School based support for #CPV

I feel very strongly that school-based family workers are ideally placed to offer parents support, where there is child to parent violence (CPV). Let me tell you why.

Parents can feel comfortable talking to staff based in schools about a whole range of issues. For many – admittedly not all – there is familiarity with the environment and at primary level particularly there may be known faces in the playground to gravitate to. As well as regular parent evenings and conversations with teachers, parents may have met with other support staff in the past.

For many families this is the first place they would choose to seek advice about parenting issues. See this graph for instance, from the 2011 Family Lives report, When Family Life Hurts (p12), showing the sorts of places that families had initially sought help for the difficulties they were facing.

Similarly, an older survey from 2001, The Home Office Citizenship Survey: people, families and communities, found that 55% of parents were aware of schools as a source of information on bringing up children, second after healthcare, and that of parents who received help from educational establishments, 84% reported finding it helpful.

School may be the first place that difficulties are recognised or named. While some children will confine the harmful behaviours to home, others will be acting out their anger and distress within the classroom, leading to opportunities to work together with parents to try to understand what is happening and how to help everyone involved. Or a child may be refusing to get out of bed and come to school, alerting the authorities that all is not well. I spent many years from 1993 working in schools in different guises, for some of the time with the organisation School Home Support. It was not unusual to hear from parents asking for help with a child who was “out of control” or who refused to get out of bed in the morning, or where teachers asked for help to prevent a child’s exclusion; and where the more obvious suggestions had already been tried to no avail. As a consequence, it did not come as a surprise to learn that one of the first support programmes for families experiencing CPV in Britain, PEACE, had arisen in schools in the Wirral.

As an almost universal service, schools can potentially reach the most families in need of help. Increasingly practitioners of many disciplines are based there to support a family’s wellbeing as well as a child’s learning and it is possible to work with a family earlier on to help prevent problems becoming entrenched. This might mean running support groups for parents experiencing child to parent violence on site, or one to one sessions, or an awareness raising session and signposting to services. There is space to work with young people on their relationships generally, and to offer individual counselling where there are concerns. It was great to read the recent blog from PEGS. Michelle was invited to take part in a school’s virtual SEND conference for parents, at which she spoke about CPV and the types of help available, including from PEGS.

Practitioners based in schools cannot do this on their own of course, but they hold a key piece of the jigsaw and have significant knowledge of families which may stretch back generations. Working together with other professionals they can help to bring hope and safety to families affected.

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Raising awareness in Belgium

I often reflect on how far we have come in the UK in terms of speaking out about child to parent violence and abuse. It is too easy to live in a bubble and assume that the willingness to talk about the issue, and the development of a response is something that has happened world wide, but there are many places – even close to home – where stigma and fear prevent parents from speaking out, and where an absence of academic research leaves a hole in national awareness, and ultimately in support for families.

Last week I had the privilege of speaking with Hilde van Mieghem, who has directed a number of TV documentaries in Belgium about violence within families between partners, and from parent to child – and now wants to explore violence and abuse from children towards their parents, in conjunction with Borgerhoff & Lamberigts TV. Her work is unusual in that she is not particularly interested in hearing the “what” and “when”, or in sensationalising the story, but rather focusses on the effect the abuse has on the individual, and their search for help: what feelings were aroused, the psychological impact, how people responded, how easy (or hard) it was to find help. The previous series were well received within Belgium and prompted many individuals to come forward who had not previously thought about their experiences as abusive or who had been too ashamed or afraid to seek support. They sparked parliamentary discussion, led to the establishment of new training courses for social workers and care givers, and encouraged the development of peer groups and awareness and prevention campaigns.

Within Britain we have a number of individuals who have been prepared to speak publicly about their personal experiences whether for training purposes or in the wider media gaze, campaigning for better support as well as to bring hope to other families. In making this latest series, the company hope that Belgian families will be prepared to speak anonymously about the impact of the abuse they experience, but they want to juxtapose this with the experiences of families from other nations where the issue is addressed more openly – specifically to highlight the stigma and taboo still prevalent in that country. So yes – this is going where you thought it might be!

If you are interested in learning more about this project, with a view to being interviewed on camera, please let me know and I can pass on your details to the production company. The company very much hope to speak with parents, but if there are also young adults who have moved through this and wish to speak they would like to include them too where appropriate.

