An innovative approach to working with adolescent family violence in DuPage County, Illinois

Continuing the series of guest blogs, I am pleased to bring you this from Amanda Holt, information about a service in Illinois for families experiencing adolescent family violence. I was particularly thrilled to hear from Amanda, as I have been contacted a number of times by people in the States asking for pointers and guidance in developing or accessing help. News of the screening tool is very welcome, and I was also very interested in the understanding that girls are coming from different circumstances, with separate needs. Finally, the first responder aspect is one which can hopefully feed in to similar discussions taking place in the UK at present. Please do check out all the links; there is a lot of information here and it will take a while to digest it all, but it brings a new interpretation to the table which many will find helpful I think. Thank you Amanda!

 

This month marks the tenth anniversary that North East DuPage Family and Youth Services (NEDFYS) (in Illinois, US) ran its first adolescent family violence programme, based on principles from the Step-up programme that was developed by Greg Routt and Lily Anderson in King County, Washington State in 1997. Since that time, 170 families have completed all 21-week sessions and graduated successfully: of these, only 11 (6%) were rearrested for a new offence related to family violence within 12 months after graduation. The programme itself is a collaborative effort between the Juvenile Court Judges, the States Attorney’s Office, the Public Defender’s office, Northeast DuPage Family and Youth Services and Probation and it emerged from a Models For Change four-year grant that DuPage County received from the MacArthur Foundation beginning in 2006.

Last year I had the privilege of visiting the team in Illinois and observing their innovative work. I was struck by their dedication and commitment to the cause, and also by their extensive knowledge of adolescent family violence and their thirst to keep on learning and develop new ways of working. For example, frustrated that court involvement and detention was not helpful in dealing with cases of adolescent family violence (where there were high rates of re-arrest), the team developed the first screening tool (that I’m aware of) to help them appropriately respond to its different contexts. Published in 2015, the Adolescent Domestic Battery Typology Tool (ADBTT) represents the culmination of a five-year project where the team, with the assistance of research consultants from the National Center for Juvenile Justice (NCJJ), reviewed 150 case files from which they developed a set of typologies, which were then subject to a large pilot validation study (details of the development process can be found in the ADBTT manual here, and also here). The ADBTT helps the team to identify who should be diverted from the court, what the level of supervision should be, and what (if any) the out-of-home placement needs are. For each of the ‘types’, safety planning, trauma-informed practices, and family therapy principles that work with the family system as a whole are at the centre of the intervention work. Of course, the tool is not a replacement for thoughtful consideration of each unique family and its needs, but it does offer a useful additional resource for practitioners who need to make difficult decisions about how to support the different families that they encounter.

A second innovation is the Girls Gaining and Growing Project, which specifically looks at developing a treatment protocol for girls who are violent towards family members. The team identified that the girls on their programmes were experiencing incredibly high levels of trauma (in 90%+ of cases) and they found that this was often generational: many of their parents (particularly mothers) were also scoring highly in the pre-programme trauma screening. The team also found some interesting gender differences in the contexts of adolescent family violence – for example, the ‘escalating’ type was very rare in girls, compared with boys. In response, the team developed a specific trauma-informed, gender-responsive intervention for adolescent girls who use violence towards family members. While the programme uses some modified versions of existing interventions, others are original. The team now always screen for trauma-related symptoms (the programme workers use the Trauma Recovery Scale (TRS) prior to any intervention work as they find it so helpful in informing their practice. 

The team have also recently developed a First Responder Protocol for those, particularly the police, who arrive at a crisis situation involving adolescent family violence and require guidance as to how to respond appropriately. Included in their protocol is: i) clear definitions to help first responders identify the violence, ii) a recommendation for the use of a ‘designated’ juvenile police officer to respond appropriately, and iii) a reminder of the importance of applying a developmentally-appropriate, trauma-informed and gender-responsive approach when responding to such families. 

I’m very much looking forward to hearing what the NEDFYS team does next.

For further information, please contact Viv Odell, Associate Director, NEDFYS. Email: vodell@addison-il.org

 

I very much welcome contributions to this website, and look forward to publishing material from other people engaged in this important work.

