Adapting a western model of filial therapy to a locally specific form through a participatory process with kinship carers.
As social workers are challenged to move away from a preoccupation with direct, clinical practice and move toward developmental interventions, there is concern that vulnerable members of society will be abandoned. It is feared that these members are likely to become the responsibility of their family, friends and neighbours, who themselves may be struggling for their own survival. Kinship carers are left to care for children whose parents are unable to fulfil their parental responsibilities because of illness, death, poverty, or other debilitating social factors . In many instances the children arrive into these placements as a result of tragic circumstances and are thus in need of remedial intervention. The rapid growth of this pheneomenon has superseded the development of relevant services for kinship carers and their wards. Filial therapy is an effective method for helping families in distress as it combines treatment and prevention. It incorporates didactic and dynamic principles where parents are trained to act as therapeutic agents in their children's lives. It is a strength-based intervention that recognises parents' abilities to provide emotional support for their children. Parents are empowered to do this by participating in professionally facilitated group sessions where they learn to develop healthy relationship skills, which may lead to the alleviation of psychosocial difficulties. This study was an exploratory study to establish whether the western model of filial therapy could be adapted for a locally specific group of kinship carers through a participatory process. Using a qualitative research design a group was formed to explore ways in which the model needed to be adapted to meet locally specific needs. There were two phases in this study. The first phase was concerned with identifying the problem. The second phase was the formation of the filial group and the evaluation of members' experiences. The participatory research methodology which underpinned the study is consistent with the person-centred approach and with participatory learning experiences. Over a ten-week period the research participants familiarised themselves with the techniques and assumptions of this intervention, and made recommendations for the adaptation of the model to a locally specific one. The data were collected via semistructured interviews, focus groups, researcher assisted questionnaires, and video recordings of the group sessions. The outcome of this study revealed that filial therapy, as adapted to locally specific needs by participants, provided them with valuable support, enhanced their relationships with the children in their care, provided them opportunities to address unresolved issues from their pasts, and in some cases, resulted in positive behavioural changes in their children. Whilst these findings are tentative in view of the limitations identified in the study, the workbook that evolved from this participatory process is a consolidated outcome which may be used by other practitioners. Recommendations for further research are detailed .