Soaring number of children being taken into care for abusing and beating up parents

This was a headline in the Sun newspaper last weekend, in an article by Michael Hamilton. Freedom of Information requests to 149 councils in England resulted in a figure of 62 children, ranging in age from 10 upwards, removed from their homes in 2015 by just 16 authorities. Some authorities refused to answer, citing data protection laws. The article lists the authorities which did respond and the relevant number in each case. The corresponding number for 2014 was 49. There are no other details, other than comments from an NSPCC spokesperson, recognising the impact of trauma on children’s behaviour and highlighting the need for help and support for families. Please assume my usual comments about the reliability of statistics such as these!

Having a child taken in to care is a generally a last resort for families experiencing child to parent violence. Firstly a family will typically experience abuse over a long period before it reaches a stage when this might be considered. Once the difficulties are acknowledged as abuse rather than “normal” behaviour, other help will have been sought; but sadly may not be available for too many families. We hear of families being repeatedly turned away by Children’s Services because their problems do not match the services available or reach the threshold for care. And of course, most families do not want a child removed until there is no other option available and the levels of threat have become unbearable and unsustainable.

There is no information given as to the route into care, nor how long children remain in care. Some children will be placed under section 20 in Britain, but others are likely to be on care orders. Some will expect to return home after a period of respite or therapy, others are removed permanently. Sadly once in care, the type of support available does not always meet the specific needs of children and young people, and some families have reported that their child’s behaviour worsened as a result; and I know that many adoptive families would be concerned that a return to care would further traumatise an already fragile individual.

Having said that, I also hear of the tremendous relief that having a child removed from the home can bring to a family in crisis, where not only the parents but also siblings and pets are being terrorised on a daily basis. Each family will make the hard decision for themselves. What it means for that family, and how things then change, is as individual as the factors behind the abuse, and the journey to that point.

4 Comments

Filed under Discussion, news reports

4 responses to “Soaring number of children being taken into care for abusing and beating up parents

  1. I have no doubt that violence to parents is just as common here in Australia as it is in the UK but in my experience it is rare for a child to be taken into care because of this – unless they are making allegations against their parents. I’ve known parents beg to have children removed to no avail, and one or two were so desperate that they made threats against the child to get Child Protection to take notice. Even the risk to younger children is not taken as seriously as I think it should be. But I’ve heard several times of Protective workers threatening to remove the non-violent children and one case where a younger child was removed because of violence by a sib – they said they had nowhere suitable for the violent 12 year-old, who remained at home!
    One of the ironies is that it is often assumed that foster care is out of the question because the child is being violent towards a parent, yet many of these children are only violent towards their immediate family members. I used to be a foster parent and it was remarkable how well behaved some children were on short term placements, who were giving parents and teachers hell.
    Removal from home for a few weeks sometimes turns these situations around, but placement with a relative (aunts and uncles tend to work best) is far preferable to Care.
    Reading Greg Routt and Lilly Anderson’s book recently I was struck by their mentioning that in the USA a short period of incarceration in a youth detention center was often helpful. That is extremely rare here in Australia (at least it is in the States I’m familiar with).
    In Spain there are several residential facilities who work with parentally-violent youth. There’s nothing like that in Australia.

    • Thanks for your comments Eddie.
      My guess is that this is becoming more common as professionals and agencies become more aware of the issues. Certainly I have been told that youth justice services in Britain are now seeing the beginning of prosecutions for child to parent violence – rather than dealing with this as a sideline; and I have spoken with social workers working with young people “on the edge of care” who are all too familiar with the difficulties faced by families.
      I would be very interested to hear from parents who have been directly affected.

      • kim undy

        Having struggled for over a year with CPV, the best our LA could offer was S20, it soon became apparent they saw S20 as a route to permanent care – ie a full Care Order, and they then launched a dirty campaign against us to prove what terrible parents we are, thus justifying the need for a full care order. At no point did one single social worker refer to the violent assaults or the effect of the same on us. As mentioned by a previous respondent, our son did not become violent towards staff in his S20 placement – this was seen as further proof that it was our parenting at fault. Once placed in a long term therapeutic residential school, our son did indeed become aggressive & assaulted a staff member. Before his arrest and subsequent S20 accommodation, I had asked, begged, pleaded & campaigned for help from my PASW & GP & local SEN.

      • Thanks Kim for your comment. I am sorry to hear that your experience was so negative. I do believe that the situation is better now than it used to be, but I know that some services are more understanding than others. I hope that by raising this we can work towards a better system where all the issues are understood and a fairer, more appropriate response can be offered.

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