Assignment: Application of Systems Theory to a Case Study

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In this course, you will be asked to select one case study and to use it throughout the entire course. By doing this, you will have the opportunity to see how theories guide your view of a client and the client’s presenting problem. Although the case may be the same, each time you use a different theory, your perspective of the problem changes, which then changes how you go about asking the assessment questions and how you intervene.

The first theoretical approach you will use to apply to a case study is systems theory. In other words, your theoretical orientation—your lens—will be systems theory as you analyze a social work case study.

Different theories can be used to take a systems approach. For example, Bertalanffy’s General Systems Theoryconsiders how a system is made of smaller subsystems that influence each other and seek homeostasis, whereas Brofennerbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory focuses on how an individual’s experience is influenced by different system levels (micro, meso, exo, macro, and chrono). Systems theory is commonly used to understand the interrelationships of the systems (e.g., family, community, organizations, society) of the client. If you are working with families, communities, and organizations, it is also beneficial to use systems theory to get a holistic picture of all the interrelated parts of the system.

To prepare: Select and focus on one of four case studies listed in the Learning Resources. You will use this same case study throughout the course.

By Day 7

  • Focus on the identified client within your chosen case.
  • Analyze the case using a systems approach, taking into consideration both family and community systems.
  • Complete and submit the “Dissecting a Theory and Its Application to a Case Study” worksheet based on your analysis.

Tiffani Bradley case study

Identifying Data: Tiffani Bradley is a 16-year-old Caucasian female. She was raised in
a Christian family in Philadelphia, PA. She is of German descent. Tiffani’s family
consists of her father, Robert, 38 years old; her mother, Shondra, 33 years old, and
her sister, Diana, 13 years old. Tiffani currently resides in a group home, Teens First,
a brand new, court-mandated teen counseling program for adolescent victims of
sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Tiffani has been provided room and board
in the residential treatment facility for the past 3 months. Tiffani describes herself as

Presenting Problem: Tiffani has a history of running away. She has been arrested on
three occasions for prostitution in the last 2 years. Tiffani has recently been court
ordered to reside in a group home with counseling. She has a continued desire to be
reunited with her pimp, Donald. After 3 months at Teens First, Tiffani said that she
had a strong desire to see her sister and her mother. She had not seen either of
them in over 2 years and missed them very much. Tiffani is confused about the path
to follow. She is not sure if she wants to return to her family and sibling or go back to

Family Dynamics: Tiffani indicates that her family worked well together until 8 years
ago. She reports that around the age of 8, she remembered being awakened by
music and laughter in the early hours of the morning. When she went downstairs to
investigate, she saw her parents and her Uncle Nate passing a pipe back and forth
between them. She remembered asking them what they were doing and her mother
saying, “adult things” and putting her back in bed. Tiffani remembers this happening
on several occasions. Tiffani also recalls significant changes in the home’s
appearance. The home, which was never fancy, was always neat and tidy. During
this time, however, dust would gather around the house, dishes would pile up in the
sink, dirt would remain on the floor, and clothes would go for long periods of time
without being washed. Tiffani began cleaning her own clothes and making meals for
herself and her sister. Often there was not enough food to feed everyone, and Tiffani
and her sister would go to bed hungry. Tiffani believed she was responsible for
helping her mom so that her mom did not get so overwhelmed. She thought that if
she took care of the home and her sister, maybe that would help mom return to the
person she was before.
Sometimes Tiffani and her sister would come downstairs in the morning to find empty
beer cans and liquor bottles on the kitchen table along with a crack pipe. Her parents
would be in the bedroom, and Tiffani and her sister would leave the house and go to
school by themselves. The music and noise downstairs continued for the next 6
years, which escalated to screams and shouting and sounds of people fighting.
Tiffani remembers her mom one morning yelling at her dad to “get up and go to
work.” Tiffani and Diana saw their dad come out of the bedroom and slap their mom
so hard she was knocked down. Dad then went back into the bedroom. Tiffani
remembers thinking that her mom was not doing what she was supposed to do in the
house, which is what probably angered her dad.
Shondra and Robert have been separated for a little over a year and have started
dating other people. Diana currently resides with her mother and Anthony, 31 years
old, who is her mother’s new boyfriend.

Educational History: Tiffani attends school at the group home, taking general
education classes for her general education development (GED) credential. Diana
attends Town Middle School and is in the 8th grade.

