9.1 McDonald Case Study

McDonald Family Case Study 

Three children together
Photo by Charlein Gracia Unsplash License

This family is a traditional family system, comprised of a mother, father, and three daughters. The mother is Cheryl, and the father is David. Their children, Mia (11) is in grade 6, Sarah (8) is in grade 3 and Amelia (6) is in grade 1. The three girls attend the French Immersion Program at Bright Elementary School in Ontario. Educators, Educational Assistants (ECE) and School Counsellor (CYC) among Administrators and other Support staff have various concerns about all three girls.

Mia regularly does not complete her homework. Her explanation is that her mother does not speak French and is unable to assist. Mia regularly tries out for different sports and activities but then cannot participate because she does have a parent to pick her after practices or drive her to attend games. Sarah is an academically strong student and outperforms her classmates when in class to participate, however, her sporadic attendance impacts her ability to access the curriculum resulting in Sarah being behind in some areas such as math.  Mia was referred to the CYC school counsellor, Ms. Kaur, due to Mia’s lack of friendships and low engagement in the academic milieu.  Mia meets with Ms. Kaur on a regular basis to help her with her social and emotional well-being. All three girls miss school regularly, with both Amelia and Mia missing, approximately 2 days each week, while Sarah misses about 3 days per week.

Current Situation

This is an upper-middle-class family system where the father, who grew up in a traditional family, is employed full-time and works long hours. The mother is a stay-at-home parent, primarily in charge of the home and the children. David is a bilingual French Canadian, and the girls are enrolled in a French Immersion Program at school. David works a standard Monday-Friday work week but has long hours that extend past a normal workday.

Cheryl is overwhelmed in her role as a stay-at-home parent. She is new to the Kitchener-Waterloo region and has no social supports or friends. Her extended family is physically distant and provides no support. She struggles in day-to-day functioning and is unable to keep up with housework, laundry, groceries, errands, and other expectations of maintaining a home and children. She has struggled with depression since the birth of her last child. Since that time (18 months after the last birth), she has also had the added diagnosis of agoraphobia by Dr. Dender, a psychiatrist. In Cheryl’s situation, she developed significant anxiety about being in public places. Cheryl attended a virtual counselling group two years ago for 12 weeks for people with agoraphobia with Canadian Mental Health.  She was registered to attend the second phase of the group program but never showed up to the virtual sessions.

As a result of Cheryl’s increasing mental health issues, she struggled to meet the needs of her children. She would often keep the children at home with her as she was lonely and wished for their company. If Mia insisted on going to school, Sarah would agree to stay home with her mother and Mia would take Amelia on the bus with her.  If the children missed the bus, Cheryl felt unable to drive them to school. This was also the reason that the oldest daughter was unable to participate in any after-school activities. Cheryl needed the girls to take the bus home as she was no longer comfortable driving and did not want to leave the home.

When Cheryl was contacted by teachers about the girls’ school progress, Cheryl would state that she struggled to understand any schoolwork as she did not speak French. She also informed the teachers that whenever she asked about homework, the girls would tell her that they didn’t have any, and she had no way of following up as she could not read their planners.

The father, David, was also overwhelmed and resents having their third child citing the onset of his wife’s mental health issues with the birth of Amelia. He is the sole income earner and works long hours to support his family. He also needed to do all the groceries and errands after work as Cheryl was no longer able. David uses the weekends trying to complete necessary laundry and household chores.  He believed that Mia should be able to help more because she is older and he engages in verbal conflicts with her about the responsibilities in the house and shared child-care. He is also angry at her for talking to the school counsellor as he suspects that she talked about what is going on at home.  He indicates that he is worried about his daughter, Sarah.  He suggests that perhaps she is following the path of her mother due to staying home more often than the other children.  He is not interested in her seeing the school counsellor or any other counsellor at this point.


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Child Maltreatment: An Introductory Guide With Case Studies Copyright © 2023 by Susan Loosley and Jen Johnson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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