Troubled families / Child to parent violence: some background thinking

Bear with me as I wander around thinking out loud here.

I recently attended the Centre for Crime and Justice StudiesTroubled Families conference, in London.

Over the course of the day a number of eminent academics from across the fields of history, social policy, social work, sociology, economics, criminology and law presented papers on the origins, evaluation and policy context of the Troubled Families Programme. While the focus of the day was on the way that the Tory government had defined and presented a particular problem; and then gone on to provide a solution to it, regardless of evidence in either case, there was inevitably much to ponder in a more general sense, and much specifically relevant to work with child to parent violence.

I have been interested in the ideas behind the Troubled Families Programme for a long time and have mentioned it in blog posts before. In Britain some of the earliest awareness of the issue of child to parent violence emerged during evaluation of the FIP programme; and there is much to commend the idea of intensive, focused work with a family looking at all the issues they face – when the alternative might be a short assessment of the presenting problem and then referral on elsewhere. While there are huge problems with the way that families have been identified as needing support, and in the way the programme has been funded, some might say that long term, relationship based, holistic work sounds a lot like the social work they originally aspired to do.

So, some notes from the conference and some thoughts:

  • Programmes designed to work with “troubled families” across the decades have exclusively directed their attentions to mothers. In this, and other arenas, mothers are “held responsible” for their children in a way that fathers are not. Their duty to care and be responsible is very practical, but also somehow moral in nature.
  • Whether under Labour or Tory governments, the drive has been to individualise the difficulties facing families, and the accompanying solutions – Personal blame and failure, rather than government policy or societal failure.
  • The focus on the individual, and on everything accompanying that – takes focus and money away from community solutions, support networks, a sense of belonging and being cared for.
  • As always the assumption is that families who are struggling are from a particular section of society. “Othering” and then demonising as a result. Those with wealth are presented as not having personal or family difficulties. Yet we know that family violence (for example) cuts across all sectors of society. Very difficult for “ordinary” people to seek help then.
  • The presentation of poor parenting as at the root of all of society’s problems makes it even more difficult to ask for help. Your children are not only making problems for your family but for the whole of society.
  • As practitioners we need to develop a different understanding of the issues and a different model of help. To be driven by community led provision rather than individual pathologising. We need to listen to families rather than telling them what the problems are. Bottom up help as a result.

Sound familiar? Thanks for listening!

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A National Survey for Adoptive Parents: The Reality of Physical Restraint

This is an issue that has raised its head a lot recently in connection with child to parent violence, and about which The Open Nest charity has already developed significant resources. This fact finding survey is circulated for all adoptive parents in Britain and closes at the end of February.

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Please use this link to complete the survey.

 

 

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Call to Action – Knowledge Inquiry: Children who come into the care system under a voluntary arrangement

I have blogged in the past about the use of section 20 of the Children Act 1989 with families experiencing violence and abuse from their children. I know that this is an area of practice that is fraught with disagreement and potential misuse; and it has been the subject of legal discussion too of late (see here for example).

Your Family, Your Voice, an alliance of families and practitioners that has been developed by Family Rights Group to counter the stigma and negative presumptions about families whose children are subject to or at risk of state intervention, have launched an inquiry into the powers and duties which exist under section 20. You will find information about the aims of the inquiry, what form it will take, an invitation to take part – including information about focus groups – and full briefing notes on the NIROP pages linked below. Please do check it out, and contribute to the inquiry if you are affected by any of the issues.

Source: Call to Action – Knowledge Inquiry: Children who come into the care system under a voluntary arrangement

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Safe Lives Spotlight on Young People

The domestic violence and abuse charity, Safe Lives, have just launched their most recent Spotlight feature, which is about young people this time round, and which runs through to the end of March.

Safe Lives Research findings: 

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In the third of our Spotlights series (end of Jan – end of March), we’ll be focusing on the experiences of young people (13 to 17 years) affected by domestic abuse and the professionals who support them. We’ll be answering questions such as: how can professionals adapt to meet the needs of young people? How does a young person’s experience of domestic abuse differ to an adult’s? What are the best ways to support young people who harm without criminalising them?

