Abandoned to cope on their own

Once again the Victoria Derbyshire programme stepped up to the mark this week, with a segment devoted to the plight of families of children with autism, particularly Pathological Demand Avoidance (PDA). The programme is available for the next month only, but the film included, “I feel really bad when I hurt my mum”, from Noel Phillips, will be available for longer.

 

The programme explored problems parents have in obtaining a diagnosis of autism / PDA and then the appalling lack of support following a diagnosis. As a result of a lack of help for families, parents may be coping alone with extreme levels of violence on a daily basis, as children ‘meltdown’ when dealing with anxiety of stress. Children may be excluded from school because of their behaviour, further increasing their vulnerability. We are warned that without timely assistance, many young people are on a trajectory to prison.

Parent, Jason Goldsmith spoke of he and his wife being accused of abusing their 13 year old son by Children’s Services after trying to restrain him, and then going on to install CCTV in the home to provide evidence of the violent behaviour and abuse their son was using against them and his younger sister. They were eventually able to obtain help following this. This is not a new issue, but we are reminded that as recently as 40 years ago there was almost no understanding of autism at all; and certainly PDA remains little understood, and often undiagnosed. Member of parliament Anne-Marie Trevelyan, who was present in the studio as a parent of a child with autism, expanded on the importance of the Autism Act 2009, which has meant that there is greater awareness; and the government is to make mandatory, in 2019, training in the understanding of autism for all in the public services. Nevertheless, as was pointed out by another parent present, awareness is of little help if there is no support accompanying it.

Noel Phillips’ film includes clips of interviews with young people themselves, who speak articulately about their own fears and regrets regarding their behaviour. Norman Lamb, former care minister points to the manner in which all public services are failing these families, and “in a way we’re abandoning families to try to cope on their own with extraordinarily complex circumstances.”

Each time I hear the testimony of parents I am overwhelmed with the enormity of what people are dealing with on a daily basis, and often ‘out of sight’ from the majority of the population, who see simply ‘bad behaviour’. Yet there is a sense of gathering momentum as programmes such as this work to bring attention to the issues. Awareness IS increasing. Therapies and support ARE being slowly developed and implemented. Without support, families fear for the mental and physical health of all concerned, and for the future prospects of their children. As a society we cannot continue to abandon so many people.

 

 

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Confined Spaces, an interview with Sophie Cero

Do you like your art calming and reflective, or maybe you enjoy the challenge of something complex and abstract? For thousands of years, artists have used their work to comment on the human condition, and to explore ideas of power, truth, and reality. Nevertheless, you might be thinking, “but what can art tell us about child to parent violence?”

What I like about any new way of looking at things is that the questions are slightly different, the insights often trip us up and change the direction of our thoughts, and we can be left with new questions that we hadn’t even thought of before! So I was excited to come across artist, Sophie Cero on twitter and to hear about her work exploring child and adolescent violence towards parents. Sophie kindly agreed to be interviewed for Holes in the Wall. Continue reading

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Learning from a Serious Case Review

Over the weekend, I came across the Serious Case Review (SCR) into the death of a young person referred to as ‘Chris’, published recently by Newham LSCB.  I was drawn to it particularly as a social worker, and someone based in the area to which it refers. It is a profoundly moving document, highlighting real moments of good practice in work to support Chris and his family, while also indicating areas of work where people and agencies fell short in their roles and responsibilities. It is first and foremost an opportunity to learn about the lives of Chris and his family, to identify opportunities for learning from his tragic death, and to make recommendations to reduce the likelihood of similar events happening again. Continue reading

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Your call, on speaking to the media about CPV

Back in 2013, I blogged about whether it was helpful to speak to the media, and how we could work within professional ethical guidelines with this. I find myself revisiting this theme now, partly because I am increasingly being contacted by investigative journalists interested in learning more about child to parent violence, and partly because I do believe the general tone and atmosphere around this is changing. With coverage in the mainstream media, and on flagship programmes it is in everyone’s interest to present as full a picture as possible, and to ensure accuracy of coverage whenever we are able to influence direction. Continue reading

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What do we mean by ‘Intent’, in the context of Child to Parent Violence?

The issue of intent, and what exactly is meant by this in understanding child or adolescent to parent violence and abuse, is a complicated one that has generated significant discussion over the last year particularly. It has been suggested (Thorley and Coates) that we are better served by an overarching understanding of young people’s family violence, with a division between those who act aggressively with intent, and those we would struggle to understand doing so. Others disagree, and this has sparked thoughts that perhaps we are misusing the word, and that we should go back to basics in our understanding of how we use this terminology in the wider field of domestic abuse.

I was musing along this line with Kate Iwi, and persuaded her to write something for us! 

 

In the adult domestic violence (DV) field it’s often noted that even in the heat of the moment when a perpetrator says he ‘lost it’ and ‘saw red’ he is still accountable for his behaviour.  In part this is because they clearly still retained some control, in the sense that they are setting limits to the level of abuse they are prepared to use.  After all, if you are stronger than the other person and/or there are potential weapons around, and you’ve not killed them yet, then you must be setting limits.  It’s also noted that victims of DV learn to tread on eggshells – they avoid doing the things that seem to trigger the violence. The aggressor gets their way. Its often concluded that for adult perpetrators, ‘violence is intentional’. Continue reading

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CPV Conference Season!

I do love a good coincidence! It seems we are in CPV conference season at the moment, just as the political parties get going on theirs, but more impressively, the themes that are emerging for me resonate from one event to the next.

I attended the Break4Change Annual Network Event in Brighton in September, and one of the key themes of the day was the need for collaboration across services in the delivery of support for families experiencing child to parent violence. Ideally, this was seen as taking place in a multi-disciplinary project, such as B4C Brighton where Children’s Services, the Youth Offending Service, Rise (domestic abuse) and AudioActive (an arts and media charity) not only work together on a day-to-day basis but are all represented on the Steering Group. More particularly to this project, it was considered that it should be embedded in the local authority in order to be delivered effectively. Continue reading

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Violence against Grandparents: Finding out more 

I am very pleased to post this information and request from Dr Amanda Holt, who has been instrumental in bringing about wider knowledge and understanding of child (and adolescent) to parent violence. She is now about to begin some research into violence and abuse towards grandparents, from their grandchildren, and is interested to hear from practitioners, and ultimately grandparents, with awareness and experience of this.  

As Helen impressively documents, there is a useful research literature developing on adolescent-to-parent violence/abuse, and this is giving us some insights into who, where, how and perhaps why we are seeing this problem across a range of families. However, there is very little research into violence against grandparents, yet I am hearing from practitioners that many grandparents attend CPV support programmes because they are experiencing violence from their grandchild. Many of these grandparents are involved in kinship care arrangements with their grandchild(ren), whether arranged formally (e.g. through a Special Guardianship Order, for example) or informally. A recent survey of 101 kinship carers in Australia found that nearly half (46%) of carers (the majority of whom were grandparents) reported violent behaviour from the child they were caring for and which, in 89% of cases, was directed towards them. As with CPV, verbal abuse, psychological abuse and physical aggression were all reported and the impacts mirrored those commonly experienced by parents who experience violence from their children: stress, mental health problems, physical health problems, additional family conflicts and social isolation. Continue reading

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