The InterAction Collection

To go full Jedi

How to use SF to help more children remain in their families

Aug 3, 2022

John Brooker & Annie Bordeleau


Introduction by John Brooker

What can people in organisations learn about the use of SF from social workers working with children and families? A great deal it seems.

Sue Lancaster is a Service Manager in the Children and Family Service department of Essex Council in England. She manages The Divisional Based Intervention Team Service (D-BIT). This is an “edge of care” service which steps in where there is concern over family relationships breaking down and fragmentation may lead to children being moved in to care.

In 2012, Children and Family Services had a number of challenges. There were a high number of children in care, particularly adolescent children, the service had had two bad inspections, there was a high case load and too much bureaucracy causing insufficient direct work with families. Financial issues existed too.

These challenges drove a need for change with the outcome to keep families and children together. After researching what was working elsewhere, Sue and her manager decided to use Solution Focus to effect change, because there was much evidence that it worked. As Sue explains, there was much scepticism about the use of Solution Focus from partners and workers.

Sue and her colleagues, Greg Oberbeck and Leon Helsby explain how Solution Focus has enabled them to increase the percentage of children remaining safely with their family to between 75% and 80% and provide great lessons on how organisations can develop Solution Focus as their operating approach.

I particularly liked one piece of advice they give, “Assume the client has what it takes to succeed and make them curious”. That’s a good message for any SF practitioner.

When I saw this team talk about their case study at a conference in England, I was so impressed, I asked if SFiO could host an online global chapter with them presenting. Above is the video. If you have only a short time now, it is worth watching the short trailer in the video. But I urge you to watch the full video at some point soon. There are great lessons on how you can introduce and use SF in an organisation.

John Brooker
John Brooker
SFiO Reviewed Practitioner
Editor of Interaction
Chapter Head
SFiO Contributor

John has over thirty years experience of leading people to collaborate effectively. He gained his leadership experience as a Senior Vice President in Visa International, working on international projects. Since 2004 he has used his leadership and Solution Focus expertise to enable people in multinational and national organisations to collaborate effectively. He is Co-President of Solution Focus in Organisations, an SFiO Reviewed Practitioner and has an MBA from The Open University in the UK.

Annie Bordeleau
Annie Bordeleau
Board Member
Editor of InterAction
SFiO Contributor

Annie Bordeleau is founder of the I2A Network, collaborating with international organisations and universities for over 20 years. She discovered SF in 2005 and it has fundamentally transformed the way she supports leaders in organisations across all cultures to lead through change with more ease and effectivity.