With a hope that we may be starting to see the beginnings of the end of lockdown, we are reminded that we won’t be seeing a wholesale return to ‘life as we once knew it’; and there are plenty of discussions about what the new normal will look like. So it’s not too late to bring you another in the series of learning from lockdown and taking services online! Hopefully there might be something here that is interesting to you, or can help inform the wider changes …
The team working at Family Based Solutions (FBS) have been delivering support to families experiencing child to parent violence and abuse since they were established (as PAARS) in 2013. As a specialist organisation, they have developed real expertise in this field, but part of their success is that they are able to offer a holistic, wrap around response to families, addressing any and all issues they face and which may be contributing to the break in relationships. Taking advantage of training opportunities, they have now adopted a Solution Focussed approach, which they have found enables families themselves to recognise the way through and to re-establish parental authority and respect.
As we went into the first lockdown in March 2020, in common with many agencies, FBS found that the work dried up. As we all reeled from the shock of what was happening, schools were no longer open to make referrals and we all stayed firmly at home, there was uncertainty as to the way forward for families who we all knew to be struggling still – and more. And then gradually responses were developed and service resumed, not ‘as usual’ by any means, but what could be achieved in this new world. For FBS, this was a new online-only service, offering parents a 4-week group response, in addition to their online advice and private messaging service.
Providing a service in this way meant that the team was able to identify families who could wait a little longer with some quick input, as opposed to those in immediate crisis. It offered ‘holding’ strategies that could be used straight away to help parents cope and move forwards. It allowed parents to meet others and to know that they were not alone. Some families asked to join for a further 4 weeks, not because the sessions had not helped, but precisely because they had done so, and they wanted a chance to embed their learning further and even to encourage other families. With the waiting list addressed in this way, more attention could be given to those families needing greater support.
The face-to-face contact is missed of course. Sharing a cuppa and a chat before a session allowed for the development of relationships and an insight into the family’s wider situation. Getting straight down to business saves time, but some things have been lost for a while. Young people can be reluctant to join in (an observation that has been made by almost everyone in the field) – but then they often were before, so practitioners are used to working solely with parents, or devising new ways to encourage their involvement.
An interesting observation was made that, working online, parents were able to ‘hide’ by keeping their camera off and not using their real name. Far from being seen as problematic, it was recognised that some parents were simply too ashamed of their situation to ‘come out’ as being abused by their children, and this afforded the anonymity needed to allow them to take part and to start to understand their situation.
In common with others, the relief of not having to travel has been celebrated. Not only is there less time wasted because of this, but the services that are now online are accessible to people from a much wider distance, meaning more people can find the support they need. One loss recognised however was the opportunity to meet with colleagues at training events and conferences, which have so enriched practice and understanding. Never ones to turn over and give in, the team set up a series of events online, including a Child to Parent Violence networking event. The first meeting, attended by over 60 people, all practitioners in the field, offered the opportunity to share experiences and learning. It was exciting to see how practice has developed so quickly recently, reaching far more parents than even a short while ago. A second event has been booked for April 22nd, where a number of practitioners will give a short presentation about the work they are doing, as well as offering opportunities for learning and sharing again from each other. To find out more and book your place, go to Eventbrite.
To find out more about what the team at Family Based Solutions have been up to, head over to their website.