“We’re looking for people that have gone through a process of self-reflection and evaluation (maybe therapy?) in order to look back at what has happened with the needed clearness and calmness of mind.”

Obviously there are concerns about finding help for viewers who might respond following the programmes airing. I am assured that the company have given thought to where help might be available, though clearly the hope is that this will be a spring board for the development of bespoke support in the future.

I will post more details as I have them. Thank you.

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CPA by any other name…

I have always welcomed guest posts on this blog, and so it was good to be able to invite Michelle John of PEGS to contribute to our mutual learning and understanding of the issues. Michelle is the Founding Director of PEGS, and has the rare combination of a background in domestic abuse advocacy, lived experience, and the willingness and ability to speak up for her fellow parents. Michelle and her team support hundreds of parents impacted by CPA, alongside delivering impactful training for organisations such as police forces and local authorities, campaigning nationally for policy change, undertaking speaking engagements and raising awareness of the issue.

When it comes to describing abuse directed towards a parent, carer or guardian, there are so many phrases in circulation. While to some extent, what we call the abuse is secondary to the action we are taking to reduce it and support those impacted by the issue, it is important that we use words which don’t lead to misconceptions.

When I set up PEGS, myself and my team made the decision to refer to CPA or Child to Parent Abuse. At the time, this was at odds with the definition of ‘Adolescent to Parent Violence or Abuse (APVA)’ used in Home Office guidance and other professional literature. But the crux of our decision was the potential of shunning the majority of parents if we promoted that our services were for those experiencing APVA. An adolescent is a person aged 13 to 18. By contrast, you are always your parents’ child – whether you are 1 or 51. Finding organisations set up to support them, and then taking the leap of actually asking for the help they need, is incredibly difficult for all parents impacted by CPA; with that in mind, we wanted to make sure our language was as inclusive as possible so we didn’t put off anyone whose child had either not yet entered their teen years or had already reached adulthood.

The results of our first parental survey – undertaken in November 2020 – back up the general consensus that many cases of CPA start well before the teen years. More than half of our families had started experiencing abusive or violent behaviour when their child was aged 12 or below – and a significant number had children who were just 5 when the CPA began. We’re currently mid-way through our second survey so the results haven’t yet been collated, but looking at the data from the responses we have so far supports the fact that CPA really is happening within all types of families.

We know that CPA is under-reported (and historically under-researched) so it’s really important for all of us involved in campaigning, supporting and/or researching collectively eradicate this perception that the problem is limited to a handful of teenage boys being physically abusive. Both research and anecdotal evidence are beginning to build up a picture of every single type of family being impacted by CPA.

Even if their child is not tall enough or strong enough to physically overpower them, CPA takes many forms and coercion, threats, stealing and many other types of abuse are not restricted by the size or force of the person displaying the behaviours (or the person on the receiving end). 

That’s why at PEGS, we’ll continue to use the term Child to Parent Abuse and encourage others to do so, too.

Many thanks Michelle, for your insights and your support for families. We look forward to further posts from her in the future.
If you would like to contribute anything, whether from your work or experience, learning or practice, please do get in touch!

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The need for “safe houses” as part of the provision in #CPV

Government of Catalonia sets up state flat for Spanish teenagers who beat up their parents

I was really interested to see this piece in The Times this morning reporting on the provision in Spain of accommodation for young people using violence within the home.

Despite the framing of the story in the headline, and indeed in the main body of the article, those offered a place will have been convicted within the juvenile justice system, and the 9 – 15 month placement will be “offered” as an alternative to remaining at home under supervision. Such accommodation is intended to provide respite for both parents and teenagers, while they undergo counselling to address their mental health and behaviour. This response to the issue of adolescent to parent violence is typical of the Spanish approach which differs somewhat to that in other countries such as Britain.

Having said that, the question of whether safe accommodation should be made available to young people using violent and abusive behaviour towards their parents in this country is one which has come up in conversation a number of times recently. Removal from the home tends to be viewed as a last resort – frequently meaning that families must reach breaking point before such help can be accessed – and might be through local authority care, hospitalisation or a residential educational placement, or within the youth justice estate if diversion is not applicable. Yet families regularly ask for respite, as a way of meeting the needs of other children, of recharging their own batteries, or indeed as a safety measure because the situation is feeling too dangerous. Who might provide this, how it would be accessed and how it fits into other avenues of help are all interesting questions that must be considered.

