Following on from my earlier post about the logistics of providing support for families online rather than in person, I was really pleased to be able to speak with Jane, a parent of 2 adopted children aged 4 and 6, who wanted to share her own experience of accessing help over the last few months. While she had been experiencing some difficulties prior to the spread of COVID, and she had been receiving help in relation to her older child, for her family the effects of lockdown were devastating as the behaviour of her younger child became dangerous and unmanageable as he struggled to cope with the sudden change in routine. Furthermore, the family immediately lost all access to support – formal and informal – and respite, which had previously kept them going.
Googling for sources of information and help, Jane eventually came across the Who’s in Charge? programme, and was able to speak with someone who could reassure her that she was not alone, who could listen without judging, and who was able to put her in touch with an online support programme that was about to start right then. I asked Jane what she would like to tell people about her experience of receiving support: what had been good and what not so good; what those delivering services should bear in mind for the future.
Because I needed help NOW, it was really good that I was able to access a service remotely. It meant that I didn’t need to be “in area” and I didn’t have to join a waiting list for months. There were day-time or evening options which made it so much easier too, as I didn’t then need to worry about childcare while I “attended” the programme. I’m not super confident about technology, but it was really easy to work out, and I only needed a little help.
There were about 5 people each time in our group. On Zoom it can be really tricky if there are lots of people – if someone hogs the conversation it’s hard for other people to get a word in, but with only 5 of us it worked, and the facilitators were really good in making sure everyone had a turn to speak and to be heard. That would be something very important to say though. What makes it work is the competence of the facilitators.
One of the good things for me was the possibility of turning off my camera and microphone, but still being able to hear what was going on and participate. Sometimes I was too distressed and didn’t want people to see me cry, or the kids were making a noise and so it was good that everyone else didn’t have to hear. At the same time though, the other parents were really good at reaching out if they knew someone was distressed. In a normal situation there might have been tissues, or hugs, or a cup of tea. Even without this, you still felt supported as we had all gelled as a group. I think this made it really inclusive.
I realise that my children are still very young, and that there might be different issues for people with teenagers for instance. I didn’t have to worry about them overhearing, or coming in so much. However, other people in the group did have teens and they still managed to make it work. Now we are allowed out of the house it is obviously easier. It would have been different during actual lockdown.
What I would say to other parents experiencing violence and abuse from their children is, “Give it a go! Take the opportunity even if you’re not sure about it. What have you got to lose! It’s a good way to get help if you’re anxious about meeting other people and talking about your experience. We’ve kept in touch since, so the support carries on”.
For facilitators I would say, “This was a very positive experience. It was more accessible, with more options for time, and makes it easier for both parents to attend. The fact that the group was quite small was important to me, and it was crucial to have rules about who speaks when and how this is agreed. The competence of the facilitator is crucial.”
Many thanks to Jane for her honesty and willingness to talk about her experience. As well as Who’s in Charge? many other support programmes are now being offered online. Do check out my Directory page for suggestions if you need to access help.