Bear with me as I wander around thinking out loud here.
I recently attended the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies’ Troubled Families conference, in London.
Over the course of the day a number of eminent academics from across the fields of history, social policy, social work, sociology, economics, criminology and law presented papers on the origins, evaluation and policy context of the Troubled Families Programme. While the focus of the day was on the way that the Tory government had defined and presented a particular problem; and then gone on to provide a solution to it, regardless of evidence in either case, there was inevitably much to ponder in a more general sense, and much specifically relevant to work with child to parent violence.
I have been interested in the ideas behind the Troubled Families Programme for a long time and have mentioned it in blog posts before. In Britain some of the earliest awareness of the issue of child to parent violence emerged during evaluation of the FIP programme; and there is much to commend the idea of intensive, focused work with a family looking at all the issues they face – when the alternative might be a short assessment of the presenting problem and then referral on elsewhere. While there are huge problems with the way that families have been identified as needing support, and in the way the programme has been funded, some might say that long term, relationship based, holistic work sounds a lot like the social work they originally aspired to do.
So, some notes from the conference and some thoughts:
- Programmes designed to work with “troubled families” across the decades have exclusively directed their attentions to mothers. In this, and other arenas, mothers are “held responsible” for their children in a way that fathers are not. Their duty to care and be responsible is very practical, but also somehow moral in nature.
- Whether under Labour or Tory governments, the drive has been to individualise the difficulties facing families, and the accompanying solutions – Personal blame and failure, rather than government policy or societal failure.
- The focus on the individual, and on everything accompanying that – takes focus and money away from community solutions, support networks, a sense of belonging and being cared for.
- As always the assumption is that families who are struggling are from a particular section of society. “Othering” and then demonising as a result. Those with wealth are presented as not having personal or family difficulties. Yet we know that family violence (for example) cuts across all sectors of society. Very difficult for “ordinary” people to seek help then.
- The presentation of poor parenting as at the root of all of society’s problems makes it even more difficult to ask for help. Your children are not only making problems for your family but for the whole of society.
- As practitioners we need to develop a different understanding of the issues and a different model of help. To be driven by community led provision rather than individual pathologising. We need to listen to families rather than telling them what the problems are. Bottom up help as a result.
Sound familiar? Thanks for listening!
The domestic violence and abuse charity, Safe Lives, have just launched their most recent Spotlight feature, which is about young people this time round, and which runs through to the end of March.
Safe Lives Research findings:
In the third of our Spotlights series (end of Jan – end of March), we’ll be focusing on the experiences of young people (13 to 17 years) affected by domestic abuse and the professionals who support them. We’ll be answering questions such as: how can professionals adapt to meet the needs of young people? How does a young person’s experience of domestic abuse differ to an adult’s? What are the best ways to support young people who harm without criminalising them?
Through a combination of blogs, short films and podcasts, we’ll be posting the latest research, practical resources for professionals, practitioner advice/guidance and talking to young people about their experiences. Be part of the conversation through our webinar on 3rd March from 1-2pm, and the Twitter Q&A on 15th March from 1-2pm – use the hashtag #SafeYoungLives.
There will be new content uploaded on the Safe Lives website each week, including discussions about violence and abuse from young people towards their parents and carers, so keep checking regularly. I will tweet further links as they go live!
At the end of November 2016, Al Coates, an adoptive parent and social worker, put out on social media a survey asking parents about their experience of child to parent violence. You can read more about it here and here. He received 264 responses over a three week period, largely – unsurprisingly given the main mode of dissemination – from adoptive parents. The collation started straight away and a first paper was put out at the start of the new year. First Impressions is available from the CE< website, part of the University of Sunderland. Dr Wendy Thorley, of the University of Sunderland, is a member of what might broadly be termed the Steering committee for this project, and she has helped to edit the report.
The survey asked questions about a family’s experience of child to parent violence, and about the age at which it started, the impact on the family, and about the help that had been offered – or not.
There has been some concern expressed that the collection of data, and the findings themselves, are not robust and lack the necessary validity and reliability of academic research. To which the answer is that this was never intended as such, but rather as an opportunity for parents to speak and to highlight issues which might perhaps warrant further future investigation. Al is now looking further at the responses received, to draw out themes that warrant greater attention, with a view to encouraging greater research. There will be further papers published, but in the meantime I leave you with this.
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.
What happens when it is no longer safe for a child to remain at home? Sometimes children go to live with another family member, perhaps an absent parent, or a grandparent, aunt or uncle. I have heard of a young man going to live at his girlfriend’s parents’ house. These sorts of arrangements can work well, particularly if the violence and abuse is very specifically directed to only one person. But if it is more general, then the chances are it will re-emerge in the new home and this arrangement will also break down. Some young people may find themselves admitted to hospital where their risky behaviour is considered to be caused by mental ill health. Some may end up in youth custody as the result of a very serious assault. Others, perhaps the majority, will be taken in to the care of the local authority, whether as a voluntary agreement or on a care order, as “beyond parental control”. (Where you end up then seems sadly to be something of a lottery and must be the subject of future posts.) Continue reading
Filed under Discussion, Law
What is it with knives? (I’m sure someone will answer that for us!) So many parents report the use of knives in the abuse they face from their children. I clearly remember a conversation with Julie Selwyn after publication of Beyond the Adoption Order, about the frequency that they had been mentioned in conversations with parents about their adoption journey. And I remember the horror in a friend’s voice as they described their early experience of fostering – which also marked the end of that venture for them. When people talk about being at “the sharp end” of a child’s anger, frustration and pain, this is too often what we are talking about. Continue reading
On Sunday 28th August, Hannah Meadows posted on her website “But they look so innocent”: Our CPV experience – an account of living with traumatised primary aged children, and the family’s attempts to access help. The post was picked up by many people over the next couple of days, with significant twitter comments, and then also featured as a Mumsnet Blog of the Day. Hannah’s is by no means the only blog to raise the issue of child to parent violence in recent weeks. As schools returned, other parents spoke out about the stresses faced by their young people and the impact this has on mood, regulation and behaviour; and a quick tweet asking for contributions brought many other families and issues to my attention. Discussion ranged from the difficulties in being believed that there is a problem, professional understanding of the issues, lack of resources and the impact of budget cuts, the problem with “quick fixes” and being encouraged towards courses that are too brief, to what happens when misguided help makes things worse. Some of these issues are all too familiar, but others are important considerations which, perhaps, have not been sufficiently addressed in the past.
One of the people who replied to my comments was Scott Casson-Rennie, adoptive parent to three sons and Regional Manager in the Development Team (England) for Adoption UK. Scott, who tweets as @GayAdoption Dad, kindly agreed to contribute his thoughts and experience for this post. Continue reading