Eight-year-old Petra is a small, thin, shy, pleasant girl with poor school performance. She attends an after-school day care program run by municipal community services in part because of her need for extra school support and in part because no one is available at home for her after school. Her mother Juliana, age 35, works at two jobs just to keep her daughter rather than accepting the social worker’s advice and putting Petra in a foster home. Petra’s 12-year-old sister, Aggie, is becoming a wild teenager whose school performance is satisfactory, although her attendance is dropping rapidly. Aggie gets Petra ready for school because Juliana’s first job starts at 5:00 A.M. Weekend time for Juliana is virtually nonexistent, because of the extra sewing that she does to make ends meet. A women’s career development center has referred Juliana to a Job Skills for Women Program operated by the municipal community services. The municipal welfare office has employed an occupational therapist consultant to work with the five after-school and ten job skill development programs they operate. The professional team includes resource and special education teachers as well as social workers. An occupational perspective can bring new insights to social problems. Thus, occupational therapists would attend to occupational injustices by raising questions about daily life, as illustrated in the case study of Petra.
Sample Questions to Analyze Occupational Injustices and Social Problems
1. Who would the occupational therapist name as clients: Petra or Aggie, Juliana as a single mother, after-school programs, job skills programs, the municipality?
2. What documentation will demonstrate accountability for occupational therapy practice: Assessment of spirituality and the physical, mental, and cognitive occupational performance of individuals; program consultation descriptions; population data on children and single parents; program costs and outcomes?
3. What are the occupational concerns for children and adolescents who are not thriving in poor social conditions? For single women or men?
4. Who are the occupational therapists’ allies in working for occupational justice?