Employment History: Tiffani reports that her father was employed as a welding
apprentice and was waiting for the opportunity to join the union. Eight years ago, he
was laid off due to financial constraints at the company. He would pick up odd jobs
for the next 8 years but never had steady work after that. Her mother works as a
home health aide. Her work is part-time, and she has been unable to secure full-time

Social History: Over the past 2 years, Tiffani has had limited contact with her family
members and has not been attending school. Tiffani did contact her sister Diana a
few times over the 2-year period and stated that she missed her very much. Tiffani
views Donald as her “husband” (although they were never married) and her only
friend. Previously, Donald sold Tiffani to a pimp, “John T.” Tiffani reports that she was
very upset Donald did this and that she wants to be reunited with him, missing him
very much. Tiffani indicates that she knows she can be a better “wife” to him. She
has tried to make contact with him by sending messages through other people, as
John T. did not allow her access to a phone. It appears that over the last 2 years,
Tiffani has had neither outside support nor interactions with anyone beyond Donald,
John T., and some other young women who were prostituting.

Mental Health History: On many occasions Tiffani recalls that when her mother was
not around, Uncle Nate would ask her to sit on his lap. Her father would sometimes
ask her to show them the dance that she had learned at school. When she danced,
her father and Nate would laugh and offer her pocket change. Sometimes, their
friend Jimmy joined them. One night, Tiffani was awakened by her uncle Nate and his
friend Jimmy. Her parents were apparently out, and they were the only adults in the
home. They asked her if she wanted to come downstairs and show them the new
dances she learned at school. Once downstairs Nate and Jimmy put some music on
and started to dance. They asked Tiffani to start dancing with them, which she did.
While they were dancing, Jimmy spilled some beer on her. Nate said she had to go to
the bathroom to clean up. Nate, Jimmy, and Tiffani all went to the bathroom. Nate
asked Tiffani to take her clothes off and get in the bath. Tiffani hesitated to do this,
but Nate insisted it was OK since he and Jimmy were family. Tiffani eventually
relented and began to wash up. Nate would tell her that she missed a spot and would
scrub the area with his hands. Incidents like this continued to occur with increasing
levels of molestation each time.
The last time it happened, when Tiffani was 14, she pretended to be willing to dance
for them, but when she got downstairs, she ran out the front door of the house. Tiffani
vividly remembers the fear she felt the nights Nate and Jimmy touched her, and she
was convinced they would have raped her if she stayed in the house.
About halfway down the block, a car stopped. The man introduced himself as Donald,
and he indicated that he would take care of her and keep her safe when these things
happened. He then offered to be her boyfriend and took Tiffani to his apartment.
Donald insisted Tiffani drink beer. When Tiffani was drunk, Donald began kissing her,
and they had sex. Tiffani was also afraid that if she did not have sex, Donald would
not let her stay— she had nowhere else to go. For the next 3 days, Donald brought
her food and beer and had sex with her several more times. Donald told Tiffani that
she was not allowed to do anything without his permission. This included watching
TV, going to the bathroom, taking a shower, and eating and drinking. A few weeks
later, Donald bought Tiffani a dress, explaining to her that she was going to “find a
date” and get men to pay her to have sex. When Tiffani said she did not want to do
that, Donald hit her several times. Donald explained that if she didn’t do it, he would
get her sister Diana and make her do it instead. Out of fear for her sister, Tiffani
relented and did what Donald told her to do. She thought at this point her only
purpose in life was to be a sex object, listen, and obey—and then she would be able
to keep the relationships and love she so desired.

Legal History: Tiffani has been arrested three times for prostitution. Right before the
most recent charge, a new state policy was enacted to protect youth 16 years and
younger from prosecution and jail time for prostitution. The Safe Harbor for Exploited
Children Act allows the state to define Tiffani as a sexually exploited youth, and
therefore the state will not imprison her for prostitution. She was mandated to
services at the Teens First agency, unlike her prior arrests when she had been sent
to detention.

Alcohol and Drug Use History: Tiffani’s parents were social drinkers until about 8
years ago. At that time Uncle Nate introduced them to crack cocaine. Tiffani reports
using alcohol when Donald wanted her to since she wanted to please him, and she
thought this was the way she would be a good “wife.” She denies any other drug use.

Medical History: During intake, it was noted that Tiffani had multiple bruises and burn
marks on her legs and arms. She reported that Donald had slapped her when he felt
she did not behave and that John T. burned her with cigarettes. She had realized that
she did some things that would make them mad, and she tried her hardest to keep
them pleased even though she did not want to be with John T. Tiffani has been
treated for several sexually transmitted infections (STIs) at local clinics and is
currently on an antibiotic for a kidney infection. Although she was given condoms by
Donald and John T. for her “dates,” there were several “Johns” who refused to use
Strengths: Tiffani is resilient in learning how to survive the negative relationships she
has been involved with. She has as sense of protection for her sister and will sacrifice
herself to keep her sister safe.

Robert Bradley: father, 38 years old Shondra Bradley: mother, 33 years old
Nate Bradley: uncle, 36 years old
Tiffani Bradley: daughter, 16 years old
Diana Bradley: daughter, 13 years old
Donald: Tiffani’s self-described husband and her former pimp
Anthony: Shondra’s live-in partner, 31 years old
John T.: Tiffani’s most recent pimp

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