Category Archives: Discussion

Everything has changed – and nothing has changed

Well this could be true about so many things at the moment! The world we knew is far from the one we are living in at present, and yet the violence and abuse that too many families experience on a daily basis continues. The pandemic has driven a flurry of interest in child to parent violence and abuse from the media; but also people have been looking for different ways to conduct training, and so my diary has been rather taken up by Zoom events! For the last few months I have found myself reflecting in a more concerted way than usual on the progress of work around child to parent violence and abuse since 2010.

So, things that HAVE changed in the last ten years:

  • More research and literature from around the world.
  • More interest and awareness among practitioners as training spreads out.
  • The development of support programmes around the country – with an accompanying body of evidence of effective work – including on-line interventions at the moment, which have the benefit of being able to reach more people.
  • Much more awareness around the issue in the media with significant amounts of “sympathetic” coverage.

Set against things that haven’t changed … and I was struck particularly by how little overall “big picture” progress we have made by reading the conclusions and recommendations to the recent report from Rachel Condry and Caroline Miles, as well as other research at the moment:

  • Still no definition or agreed terminology.
  • Still a need for a more comprehensive safeguarding approach to families experiencing CPV.
  • Still a lack of respite or longer term support that neither criminalises the young person, nor presents the parents as the cause of the problem.
  • Still no embedded support for families, making it subject to programme closures when budget cuts strike.
  • Still no wide recognition of the link between CPV and harm outside of the home, whether criminal exploitation or gang involvement.
  • Still too much silo-working with lack of communication between agencies, and escalating risk going un-acknowledged.
  • Still no “ownership” by any specific department, which means parents are still passed between agencies and no-one takes overall responsibility for coordinating a response.

That all sounds very negative, and in my gloomier moments probably reflects my feelings. But I am also aware that it is important to celebrate what has changed, and not to minimise the huge benefit to families of even small developments that have taken place. Perhaps it is time for a different direction of work, to think and act more strategically; to start to focus efforts higher up and to look for the bigger changes that we now need to see. A massive upheaval in how everything happens may be just the right moment to look at this!

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Taking #CPV Services Online Part 2

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.

 

 

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Taking #CPV services online, Part 1

As we entered lockdown in March in the UK, there was significant anxiety initially that families would find it impossible to access the help they needed across many service areas, quickly followed by the development of an online offer, which has continued to evolve and improve over the ensuing months. It is clear that things will remain “different” for a long time, as we get used to living in this new world; but there is already a lot we have learned, and as always we can benefit from sharing and learning together.

In the first of what I hope will be a series of posts exploring taking services online, I bring you an interview / discussion with a team of practitioners in Bedford, using the Who’s In Charge? programme to support families experiencing violence and abuse from their children.

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CPV Lockdown Reflections #2

As we emerge out of lockdown in Britain, I have been musing about what we’ve learned in this period about the issue of child to parent violence and abuse, and about some possible answers to the kinds of questions we are always being asked: Is it getting worse, why is it getting worse – you know the ones!

Each of us has experienced lockdown in a unique way, according to our circumstances, but there are many commonalities. People have reported poor or troubled sleep, the intensity of living in close quarters with the same people and the “pressure cooker” effect as tensions build; the anguish of not being able to touch or hold people we are close to, not feeling able to comfort people in distress, increased anxiety with loss of control over our situation and lives. Many people have also experienced bereavement, financial difficulties or poverty of resources. Some have seen a huge increase in work and all that brings, while others have been left wondering about their long term employment. There have been concerns about the length of time children are spending on their screens, and about the mental health of both old and young. For some there has been the stress of supporting school work, for others the relief of fewer demands to comply with rules and expectations. There has been a notable rise in reports of domestic abuse during this period, and, alongside greater interest in the media, more people have come forward too to talk about the abuse they experience from their own children. Continue reading

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Does the Domestic Abuse Bill go far enough in addressing adolescent to parent abuse?

Coinciding with the third reading of the Domestic Abuse Bill in Parliament, Caroline Miles and Rachel Condry argue that, as it stands,  it represents a missed opportunity in the development of understanding of and provision for families experiencing adolescent to parent violence. (published July 6th 2020)

Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-2021: Does the inclusion of ‘relatives’ go far enough in addressing the issue of adolescent to parent violence?

 

  • The Domestic Abuse Bill 2019-2021 covers violence and abuse from children (aged 16 and over) towards their parents but stops short of identifying violence from children towards parents as a specific subtype of domestic abuse.
  • The omission risks adult to parent violence remaining an invisible phenomenon that is not readily identified, recorded or counted, and also misses an opportunity to develop a national policy response.
  • The Bill creates an offence covering 16-18 year old perpetrators but no guidance as to what police powers should be used to deal with domestic violence and abuse by children, especially when perpetrated towards parents.
  • There needs to be a coherent and strategic police response to adult to parent violence, which addresses the needs of parents but also recognises the safeguarding needs of adolescents.

