in your family. Do you think this could be because the card makers missed those strengths that keep your family together? • You may not be able to find any strengths that describe your family but do some come close? • Were there times when you felt these strengths were within your grasp? • Of all the strengths in the set which one would you choose to start with to rebuild your relationships?

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FOR CAREGIVER ASSESSMENTS

Identification of strengths is a key component in the assessment of caregivers for out-ofhome placement programs such as foster care. The greatest asset that caregivers in their own homes offer is their accumulated strengths. However, often these strengths are assumed or left implicit because they can be hard to talk about and identify. Yet families use strengths in countless different ways. At times the intrusion of a child with a radically different experience of family coupled with natural anxiety about being cared for by strangers (and perhaps also coupled with demanding behaviour from the child) can be stressful for all concerned.

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For both foster care workers and caregivers it is vital to develop a picture of the caregiver’s skills, capacity and resilience. This picture may suggest areas of sensitivity and vulnerability but it will also portray those resources that the caregivers can draw on when the going gets tough. Our Scrapbook of Strengths is an invaluable tool for articulating the caregiver’s experience of family. It can be used by a couple to each tell their story of their family of origin and to describe the strengths they bring to the caregiver role. This rich articulation of strengths serves several purposes in caregiver assessment: • Firstly, it serves to remind caregivers of their motivation.

Anyone who has ever worked in foster care knows the tremendous strains which can be created. These strains can be damaging to children who may have already experienced trauma or abuse. And sadly, for many children, foster care is experienced as more traumatic than events in their own family.

• It can sensitise caregivers to the differences in family rules and values of the children in their care.

However, for caregivers, out-of-home placements can also be exceedingly stressful. Marriage break-ups in caregiver couples following a demanding placement are not uncommon.

• It can highlight the importance of maintaining family strengths while caring for another child. • It may pinpoint vulnerabilities that require special attention. • It may suggest new strengths to be developed.

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• And it may also indicate limits the caregivers should place on their availability.

• How will you know when these strengths are depleted or being tested? • Do you imagine you will have to work on some strengths or develop new ones?

Some questions that might be included in caregiver assessments:

• Is there one particular strength that binds your family together? Has this strength ever been under strain?

• Can you use Our Scrapbook of Strengths cards to tell the story of your family of origin?

• How will you go about discovering the individual and family strengths of the child in your care?

• What are the key strengths you have replicated in your own family? • What are the key strengths you will rely on to face the demands of caring for another child?

• When do you think you will need extra help?

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FOR TEACHERS AND S C H OO L WO R K E R S

Family dynamics impact on the school lives of children and young people in countless ways. There is an increasing expectation that schools anticipate and respond to these intrusions both inside and outside the classroom.

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successfully both inside and outside the classroom. In classroom discussions about family dynamics teachers can explore family strengths by asking: • What do you think makes a strong family? • Here are some cards that describe what Australian families think make them strong. Do you agree?

Curriculum is being seen more and more as having to relate to students’ family and community realities and to play a significant role in the prevention of personal and social problems like self-harm, drug abuse and suicide.

• Which of these strengths would you say your family has? • Are there some strengths that you can see in other families?

Outside the classroom there is also a proliferation of workers in caring roles; welfare coordinators, chaplains, social workers and school nurses, for example, are expected to intervene when problems arise.

• What strengths do you think are the most important to keep families together during the bad times?

Our Scrapbook of Strengths and other handson, strengths-based tools can be used very

• Why is it important to have strong families?

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~ ABOUT ST LUKE’S ~

St Luke’s was established in 1979 by the Anglican Diocese of Bendigo in order to resource and strengthen families throughout North Central Victoria. Since then it has grown significantly; diversifying its services, extending its geographical coverage and becoming independently incorporated.

need for community development programs which are driven by the community. As well, St Luke’s attempts to translate its experience of working with disadvantaged individuals and families into social policy reform. Staff members are encouraged to participate in peak organisations, policy debate and social action.