The recent research from Condry and Miles into the impact of Covid-19 on the issue of adolescent to parent violence and abuse specifically recommends the establishment of such provision:

4. Provide safe spaces for families at crisis point and respite care for young people

Local authorities need to consider the provision of safe spaces for families in crisis. We were told of an example in Brighton where the police are working with the youth offending service to offer a safe space for young people to go during lockdown. Previously they were taking young into custody as there were no safe spaces for them to go for a ‘cooling off’ period so they have collaborated with the youth offending service and a family support service to offer a safe space for young people to stay while their parents are given support. This kind of innovation is important
at all times, a police cell is not the appropriate place for a child or young person in crisis, but during lockdown when other routes of escape are closed this becomes even more important. As one policy lead said: ‘There is a requirement for safe spaces for families in circumstances when the situation begins to escalate beyond parental control. The risk of criminalisation of children due to these circumstances is increased and should be avoided if possible’.

In an ideal situation there would be help provided before the situation feels unmanageable and dangerous, saving further harm to relationships, to health, to future prospects and wellbeing – and indeed to the public purse. As there is greater recognition of the issue of child / adolescent to parent violence and abuse, and as we see moves for a more strategic and joined up response, we must hope that such provision becomes part of the accepted norm in a suite of responses, designed to meet the very specific needs of individual families.

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Support for Adoptive Families

From time to time I receive books for review, particularly where they address the issue of child to parent violence and abuse. Where appropriate, I am pleased to comment on the content and provide comments for review. The new publication from Louise Allen, How to Adopt a Child, Your step-by-step guide to adoption and parenting, was one such book, and I was interested to find out about her comprehensive knowledge and experience of the adoption system. I have attached the review as submitted. You can purchase Louise’s book on Amazon (or through your local independent bookshop!) and you can read more about Louise’s work on her website.

Louise Allen makes it clear from the very first pages that this is a book with adoptive parents and their children at its heart. She writes from personal experience, laying out every aspect of the adoption process, in order that those thinking about adoption might have no surprises later. Not to put people off – unless that is the right response – but to leave you fully informed, fully armed, fully prepared to offer the support, the healing and love that will be needed. There is much about trauma, which will feature heavily for children who find themselves in need of a home. Allen pulls no punches in describing what this looks and feels like for the child, and the consequential feelings for the adults, but she goes on to offer very practical advice that comes from many years of training, parenting, and above all listening to children. As she says, “Living with a violent child that you have committed to love while everyone around you is offering their opinion is hard, very hard”. Allen is here to make it just a little less hard.

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Raising Funds to support the work #CPV

One of the hazards of seeing a need and responding to it is the constant need to raise funds to support the work. Grants may be available, but many organisations also adopt innovative and creative means. Family Based Solutions in Enfield come to mind with their Christmas single!

I recently received a request from Jane Griffiths of Capa First Response to highlight her planned sponsored walk – and I am pleased to advertise it here:

SPONSORED WALK TO RAISE AWARENESS OF CHILD TO PARENT ABUSE

Capa First Response CIC (Capa) is an online support resource for families and professionals. Capa works with the whole family, offering support and strategies to look at ways to communicate positively and repair fractured relationships, leading to reduced violence and abuse in the home. 

Since setting up in May 2020 Capa has supported over 250 families and professionals seeking support and advice, through our training, supervision, 121’s and advice and support sessions. 

To raise awareness of this issue and funds to continue the free services we offer, Jane the founder of Capa is completing a virtual sponsored walk. 

“The first parent who contacted Capa almost a year ago  lived in Powys, Wales and the first professional to contact me was from Kent, that is a distance of 197 miles. I decided I would walk this distance to help raise awareness and funds. I can’t physically walk between the two due to restrictions so instead I will be walking around my home county East Sussex. Starting on the 1st May I plan to walk almost 200 miles by the end of the month”. 

Jane is looking to reach a target of £5,000 which will enable Capa to deliver 50 FREE advice and support sessions and 50 FREE 121 sessions to families.

“It is estimated that up to 3% of families in the UK are impacted by child to parent abuse, the biggest plea I hear from parents is tell me ‘I am not alone’.

I set up Capa to support anyone , anywhere impacted by this issue including children, adolescents, parents, carers and professionals unsure of how or were  to find help”. 

You can help by donating what you can at:

https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/jane-griffiths-2

Or walk with Jane.