Read the full blog on the University of Manchester website here.

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Behavioural Science and Child to Parent Violence

I am pleased to publish this blog from Eleanor Haworth of Adoption UK, about her interest in Behavioural Science and what we can take from this to aid our understanding of child to parent violence and abuse. You will also find it published on the Adoption UK website. 

I am a great fan of behavioural science. I love the idea of using gentle linguistic and behavioural nudges to move us all forward, rather than the world being governed by big, bureaucratic, behemoth systems. You might question what connection this could possible have to the issue of child to parent violence. You would not be alone in suggesting that I am making an outlandish connection, this is sort of my stock in trade. However, I am begging your indulgence and asking you to bear with me on this one. I promise there is a connection, really. Behavioural science is clever and complicated and I am sure that it is beyond my humble powers to explain. However, the key elements that I think are essential to a discussion of child to parent violence are fascinating. Continue reading

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Lockdown reflections

It’s been a few weeks since I posted anything here (though I’ve been busy on other pages) but I thought I would treat you today to some ramblings and reflections. Like many people I am sure, over the last 3 months I have experienced both periods of intense, pressured work to tight deadlines, and days of feeling bereft of direction and purpose. Conferences, training events and report launches have been cancelled, and it is too easy to forget the hours of work and preparation that will have gone in to them by all involved. For some families, lockdown has brought a relief as stresses have been removed, and more harmonious relationships are formed and developed. For others the pressure cooker environment has increased fear and risk. Practitioners have been forced in to new ways of working – at short notice and without always having the kit or the skills – and yet some of those ways have paid dividends as they have learned to communicate with young people electronically – on their own “territory” – for a change. Being in Lockdown has intensified the sense of importance of what we do, but also the despair that things take so long to accomplish. Continue reading

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You take into this pandemic the risk you carried with you.

There has been much discussion about the increase in domestic abuse that has been seen and documented around the world, as country after country has responded to the Covid-19 pandemic by locking down the population. A less discussed aspect of violence within the family in the past, but one which is increasingly receiving attention, is that of child to parent violence, with people now asking how quarantining and isolation are impacting this group of families. I am pleased to bring this guest post, discussing this issue, from Eleanor Haworth of Adoption UK. Eleanor is Director for Service Delivery at the charity. With her social work background as well, I am hopeful that we can start to see a greater influence in this area of practice. 

 

Professor David Spiegelhalter has one of the best job titles in the world, he is a “Professor of the Public Understanding of Risk.”  I was listening to him talking on the radio, and he has a calm and reassuring manner. He does not patronise, but he convinces me that I can understand complex statistics. This is not something that my school mathematics teachers ever accomplished. Continue reading

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An innovative approach to working with adolescent family violence in DuPage County, Illinois

Continuing the series of guest blogs, I am pleased to bring you this from Amanda Holt, information about a service in Illinois for families experiencing adolescent family violence. I was particularly thrilled to hear from Amanda, as I have been contacted a number of times by people in the States asking for pointers and guidance in developing or accessing help. News of the screening tool is very welcome, and I was also very interested in the understanding that girls are coming from different circumstances, with separate needs. Finally, the first responder aspect is one which can hopefully feed in to similar discussions taking place in the UK at present. Please do check out all the links; there is a lot of information here and it will take a while to digest it all, but it brings a new interpretation to the table which many will find helpful I think. Thank you Amanda!

 

This month marks the tenth anniversary that North East DuPage Family and Youth Services (NEDFYS) (in Illinois, US) ran its first adolescent family violence programme, based on principles from the Step-up programme that was developed by Greg Routt and Lily Anderson in King County, Washington State in 1997. Since that time, 170 families have completed all 21-week sessions and graduated successfully: of these, only 11 (6%) were rearrested for a new offence related to family violence within 12 months after graduation. The programme itself is a collaborative effort between the Juvenile Court Judges, the States Attorney’s Office, the Public Defender’s office, Northeast DuPage Family and Youth Services and Probation and it emerged from a Models For Change four-year grant that DuPage County received from the MacArthur Foundation beginning in 2006. Continue reading

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Keeping safe: #CPV and lockdown.