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Keeping safe: #CPV and lockdown.

 

Around the world, families are discovering just how stressful it can be to live in close quarters 24 hours a day, with no end in sight. Sharp words, spoken in haste, throw fuel on to anxiety, anger and frustration, often with no other room to separate people off. And there is only so much screen-time you can allow! Most families will hopefully come through this relatively unscathed; changed perhaps but still ok, still safe. But there has rightly been a lot of concern by government – and in the media – about supporting and monitoring the most vulnerable children now that schools are closed, those for whom school is their safe space or where they get their main meal of the day. There’s been lots of encouraging noise for parents about not having to recreate school, but to focus at this time on keeping kids feeling safe and secure, since these are things that are needed before any learning can take place. But what about the parents whose anxiety is about having the children at home for the next foreseeable because THEY don’t feel safe? What about the families experiencing child to parent violence, now quarantined or social distancing WITH their child? What advice and support do they need? The things we suggest for other families feeling tired and emotional start to sound rather trite and patronising.

It is well established that family violence is likely to increase at times like this. There is an excellent piece in The Conversation from Nicole Westmarland and Rosanna Bellini, explaining the additional stressors, and making helpful suggestions for ways to support individuals we may know over the next months, but again, the focus is on adults. For parents of children using violence in the home, some of the remedies are not available, leaving home for a refuge being the most obvious example.

The experience of each family will be very different. The needs of an eight year old child will potentially be significantly different to those of a seventeen year old. The risks posed by each will differ, as will likely triggers, and underlying circumstances. Where the source of a child’s stress was itself in school, parents have already tweeted about the great sense of relief that has come with not having to force a child out of bed each day. Relaxing the rules CAN help, but there is anxiety then about the future – and rods made for backs!

I have tried to gather here bits and pieces from a range of sources. This is advice from parents and practitioners on the front line – living and working with child to parent violence on a daily basis.

Refresh your safety plan and check in with friends and neighbours who might be called on to help.

Those using NVR will be familiar with the need for a support network, with the importance of prioritising issues and not focussing on the small stuff. You will want to keep a modicum of normality for your own sanity, but the “tidy house police” will not be round any time soon!

Bring in all those de-escalation and stress relieving tactics and techniques you learnt wherever possible.

Rachael says: “Parents need to feel able and confident to reach out to their support network more now than ever.” (20/3/20) And that means friends and supporters taking the initiative and checking in regularly too – don’t wait for things to blow!

Have a talk right at the start about how things are going to work: Expectations of safety, what everyone will do if feeling angry or unsafe, what consequences might be brought in to play.

Keep expectations low. Sally Donovan tweeted: “After my experience of homeschooling through a fug of trauma, I’d say don’t. Focus on safety and fun and make the focus getting all of you through this emotionally intact. #unofficialadvice” (23/3/20) Other parents have also been talking about removing themselves from the educational aspect altogether and making use of online resources. With so much on offer, and much “education by stealth” there should be something there that everyone can use!

It is important for children to stay in touch with other people at this time, whether chatting, FaceTiming or gaming, but what this means will vary from individual to individual, and it still comes with all the usual concerns about who they’re talking to, what people are saying and what they’re being asked to do. And how do you limit screen time if there seems not much else to do? This might itself be a source of tension and create later risk for child and parents. Talk about the new rules about screen time and how they will be enforced right from the start.

What about leaving the house? Children and young people who insist on doing this are going to be hard to stop and it’s likely the people they are seeing are not positive influences. What are your usual expectations and what actions do you normally take? If the police are aware of your family then now might be a good time to have a catch up with a named officer.

Maximise your own opportunities to leave, whether for exercise, shopping or self-care. Remember to breathe!

Look for the positives! Can you use this time to connect over shared activities you both enjoy, however brief? Use kind words where you can. Write thankful notes to each other if real conversations don’t work.

Make use of specialist support groups more than ever at this time, whether with regard to adoption, special guardianship, special educational needs, disability, substance use, parenting. Check out their suggestions for filling the days, and resources they may offer.  Put helpline numbers in your phone.