You can choose to walk a few miles or the whole distance and anything in between, email Capa for information on how you can walk to raise awareness.

info@capauk.org

Your donations can make a huge difference to families lives

‘I contacted you in February and you were a saviour, when I needed to nip my daughter’s behaviour in the bud before it got worse. I wanted to say thank you and say how much you helped me and how understanding you were. Just those 3 sessions helped me understand how I could help my daughter. It’s still working and my daughter is now back in school. Thankyou’. 

(Parent accessing advice and support sessions)

‘I had an argument with my mum this week, it didn’t turn violent though I went to my room and tried to stay away’. (14 yr old accessing 121 support) 

For more information about Capa First Response CIC visit 

www.capauk.org

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“An escalation of distressed behaviour”

I was interested to read this paper from the Chief Social Workers for England, when it was published at the end of February. A spectrum of opportunity: an exploratory study of social work with autistic young people and their families looks at three things:

  • how responsive social workers were to the needs of young adults and their families
  • what barriers there were to enable more effective interventions
  • how things could be done differently to improve outcomes

I won’t go in to detail about the main body of the report – it is straightforward and easy to read, so I recommend it to you. It talks about what works well and what needs to be done better. Unsurprisingly, it points to the importance of the development of specialist knowledge in social workers, joined up work across agencies, and earlier intervention and proactive support to provide help before things go wrong; with the centrality of long-term trusting relationships between families and workers. Sadly, there is mention once again of parents’ fears of being labelled as ‘bad’ or ‘failing parents’.

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Taking #CPV Services online, Part 4 (or possibly part 5)

With a hope that we may be starting to see the beginnings of the end of lockdown, we are reminded that we won’t be seeing a wholesale return to ‘life as we once knew it’; and there are plenty of discussions about what the new normal will look like. So it’s not too late to bring you another in the series of learning from lockdown and taking services online! Hopefully there might be something here that is interesting to you, or can help inform the wider changes …

The team working at Family Based Solutions (FBS) have been delivering support to families experiencing child to parent violence and abuse since they were established (as PAARS) in 2013. As a specialist organisation, they have developed real expertise in this field, but part of their success is that they are able to offer a holistic, wrap around response to families, addressing any and all issues they face and which may be contributing to the break in relationships. Taking advantage of training opportunities, they have now adopted a Solution Focussed approach, which they have found enables families themselves to recognise the way through and to re-establish parental authority and respect. 

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What do we actually know about #CPV?

An odd question for me to be asking perhaps after all this time! I was very struck by the recent paper from Amanda Holt and Sam Lewis talking about the ways that child to parent violence is variously constructed by government and by practitioners, and the implications of this for practice. The starting positions we take, the assumptions we make may well be unconscious, but if it has taught us nothing else, CPV has surely taught us that we need to examine every assumption, challenge every preconception and get ready to believe the apparently impossible! That said, the debate as to where CPV “sits” (not quite domestic abuse, not quite juvenile delinquency, not quite safeguarding) does continue to grind on – albeit very slowly. Continue reading

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Co-producing a new #C/APV programme in Kent

Having spent the last few months thinking about the issues of delivering work to families online, interviewing practitioners (here and here) and a parent, and reading commentary and reports, I have formed in my head a series of questions, the responses to which seem fundamental to safe and respectful delivery of this particular type of work:

  1. Power. Who is defining the problem, the need, and the appropriate response? What demands are made in terms of compliance and availability? How are solutions negotiated and achieved?
  2. Technology. Access to devices, to broadband, to knowledge and skills.
  3. Space / Time. The possibility of being able to think clearly and speak safely. The possibility of making use of suggestions made within current family life. The possibility of escape.
  4. Monitoring of risk and safety. Awareness of coercive and controlling behaviours and their impact on the ability to monitor this remotely.
  5. Knowledge and skill sets. Including confidence in the issues and in technology, curiosity, creativity.

All of the work I have looked at so far has been designed originally for face-to-face delivery, and then adapted for online work. In contrast, The Kent Adolescent to Parent Violence programme for families with children aged 10-18 experiencing Child and Adolescent to Parent Violence (C/APV), currently being developed and piloted in Kent, has been written almost entirely with online delivery in mind. It was interesting then to see how these questions had been considered and answered. Elaine Simcock, Practice Development Officer within the CYP Directorate talked me through it. Continue reading

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