A Team Based Approach to Tackling Family Conflict

How The University of Baltimore’s Truancy Court Program Integrates Unified Family Court Principles Into Its Problem-Solving Team Strategy for Students and Families in Need 

By Amanda Bentley, CFCC Student Fellow 2013-2014
This week marks the beginning of many of my classmates’ placements in CFCC’s Truancy Court Program (TCP). Unlike several of my colleagues, I’m new to the TCP this year and have not yet had the benefit of seeing this program in action. However, as I learn more about the TCP’s team-oriented design, I can’t help but notice how closely this parallels the style adopted by Unified Family Courts.

The TCP takes a holistic approach to family problem-solving, much like a Unified Family Court system. Like Unified Family Courts, the TCP focuses not only on the legal problems a family faces but also on the underlying causes of those problems. A TCP team consists of a qualified and dedicated group of individuals from varying backgrounds who work closely with the TCP families, helping them achieve ALL of their goals (not just the legal ones). A TCP team typically consists of:

  • District or Circuit Court Judge or Master
  • Law Student
  • Social Worker
  • School Principal or Administrator
  • TCP Coordinator
  • TCP Mentor
  • Teacher
  • Family Members

This list is by no means exhaustive. Similar to a Unified Family Court, the TCP team provides the individualized attention to connect families with necessary resources. This is in sharp contrast to traditional court settings, where underlying family problems are seldom addressed.

On a more personal level, I am, by no means, a stranger to many of the challenges that our local families face. Like many of the students who participate in the TCP, I was the child of a single mom, whose resources were stretched far beyond their limits. The reality of life for us was deciding which utility would be paid and which would be cut off, or how we would put food on the table each night. I truly empathize with the needs of many Baltimore families but also understand that a family’s needs today have become even more complex than those of my childhood. Reflecting back on my own experiences reminds me of the truly life-changing “network” of people that helped my family to become what it is today. The opportunity to share that experience with another family is rewarding, to say the least.

Today’s modern parent often has a lot to contend with: childcare, transportation, behavior issues, mental health, substance abuse, financial struggles, and homelessness, to name a few. The team-based method used in Unified Family Courts and in CFCC’s TCP is an efficient mechanism for addressing those interwoven issues. It’s this team-based holistic approach to the TCP that I am most excited about as we begin a new semester. We have the opportunity to be a part of something that can be a life-changing experience for students and their families and I’m thrilled to see what the semester brings.

How do you think a team-based approach to problem-solving may help or hinder our TCP families? I’d love to read what you think below.

0 thoughts on “A Team Based Approach to Tackling Family Conflict

  1. I always loved the saying that it takes a village to raise a child. I do believe that is true. Some of the most successful individuals in the world have had families, churches, communities, neighbors, teachers, and mentors from different backgrounds and experiences pour into their lives. However, I see a concern with the team-based approach to problem solving. I believe that every parent wants a better life for their child. With that said, I wonder if some of the values that the children are taught at home conflict with the values that are taught at school or in the TCP. If those values do conflict, I wonder how a young child is supposed to weigh the conflicting advice and guidance. Children should be able to look up to their parents and teachers as mentors. Yet, if a teacher, who often sees the child more than their own parents, is teaching the child conflicting values that can be an issue. I know that the TCP works with parents so that everyone is on one accord, but I am sure that there are conflicts between the ways each adult approaches different issues. So, I wonder how schools and the TCP solve those conflicts without calling the parents – “bad parents.”

  2. Juli, your concern is something I grapple with also. One of the challenges to the team-based approach is that each person is bringing a unique set of values and life experiences to the table. Each family has different cultural or social values that must be taken into consideration but I think we are often faced with situations where a parent's social or cultural choices may conflict with what we may think is best for the child. I'm not really sure how best to reconcile this internal conflict. I suppose in the interest of avoiding an overly paternalistic role, we should try to understand and respect some of the choices that parents make in raising their children, using that to think creatively as we attempt to build solutions. I suppose, however, that that's much easier said than done in reality. While I sincerely hope that this isn't a problem we end up facing, I understand that the possibility for such a conflict is very high and I'm curious to see how such a conflict may be resolved.

  3. Great post, Amanda. I, too, am looking forward to seeing the team approach in action. The biggest change to this year's TCP is the partnerships with Legal Aid and other community-based service organizations. I think those partnerships will prove to make a huge difference. As you pointed out, the issues that any modern family faces, let alone those facing dire living situations, are complex and varied. There is no one-size-fits-all, and that's what is so wonderful about bringing so many voices to the TCP table. To comment on Juli's very valid concern, I think the team-approach of the TCP will actually promote an open dialogue without the consequence of forcing one value system on a child. Each person who sits at the TCP table brings different values to the conversation, and from what I understand, each person there takes an active role in participating in the success of the child. Admittedly, the one underlying value that we all (must) share is that education is of paramount importantance to one's success in life, and I think our conversations will be centered around that value. Additionally, I think when we use the client-centered approach that the therapeutic jurisprudence model calls for, we will help the families discover a solution that fits best for their family, rather than imposing a solution on them.

  4. I'm so glad that you mentioned our visits from local community-based organizations. I have always felt that the more people you can bring to the table, the more options you can generate for a person or family in need of solutions. It leaves that person or family with the opportunity to make well-informed decisions about what works best for his or her family.

  5. Great post Amanda. I agree with Lauren’s comments above. I believe a team-based approach to problem solving will be beneficial to the TCP families. The TCP families may view this team-based approach as having a support system in place. If the families feel like they have a support system behind them, the child as well as the parent would be more willing to open up about their issues and be honest with everyone around them. With this group atmosphere, the families would be able to discuss their problems and set goals for themselves, allowing everyone the opportunity to succeed.

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