Wishing everyone safety, and looking forward to a better time in the future. Keep well!

CapaUK     https://www.capauk.org

Parentline Plus   https://www.familylives.org.uk/how-we-can-help/confidential-helpline/

Parenting NI   https://www.parentingni.org

Adfam   https://adfam.org.uk

Adoption UK   https://www.adoptionuk.org

SEND/VCB     https://www.facebook.com/TheSENDVCBProject/

Bereavement   https://www.cruse.org.uk/get-help/helpline

Young Minds   https://youngminds.org.uk

Beacon House   https://beaconhouse.org.uk/resources/

Safe Hands Thinking Minds   http://www.safehandsthinkingminds.co.uk/covid-anxiety-stress-resources-links/

 

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Reporting on the police response to #CPV

Some reading for you to occupy the next weeks and months!

There is a lot of interest at the moment in developing an improved understanding of, and response to, child to parent violence and abuse from within the police and youth justice services.  See for instance the work within the N8 Policing Research Partnership in England, and also from the state of Victoria in Australia. Another important read from Australia is the PIPA project Report, Positive Interventions for Perpetrators of Adolescent violence in the home.  The PIPA project aims to improve evidence regarding:

  • legal responses to AVITH as it presents in different justice and service contexts
  • the co-occurrence of AVITH with other issues and juvenile offending
  •  current responses and gaps in service delivery.

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Supporting adoptive families experiencing #CPV: making things better, not worse

This is a post that has been a long time brewing. My thanks to a friend for her contribution in helping me work out the many issues involved. Any errors or lack of clarity in the way this is laid out are down to me.

The experience of violence and abuse from children within adoptive families has been well researched and documented. (See for instance Selwyn et al and the work of Al Coates and Wendy Thorley here and here.) Greater recognition and the provision of the Adoption Support Fund within England have made it slightly easier for parents to access help when needed within the last years, but it remains the case that many families feel let down by services who have misunderstood their requests for help, or their degree of pain, or even the mechanisms by which such violence might have come about. (If you are in any doubt about this, the website of Special Guardians and Adopters Together is a record of the anguish and anger of a group of parents who feel betrayed in this respect by the system.) I can speak personally about the individuals who have contacted me or spoken to me at events. Continue reading

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Updating the APVA Guidance Document

Five years ago, after many months of creative debate and editing, we launched the Home Office guidance document on Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse (APVA). It was part of the government’s commitment through the VAWG strategy, but also fulfilled a need identified at the launch of the findings of the Oxford research project into APVA.

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“Powerful but dangerous”: telling stories about #CPV

Telling real human stories helps communicate hard, complicated issues to the wider public through the media, but anyone doing so should think carefully about what they are prepared to say and what the consequences might be, writes Karyn McCluskey.

I have written something similar to this in the past, but it always bears repeating … Think carefully before you put yourself and your family forward as a “case study”. Given that I myself put put shouts from time to time for people willing to speak to the press, I grant that this could be construed as hypocritical. I do believe that it is important for people to hear what it is really like to experience child to parent violence, and that without the personal stories it will take much longer for the reality of this tragedy to permeate the general consciousness. I know too that parents have heard another person speak about the help they have received, and it has been the starting point for their own journey back. But I also understand how damaging, and even dangerous,  it might be if you say things you later regret, or your child finds out you have mentioned them, or your family is recognised in some way. And that’s before you start reading the comments from people after the piece is published. Some journalists are happy for interviewees to remain anonymous. Others want to use names and faces, but even the former is not without potential difficulties. Continue reading

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CPV, Home to School and Back Again

This is the second in a recent series of guest posts. Nikki Rutter writes about the overlap between violence and abuse from children in education settings, and in the home. Nikki is an ESRC-funded Doctoral Researcher at the department of Sociology at Durham University. Her research interests include: Child-to-parent violence, domestic abuse, violence against women and girls, grounded theory. She is a member of Durham University’s Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse (CRiVA), and Communities and Social Justice Research Group at Durham University. You can contact Nikki on twitter. See more details of her work on the CPV Research Directory.

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