By Intisar Seraaj

Fragmentation of Services Within an Organization

fragmentation in social work

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Seraaj Family Homes, Inc.’s (SFH) service delivery methodology is based on the family-centered case planning and case management approach to treatment. Families are multifaceted in structure, purpose, and effects on society. Thus, clients need a multifaceted approach to treatment plans, with input from several entities, including the family itself, community resources, and various social work professionals. This is why SFH has weekly case reviews in which members of different teams are listening to and advising on each case. When there’s no system for checks-and-balances, mistakes are more easily made and clients don’t receive standardized, quality services. Thus, there’s a fragmentation of services.

“In urban sociology, fragmentation denotes the absence or the underdevelopment of connections between a society and some members of that society.” So, fragmentation in human services is when all individuals of a treatment team are not communicating and functioning as a unit. It’s like when the brain has decided something for the entire body but the connection between the organs and limbs has been damaged or severed. Although the brain has the best intentions for the body, the action can’t be fulfilled because the limbs and organs must do their part—but they can’t because there’s a lack of communication. So, when a treatment team fails to communicate, it can have major ramifications for clients. This is how clinicians end up using unsuccessful tactics, overprescribing drugs, endangering clients if they’re unaware of changes in visitation rights, etc.

“Case management requires frequent, planned, face-to-face contact with the clients and family members to assess progress toward their goals,” says SFH CEO Abdul Seraaj,  in an email about case management and service delivery. SFH pushes for a variety of input on cases, from the case manager to the foster parent, all should be a part of the treatment team. “Children and families involved in the child welfare and family court system often have multiple life challenges; thus, they require a multitude of resources,” Seraaj says. When members on the treatment team are not properly utilized, the recipient suffers. Services may be duplicated, the wrong treatments may be applied, the client could go without necessary treatment, etc.

Fragmentation of Services on a Macro Level in the Field of Social Work

fragmentation in social work

Photo by Magda Ehlers from Pexels

Fragmentation of services within an organization, as described above, is a result of fragmentation within the bigger umbrella of social work as a whole. Social work is disunified because there isn’t a standard set of practices for professionals in the field. Also, there are various disciplines within the field such as military and veterans social work, medical and hospital social work, and criminal justice social work. With every branch of social work having its own approach to certain issues, there’s a weakness to the effectiveness of services. These fractured models of practice promote inconsistent, unreliable services and differing and contradictory practices based on various perceptions and responses to social issues.

Fragmentation within the field also creates competing standards of practice; thus, other foster care agencies or social services organizations might have different treatment approaches. So, then there’s privatization in fundamental societal services like preserving families, the cornerstone of society. Meanwhile, the focus should always be the family unit, but with various treatment approaches and no unified framework of action, clients aren’t receiving proven, standardized services across the board. Rather, the services families receive depend on which company they are contracted to or sign up with. When families are negatively affected, all of society suffers.

The Solution to Fragmentation

The solution to fragmentation—until things change—is to embrace the plurality of service practices by working together and uniting various methodologies for the best possible outcome for clients. On a macro level, since there are so many approaches to certain issues and cases, professionals can their knowledge to curate top-tier policies to improve clientele services.

On a micro or organizational level, collaboration is still the answer. If an agency has a variety of branches to successfully operate it business, then representatives from all branches might have valid input for the wellbeing of their client. “Everyone is a part of the treatment team,” as Seraaj likes to say. In the interest of preserving families, most people with these intentions and goals in mind will be able to offer some input. Because we are all part of at least one family, whether that’s biological, circumstantial, or chosen, most professionals will have some contribution for a client’s wellbeing. This unification of concern and information can help avoid fragmentation of services in social work.

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