The experience of Black mothers in negotiating CPVA

Whether in the way we think and talk about child to parent violence and abuse (CPVA), in the way programmes are designed and delivered, or in the way services are commissioned, many of us are acutely aware that there are huge gaps in understanding and representation. Assumptions about parental practice, about relationships with authority, or access to services, are the obvious points at which every person’s own experience impacts the way we think of what is ‘normal’. But it goes much wider than this and we would do well to take the time to listen more to those who bring a different voice and experience.

Anu Adebogun was one of the researchers with Rachel Condry and Caroline Miles, who examined the impact of the covid pandemic for families living with CPVA. She is now engaged in her own doctoral research at Oxford University looking at the experience of Black mothers living with CPVA, and is seeking participants from the Black community in order to broaden and deepen both our understanding and practice. Anu says, “I am interested to hear the views of Black mothers because their experiences and perspectives have not been considered in research. Nor has the role of culture, religion, race and ethnicity in shaping help-seeking for CPVA been explored.”

If this is something that you recognise as true for your family life, please do consider whether you can help in developing our understanding further. If you are unsure or you have questions, you can contact Anu using the email address given on the poster. If you would like to complete the online survey, you can follow this link. You will also find more information about Anu, and about the research there.

Thank you for your help with this important work.

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Statutory Guidance to the Domestic Abuse Act published

At the start of the month, the Government published the Statutory Guidance to the Domestic Abuse Act 2021, taking into account the results of the consultation process which took place in the latter part of last year. The guidance document is intended to “to increase awareness and inform the response to domestic abuse. It also conveys standards and promotes best practice.” The various chapters consider an understanding of domestic abuse, recognising domestic abuse, the impact on those involved, the different needs and circumstances of individuals affected, and agency responses – whether individually or as part of multi-agency groupings. While the vast majority of the document deals with abuse perpetrated by adults, it is important that there is also included the issue of young people’s harmful behaviour, whether towards their peers, or towards their parents / carers.

Laying aside the fact that some will find the inclusion of child and adolescent to parent violence and abuse (CAPVA) within a domestic abuse framework problematic (not least the assertion of the centrality of the desire to exert power and control), there is much in the majority of the guidance which translates to what we know to be important in working with families experiencing this: the low proportion of people seeking help for instance, but also the value of educational establishments and the health services for early recognition and routes for help. This is an area of work that we would particularly like to see developed further.

There is a large section on multi-agency work, including proper communication and sharing of information to keep people safe. This is to be applauded, and it would be good to see some way of including young people’s behaviour in more meaningful ways in future. Recognising the whole picture for families, and offering services specific to the needs of the individual situation is similarly something that we have been calling for, and welcome. The notion of Champions (point 306, page 97), is one that I have heard mooted by a number of people working in the CAPVA field recently. It would be interesting to think more about what this might look like in practice.

So, to the section specifically mentioning child-to-parent abuse, or CPA – the preferred name here but with acknowledgement that other terminology is also in use. This starts at point 32, on page 25, with an explanation of what is generally meant by this expression, acknowledging the shame involved and problems in asking for help; with more detail about support and intervention in Chapter 6:

Professionals should recognise the dynamics, impact, and risk when responding to cases of child-to-parent abuse. This may include, commissioning specialised local child-to-parent abuse services or embedding staff, within a multi-agency ‘front door’ referral system, who are trained to identify and respond appropriately to both the child and the parent victim. It is important that a young person using abusive behaviour against a parent or family member receives a safeguarding response, which should include referral to a Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub or local equivalent in the first instance where a parent advocate may attend, followed by referral to Multi-Agency Risk Assessment Conference if necessary, regardless of whether any police action is taken. (point 235, p80)

The importance of not simply addressing young people’s behaviour within services for adults has been a point raised on many occasions, and so it is good to see it included specifically here, as is the value of a trauma-informed response. There are, of course, already many specialist services developed for both young people and their parents / carers and in operation around the country, whether in stand alone organisations, or as part of wider provision under the umbrella, for instance, of Respect, or Break4Change.

Some of the final points in the guidance document are in relation to the development of standards within work with perpetrators, to ensure safety and quality. Moving forward, we hope to see the development of standards for all work with families where young people are using violence and abuse, recognising that interventions must ensure safety, rather than risk causing further harm, and that we are starting to amass a body of evidence of what works to restore healthy and harm-free relationships.

There is much here to welcome. We look forward to seeing the outworking of those recommendations highlighted, and to the long-awaited publication of the updated Home Office Guidance to APVA (Adolescent to parent violence and abuse), later this year, which will presumably contain more specific detail.

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Research project: adult child to parent violence and abuse

The momentum continues!

If this is an issue that is of interest to you, or which affects you personally, please do take a moment to look at this current research project, coordinated by AVA. AVA are seeking to recruit up to 5 women with personal experience of abuse from adult children, in order to increase understanding and awareness and to inform the future development of services in this neglected area of policy and practice.

Full details are available here. The deadline is Friday 29th July.