 

Around the world, families are discovering just how stressful it can be to live in close quarters 24 hours a day, with no end in sight. Sharp words, spoken in haste, throw fuel on to anxiety, anger and frustration, often with no other room to separate people off. And there is only so much screen-time you can allow! Most families will hopefully come through this relatively unscathed; changed perhaps but still ok, still safe. But there has rightly been a lot of concern by government – and in the media – about supporting and monitoring the most vulnerable children now that schools are closed, those for whom school is their safe space or where they get their main meal of the day. There’s been lots of encouraging noise for parents about not having to recreate school, but to focus at this time on keeping kids feeling safe and secure, since these are things that are needed before any learning can take place. But what about the parents whose anxiety is about having the children at home for the next foreseeable because THEY don’t feel safe? What about the families experiencing child to parent violence, now quarantined or social distancing WITH their child? What advice and support do they need? The things we suggest for other families feeling tired and emotional start to sound rather trite and patronising.

It is well established that family violence is likely to increase at times like this. There is an excellent piece in The Conversation from Nicole Westmarland and Rosanna Bellini, explaining the additional stressors, and making helpful suggestions for ways to support individuals we may know over the next months, but again, the focus is on adults. For parents of children using violence in the home, some of the remedies are not available – leaving home for a refuge being the most obvious example, although the government have made it clear, following a certain amount of pressure,  that escaping abuse is an acceptable reason to be out of the house.

The experience of each family will be very different. The needs of an eight year old child will potentially be significantly different to those of a seventeen year old. The risks posed by each will differ, as will likely triggers, and underlying circumstances. Where the source of a child’s stress was itself in school, parents have already tweeted about the great sense of relief that has come with not having to force a child out of bed each day. Relaxing the rules CAN help, but there is anxiety then about the future – and rods made for backs!

I have tried to gather here bits and pieces from a range of sources. This is advice from parents and practitioners on the front line – living and working with child to parent violence on a daily basis.

Refresh your safety plan and check in with friends and neighbours who might be called on to help.

Those using NVR will be familiar with the need for a support network, with the importance of prioritising issues and not focussing on the small stuff. You will want to keep a modicum of normality for your own sanity, but the “tidy house police” will not be round any time soon!

Bring in all those de-escalation and stress relieving tactics and techniques you learnt wherever possible.

Rachael says: “Parents need to feel able and confident to reach out to their support network more now than ever.” (20/3/20) And that means friends and supporters taking the initiative and checking in regularly too – don’t wait for things to blow!

Have a talk right at the start about how things are going to work: Expectations of safety, what everyone will do if feeling angry or unsafe, what consequences might be brought in to play.

Keep expectations low. Sally Donovan tweeted: “After my experience of homeschooling through a fug of trauma, I’d say don’t. Focus on safety and fun and make the focus getting all of you through this emotionally intact. #unofficialadvice” (23/3/20) Other parents have also been talking about removing themselves from the educational aspect altogether and making use of online resources. With so much on offer, and much “education by stealth” there should be something there that everyone can use!

It is important for children to stay in touch with other people at this time, whether chatting, FaceTiming or gaming, but what this means will vary from individual to individual, and it still comes with all the usual concerns about who they’re talking to, what people are saying and what they’re being asked to do. And how do you limit screen time if there seems not much else to do? This might itself be a source of tension and create later risk for child and parents. Talk about the new rules about screen time and how they will be enforced right from the start.

What about leaving the house? Children and young people who insist on doing this are going to be hard to stop and it’s likely the people they are seeing are not positive influences. What are your usual expectations and what actions do you normally take? If the police are aware of your family then now might be a good time to have a catch up with a named officer.

Maximise your own opportunities to leave, whether for exercise, shopping or self-care. Remember to breathe!

Look for the positives! Can you use this time to connect over shared activities you both enjoy, however brief? Use kind words where you can. Write thankful notes to each other if real conversations don’t work.

Make use of specialist support groups more than ever at this time, whether with regard to adoption, special guardianship, special educational needs, disability, substance use, parenting. Check out their suggestions for filling the days, and resources they may offer.  Put helpline numbers in your phone.

Wishing everyone safety, and looking forward to a better time in the future. Keep well!

CapaUK     https://www.capauk.org

Parentline Plus   https://www.familylives.org.uk/how-we-can-help/confidential-helpline/

Parenting NI   https://www.parentingni.org

Adfam   https://adfam.org.uk

Adoption UK   https://www.adoptionuk.org

SEND/VCB     https://www.facebook.com/TheSENDVCBProject/

Bereavement   https://www.cruse.org.uk/get-help/helpline

Young Minds   https://youngminds.org.uk

Beacon House   https://beaconhouse.org.uk/resources/

Safe Hands Thinking Minds   http://www.safehandsthinkingminds.co.uk/covid-anxiety-stress-resources-links/

 

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