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KINSHIP SYSTEM AND SOCIAL WORK PRACTICE

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AS mentioned before in previous articles, social work draws from many disciplines like anthropology, medicine, psychology and sociology, to mention a few. Understanding social institutions, families and societies is fundamental to social workers.

It gives directions to the welfare service system and its policies. Knowledge of family and kinship patterns may be viewed within a broad theoretical framework, mainly based on social change. I concur with sociology scholars who believe major forces at work are urbanisation, industrialisation bureaucratisation as drivers.


Research since the Second World War asserts that family patterns are changing dramatically and they are now conjugal in nature. As a result extended kinship systems are breaking down; actually I can calmly say they are disappearing. Conjugal families ‘fit’ the needs of the industrialisation system.


The author is of the view that industrialisation shapes formal agencies to handle tasks initially handled by nuclear families. Nuclear or even extended families in most societies have lost their functions and the allegiance they once commanded to big formal organisations.
In societies like ours, elders no longer control major new economic and political opportunities. This has resulted in their power and authority slipping away from their families.


Children do not have to entirely rely on elders now for learning new social skills, social values and other life skills. But they get to learn from institutions like schools, churches, workplaces, tertiary institutions and other arenas away from family control. Our generation is no longer grateful to work on their father’s land since opportunities are in cities.


Closer to home, families no longer have to deal with their family problems because industrialisation has taken over and ‘emasculates’ power and authority of the elders. Social ills caused by industrialisation in cities are no longer acceptable to be dealt with at a family customary set up. That is where professions like social work come into production.


The social work profession need not express regret for the status quo right now. But to acquire relevant knowledge, and skills based on local values and beliefs for restoring human dignity especially to the elders, enhance family life and the building of more equitable and just society.


The objective of this article is to review appropriate beliefs of family and kinship systems and attempt to examine social work policies and practice on where does the confusion really lie? As a social work practitioner I am quite aware that there are still some societies who are still persistent with extended families despite manipulations by the modernisation era. On the contrary as we do our casework we still need to understand kin interaction extensively.


Someone may marvel why am I so concerned by kinship relations and family structure. The response is simply that; as a case worker you need to be culture sensitive, understand other people’s social values and norms. On the other hand, there is also a vital practice principle which relates to the role of a worker as a change agent, either in terms of client acculturation sketchily speaking or in terms of modifying the specific values of clients.


In most countries like ours, village people have become more and more unpopular in decision making and welfare policy innovations. Where is the truth here?


Here again one needs to acquire how welfare decisions are made. Do we have enough knowledge on kinship values and relations to families and their members? Standing to be corrected of course, I believe there are hidden biases. It should be noted that social care should consider numerous factors like class, religious, ethnic, cultural backgrounds etc.


Conclusively, how much effort has been made to determine feelings and perceptions of the elderly in relation to what has been stolen by industrialisation from them? Are their preferences and values considered? We need to dig deeper and be alert to broader issues of all groups in societies.

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