Can anyone respond to a referral of parent abuse? Since we are encouraging practitioners to recognise when child to parent violence is a feature of family function or dysfunction, what are people supposed to do next? How should they intervene? Do you need to follow an approved programme, or can you use practice that works in other settings?
A discussion with Sandra Ashley, Director of Hertfordshire Practical Parenting Programme, touched on these questions as we looked at the range of support programmes on offer and the training offered to facilitators. (You can learn more about some of these programmes on the Resources pages of this blog) Some of these programmes have commonalities. Others feel quite different in emphasis and style and in philosophical background. Meanwhile, bespoke parent abuse projects increasingly find that they are taking referrals from mainstream agencies that feel their own staff lack the necessary expertise (or time perhaps?), while initiatives such as that falling within the Troubled Families remit may be using practitioners from a range of backgrounds to tackle this among many other issues.
So is one approach better than others? Can you pick and choose? Use practice from a range of professional approaches, or identify attractive elements from different programmes? Family situations are all very different – what impact does that have on the intervention you choose? There are obviously reasons why schemes of work have been developed as they have, but not all projects are manualised and some leave room for creativity on the part of the facilitators.
In our discussion we identified a number of things to think about:
* A stand-alone introductory session to a programme may be inspiring, but falls short of the in-depth examination of research and evidence-based work now being developed that comes with full training. This might offer opportunities to plan and practice, may come as a “toolkit”, and some will also provide ongoing support from colleagues. It will cover safety planning as standard, the unusual as well as the expected and what to do if it doesn’t work – reassuring that!
* Techniques or styles of intervention require you to believe in them yourself, or you will not be able to “sell” them to anxious or resistant families.
* Interventions should be backed up by evidence. Suggesting something to a family that then backfires may leave the practitioner answerable for the consequences.
I’m not sure if that’s encouraging or not, but what it suggests to me is that we can’t afford to “dabble”. The abuse of parents by their children is a serious issue and parents have a right to demand the attention of practitioners who know what they’re doing, from whatever philosophical or professional background. Raising awareness is one thing, but it needs to be accompanied by equipping workers to take control and move from understanding to support and change. We all have a responsibility to take up that challenge.