St Luke’s continues to be an active member of Anglicare Australia, the national network of community service organisations that are auspiced by the Anglican Church. The agency has also maintained its distinctive strengths-based approach to service delivery. This strengths-based philosophy has led St Luke’s to become a passionate believer in the

St Luke’s is committed to strengthening families and continues to provide a range of child and family services based on the strengths philosophy it pioneered. The motto of St Luke’s is: Respect, Hope, Fairness.

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~ ABOUT INNOVATIVE RESOURCES ~

In 1992 St Luke’s was one of the first organisations in Australia to receive funding to run intensive family services (‘Families First’)—although many of the key concepts from intensive family services from overseas had been integrated into its practice. Family workers were enthusiastic in taking on this new and demanding role and began to search for resources that could reinforce their practice. A set of cards was produced; each card featuring the name of a potential strength coupled with a light-hearted graphic. Strength Cards was soon recognised as a simple, versatile tool that could change people’s lives. Now, over 15 years later, the new edition of Strength Cards has been translated into a number of other languages and sold around the world.

After stumbling into the creation of such a simple, but life-changing tool, St Luke’s has gone on to build a unique publishing, training and bookselling venture. Innovative Resources is now self-supporting and is recognised as a significant independent publisher for human service professionals. The clear strengths-based foundation and high production standards of the resources mean these publications have been applied in a wide range of preventative programs across many different professions.

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~ ABOUT THE AUTHORS ~

Simone Silberberg emigrated from Holland to Australia in 1992 and has worked in a variety of welfare positions, such as youth worker, family case worker, and family and relationships counsellor. Simone has predominantly worked with families from marginalised cultures, and in particular with children at risk and their families.

Russell Deal is the Creative Director of St Luke’s Innovative Resources and has been its driving force for almost two decades. When he’s not pitching his latest, brilliant ideas to the Innovative Resources Editorial Team, you’ll usually find him in some exotic location presenting one of his legendary workshops to a group of eager human service workers.

In 2000, Simone joined the Family Action Centre (University of Newcastle) to complete the Family Strengths Research Project.

Russell lives with his wife, Annie, in a stone house in a secluded valley in Central Victoria, where you might find him playing with his two grandchildren, building drystone walls or listening to his beloved Essendon Bombers— an Australian Football team—on a crackly transistor radio.

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~ ABOUT THE ARTISTS ~

Carolyn Marrone is a prize-winning Bendigo artist known for her evocative watercolours. Carolyn was the artist-in-residence at ‘The Gathering’, the first Australian celebration of strengths-based practice, hosted by St Luke’s. Carolyn’s paintings capture the many different shades of the human spirit with both delight and compassion. Her illustrations in Shadows (also published by Innovative Resources), have won acclaim from many professionals. Our Scrapbook of Strengths is Carolyn’s biggest project to date, requiring over 130 original watercolours to interpret the 42 themes.

Tim Lane from Woosh Creative is no stranger to Innovative Resources. His considerable graphic design skill and creativity has graced our newsletters, catalogues and resources for many years. Tim created the powerful photomontage images for Reflexions, one of Innovative Resources’ most popular card packs for adolescents. The design work on the cards, booklet and folder that make up Our Scrapbook of Strengths, is the result of Tim’s eye for style and aesthetics.

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Our Scrapbook of Strengths presents a powerful window into the characteristics of strong families, groups and communities. Based on extensive post-graduate research, the 42 cards in Our Scrapbook of Strengths use watercolour images and a family scrapbooking motif to explore eight broad topics: communication, togetherness, acceptance, resilience, affection, support, sharing activities and commitment.

St Luke’s Innovative Resources 137 McCrae Street, Bendigo, Victoria, Australia, 3550 ph: (03) 5442 0500 fax: (03) 5442 0555 info@innovativeresources.org www.innovativeresources.org


Our Scrapbook of Strengths booklet