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That piece in the Sunday Times

Last Sunday there was an article in the Sunday Times, by Megan Agnew, titled “We had to hand our adopted child back – we had no choice.” The article is behind a paywall and I appreciate it may not be accessible to everyone, so I can tell you that it includes material from interviews with a number of adoptive parents, from Adoption UK, Nigel Priestley, Professor Stephen Scott and a spokesperson from the Department for Education. It talks about the changes in the adoption system over the years, about the need for support for families from the very start of the process because of the early experiences of children, and the tragic circumstances of families who no longer feel able to provide safety and security for their children and the rest of their family. Some of the families concerned were able to access support that was helpful, some went on to ask Children’s Services to accommodate their child under s20. In some situations this was seen as a success story; in others the plight of the child and the family became even worse. Essentially the piece is highlighting the need for proper support for adoptive families to enable them to stay safe and stay together; the reality of child to parent violence for many families driven by trauma and mental health difficulties; and the post code lottery of support available. In that sense it is not a new story, but by retelling it there is a hope that one day things might improve.

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National Congress on Child to Parent Violence in Valencia

After a delay of 2 years because of the pandemic, the National Congress finally met in Spain last week, attended by around 200 experts in the field. You can read a report on the gathering in the University of Valencia News, and there were people tweeting throughout the event, for more coverage.

“Within the last 20 years there have been many advances. Even though this still is an invisible problem its gaining visibility, and society is becoming more aware of this type of problem. Now we have intervention programmes specialized in child to parent violence and this is a huge step forward in hepling families and young people. We can also state that now there is an agreement among the professionals that it is a relational problem, that is necessary to work with the families and to involve the parents. It is also important to point out that at the beginning the phenomenon was only considered to be tackled from the judicial sphere and now the focus is on prevention and awareness”, María José Ridaura, vice-president of SEVIFIP and psychologist at Fundación Amigó, said.

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A Response to the Review of Children’s Social Care

The Independent Review of Children’s Social Care has been published less than a week, but there have already been many, many responses, analyses and commentaries. Most speak from their own particular interest angle, and that is what I will try to do, though I would like to make some general comments first. 

As a social worker I have thoughts on the whole report and – full disclosure – my first qualified job was within a patch team where we served a small neighbourhood, working to build protective relationships and activate community initiatives, as well as providing direct support and intervention; so I am all in favour of small, locally based teams working together across different disciplines in a way that is defined by the neighbourhood itself, intervening early on before difficulties are entrenched or crisis point is reached. 

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“A reduction of violent and abusive behaviours”, an Evaluation of the Building Respectful Families Programme

One of the constant features in recent reports about child and adolescent to parent violence and abuse has been the problem that there are few evaluations of the effectiveness of the support offered to families by the various programmes available. However, whether because of the rising interest meaning there is more funding available to pay for evaluation research, or because of the length of time many programmes have now been running contributing to more meaningful data, we are now starting to see increasing numbers of reports beyond the annual returns submitted to funders. The team at Safe! have recently commissioned such research, and I am pleased to share their report here, in a blog authored by Alice Brown, Service Manager for the Building Respectful Families programme.

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London Mayor welcomes ground breaking report into CAPVA

Over the years there have been a number of studies investigating the issue of child to parent violence within defined geographical regions, sometimes in response to specific incidents (Northumbria for instance) and sometimes commissioned by a particular body (this work in Lancashire for instance). In 2013 Condry and Miles published the first major work in the UK, which took as the main source the Metropolitan Police data over a 1 year period. 

Each of these have shed light on our knowledge and understanding of particular aspects of this issue. However, the London VRU report, “Comprehensive needs assessment of Child/Adolescent to Parent Violence and Abuse in London”, launched last week and welcomed by the Mayor of London is the first to offer a comprehensive examination of the prevalence and characteristics of child / adolescent to parent violence and abuse (CAPVA*) within the capital, and to scope out the help available for families affected by this form of violence and abuse.

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A response to the Government’s Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan

Somewhat delayed because of family circumstances, but I thought it would be helpful to have a look at the Government’s recently published Tackling Domestic Abuse Plan, and offer some thoughts.

Before I get started, a couple of caveats. First, the debate continues as to whether it is appropriate to consider child to parent violence and abuse under this umbrella. There are those who feel very strongly that it should be, because of the harm caused and the frequent links to the experience of intimate partner violence and abuse. (Academics such as Wilcox (2012) have made this case. PEGS literature is another case in point.) Others find the terminology and conceptualisation problematic, and shy away, preferring to focus on the age, the trauma and vulnerability of the children and young people themselves (for instance, many within the adoption community would feel this way). My sense from listening to people is that both views have merit, but that the circumstances around the harmful behaviour and family situation need to be taken into account in order to properly reflect each family’s situation.

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New work on APVA draws attention to links with sibling abuse and bullying.

In my own book, Child to Parent Violence and Abuse: a Practitioner’s Guide to Working with Families, I included examples of how different individuals had sought to “make real” the issue of data, and prevalence of CPVA for their own work and that of other practitioners and policy makers. Elizabeth McCloud had spoken to me at a conference some years earlier about the project she was undertaking, and she is one of the people referenced in my work. So I was thrilled to hear that her research was completed, and available to all. My one regret is that I did not find the time to read this earlier.

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