Through a combination of blogs, short films and podcasts, we’ll be posting the latest research, practical resources for professionals, practitioner advice/guidance and talking to young people about their experiences. Be part of the conversation through our webinar on 3rd March from 1-2pm, and the Twitter Q&A on 15th March from 1-2pm – use the hashtag #SafeYoungLives.

There will be new content uploaded on the Safe Lives website each week, including discussions about violence and abuse from young people towards their parents and carers, so keep checking regularly. I will tweet further links as they go live!

 

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CPV survey: 1st impressions

At the end of November 2016, Al Coates, an adoptive parent and social worker, put out on social media a  survey asking parents about their experience of child to parent violence. You can read more about it here and here. He received 264 responses over a three week period, largely – unsurprisingly given the main mode of dissemination – from adoptive parents. The collation started straight away and a first paper was put out at the start of the new year. First Impressions is available from the CE&LT website, part of the University of Sunderland. Dr Wendy Thorley, of the University of Sunderland, is a member of what might broadly be termed the Steering committee for this project, and she has helped to edit the report.

The survey asked questions about a family’s experience of child to parent violence, and about the age at which it started, the impact on the family, and about the help that had been offered – or not.

There has been some concern expressed that the collection of data, and the findings themselves, are not robust and lack the necessary validity and reliability of academic research. To which the answer is that this was never intended as such, but rather as an opportunity for parents to speak and to highlight issues which might perhaps warrant further future investigation. Al is now looking further at the responses received, to draw out themes that warrant greater attention, with a view to encouraging greater research. There will be further papers published, but in the meantime I leave you with this.

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Investigating adolescent family violence, an Australian research programme

Always good to hear about new research starting up, and so it was great to hear from Rachel Condry about a major piece of research beginning in Australia in February 2017.

Investigating adolescent family violence

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Investigators: Dr Kate Fitz-GibbonProfessor Jan ColesAssociate Professor JaneMaree MaherProfessor Jude McCullochDr Deborah Western

Adolescent family violence (AFV) describes violence perpetrated by young people against family members. This distinct form of family violence has a detrimental effect on the health and wellbeing of families. To date, there is limited research examining AFV, and few tailored responses and programs to address it.

Investigating adolescent family violence  is a project being conducted by a multidisciplinary team of Monash University researchers from the School of Social Sciences, the Department of General Practice, and the Department of Social Work. It will explore attitudes towards, patterns of, and the impact of AFV in Victoria. The project builds on, and compliments, work being conducted in the United Kingdom (titled Investigating adolescent violence towards parents).

This is a pilot project, funded by a Monash Affinity grant, which will build knowledge in this complex area, and form the basis of a national project. The findings will be of relevance to all Australian jurisdictions, and have the potential to inform and reform legal, health and social responses to AFV, and provide a greater understanding of ‘risk’.profile-condry-rachel

Associate Professor Rachel Condry, Oxford University, the lead researcher on the UK project will conduct a workshop with Monash researchers in February 2017.

(reblogged from the Monash University website)

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Wrongful arrest prompts call for change

As a new year begins most of us hope for better things to come. The last year was considered by many to have been particularly vicious in an inanimate sort of way. I do believe there is always something to celebrate if you look hard enough; and for those working the field of child to parent violence there has been, within the UK at least, an encouraging interest in training, and a period of consideration of what I have termed nuance – understanding that not all experiences of child to parent violence and abuse will be the same, with a corresponding need for varied responses.

But there have also been personal setbacks for some, with a fear that no one understands their situation. It may have been an unanswered plea for help; or they may have been at the sharp end of an investigation with false allegations made by a child against them. It is right that procedures then roll into action – allegations must be taken seriously, but this should involve a thorough and proper investigation of what has supposedly taken place. Sadly, for one mother in Tennessee, events took a rather different turn, as reported here. Whether out of prejudice, misogyny, or sheer ignorance, is not clear at this stage, but, thankfully for her, her lawyer has supported her all the way and is now calling for a review of procedures in this instance, and in general. The lawyer’s letter follows:

 

 

The case is a stark reminder of how far we all still have to go. But we can be glad that there are those willing to take up the baton, to raise understanding and to work for change.

Wishing you a happier new year in 2017!

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