Adoption and Fostering Podcast, child to parent violence

I was privileged last week to have a conversation about child to parent violence (CPV) with Al Coates, adoptive parent, social worker and adoption expert, as part of his series of podcasts on the website Misadventures of an Adoptive Dad. Al has kindly allowed me to reblog the podcast here, but please do go over to his website and check out the other posts and interviews. The full version of his post can be found here. Al gives a thoughtful, informed and sometimes rawly honest account of fostering from both sides of the fence.

CPV is a big issue for many adopters (see the report : Beyond the Adoption Order), and it has been interesting to watch over the last couple of years as parents have gradually felt more at ease in discussing their experiences on line. It is important that these conversations continue in order to support one another, but crucially also so that other people hear the extent of the struggle, fear, anguish and exhaustion; and start to develop proper resources.


Filed under Discussion

9 responses to “Adoption and Fostering Podcast, child to parent violence

  1. Eddie Gallagher

    Hi Helen,
    like violence to foster parents, this is another issue that has been ignored or swept under the carpet. However, I’m sure you wouldn’t want to give the impression that a high overall percentage of adoptive families have such issues. In the report Beyond the Adoption Order there are harrowing accounts of CPV, but it is important to note that this is just looking at adoption breakdown. In that report it states that “UK studies that have separated out disruptions pre and post order report a disruption rate of 4%-11% post order.” So it may be that less than 5% of adoptive families experience CPV.
    Most adoptions work and most adoptive children do well. I’m sure we wouldn’t want to scare away any prospective adopters. In my sample of almost 500 families there have only been 2 or 3 adopted children, which I find surprising.
    It’s a bit like the incidence of CPV in children with autism. This is a big issue and certainly far from being uncommon nowadays. Autism is my second special interest these days and I get slightly more referrals for autism (children and adults) than for violence to parents. Obviously I’m more likely to see those who fit both categories. However, I recently looked at all my referrals for autistic children over the past 10 years and was very surprised to find that less than 20% were also exhibiting CPV. It’s still not the norm and, as with incidence in the general population there is often a danger of exaggerating this to make a point (as people routinely do by quoting the 10% figure derived from dubious surveys using the Conflict Tactics Scale).

    • Thank you Eddie for taking the time to reply to this post. You raise an important point about figures, and we should be careful not to fall victim to listening only to those who confirm our views and understanding. There are indeed many families who have happy and successful adoption stories. We must not however neglect the needs of those with less straightforward experiences.

  2. Julie Selwyn

    Hi Eddie I do agree that it is important not to over-estimate the incidence of CPV. But we also need to be aware that in the UK we are placing children for adoption who have experienced very traumatic pasts and are at increased risk. Social workers need to be aware of this and not blame parents. Our study of over 37,000 adoptions did find a very low disruption rate – only 3.2% over a 12 year period but when we talked to families (where it had not disrupted but where they were struggling) CPV was a major issue in those families too. Adoptive parents remain committed and want help for their child- not disruption. You might also be interested to know that research is also identifying high rates of autism in children adopted out of care.

    In Australia there are very few children (only about 53) adopted out of care (although this is likely to rise with the Open Adoption Institute opening in Sydney). These children tend to be placed for adoption as infants and they have not suffered the abuse and toxic stress so prevalent in UK adoptees. In comparison in England there are about 4,800 adoptions out of care each year with more than 70% coming from a background of maltreatment. So in many ways I’m not surprised you only have a few cases in a sample of 500 families.

  3. paul dade

    I am sorry but I believe that these figures (CVP) are much higher than reported and it is very easy to diminish the need for more support, by using reported low statistics

    • Thank you Paul for your comment. The Beyond the Adoption report was a shock to many in reporting child to parent violence as such a frequent experience. You are right in suggesting that many do not report their abuse, and this is across the field, not only adoptive families. It is difficult for parents to reach a point of asking for help, but there is also no organised way to collect the statistics. The truth is that we really have no idea how big an issue it is.

  4. Wendy Kenny

    I have four children. 3 out of 4 are adopted, 2 out of 3 of my adopted children have left my care in their teens. 1 out of 3 was/is aggressive & violent to us. 1 out of 4 was fairly average & 1 out of 4 is an absolute delight and the only reason I know it is not all my fault. 0 out of 4 are in the stats!! I have friends and family who are hiding the reality of their children’s aggression and demands. Adoptive families are put under immense pressure to be better parents than any other; after all they ‘asked’ for it! Therefore, they are likely to feel like failures and are likely to keep quiet. And in my experience adoptive families are treated worse than child abusers if they cannot cope. Again making them feel too ashamed to talk about it or seek help!

    • Thank you Wendy for your comment. We really do need to hear more directly from parents, for the message to finally get through. Very best wishes for the future for you and your family, Helen

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