Category Archives: Discussion

That piece in the Sunday Times

Last Sunday there was an article in the Sunday Times, by Megan Agnew, titled “We had to hand our adopted child back – we had no choice.” The article is behind a paywall and I appreciate it may not be accessible to everyone, so I can tell you that it includes material from interviews with a number of adoptive parents, from Adoption UK, Nigel Priestley, Professor Stephen Scott and a spokesperson from the Department for Education. It talks about the changes in the adoption system over the years, about the need for support for families from the very start of the process because of the early experiences of children, and the tragic circumstances of families who no longer feel able to provide safety and security for their children and the rest of their family. Some of the families concerned were able to access support that was helpful, some went on to ask Children’s Services to accommodate their child under s20. In some situations this was seen as a success story; in others the plight of the child and the family became even worse. Essentially the piece is highlighting the need for proper support for adoptive families to enable them to stay safe and stay together; the reality of child to parent violence for many families driven by trauma and mental health difficulties; and the post code lottery of support available. In that sense it is not a new story, but by retelling it there is a hope that one day things might improve.

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Research priorities

I was chatting to someone recently and we were pondering the next direction for research in the field of child to parent violence and abuse. We are not without guidance in this respect. Most reports and papers conclude with recommendations, including further research needed to fill gaps in knowledge and understanding, and in the development of good practice.

Indeed, in the recent rapid literature review for the Domestic Abuse Commissioner’s Office (here and here), Victoria Baker and I made a number of proposals for the way forward, with eight separate research priorities which can be summarised as follows: 1) establishing a nationally agreed terminology, 2) collecting robust data, 3) longitudinal research looking at the long term implications including “cost to society”, 4) a focus on young people’s experiences and perspectives, 5) how the experience and presentation of CPV is affected by the intersection of different identifying factors and situations, 6) high risk cases and those involving sexualised behaviour and abuse, 7) robust examination of context, and 8) the impact of COVID-19 for families and support services.

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How can I be sure? Developing a standard for work with families experiencing child to parent violence and abuse

  • How do I choose between different training and trainers?
  • Can I be sure this service will really help my family?
  • What would make me choose to commission one programme rather than another?

All questions I have been asked over the years – some more recently than others – and all very valid!

How do you decide between different providers, now that the number of agencies offering training and provision around child to parent violence and abuse is growing at pace, and with so many programmes being designed from scratch? With so much offered online now, there is no longer the easy decision about travel time, though budget-size might still feature as a legitimate concern. And there remains limited research citing clear evidence of the long term effectiveness of different approaches.

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A consideration of violence

I’d like to start the new year off with a hope that we will see a continuing growth in understanding around child to parent violence and abuse – at all stages of life – and that that understanding will be matched by resourcing and provision. I wish all of you reading this good health in 2022, a kinder year hopefully for all!

In the meantime I have a guest blog from Jason Mitchell of Semblance Theatre, considering our understanding of violence and the meaning we make of it. I came across the work of Semblance Theatre through a Google alert. Jason is the Developmental Lead for Semblance, an organisation that combines extensive experience in the field of childhood trauma, particularly around adoption, with therapeutic approaches and performance arts. Over to you Jason ….

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Positive feedback

People who know me will probably tell you that I tend to shy away from conflict. Not quite “peace at all costs”, but nearly so. I’m sure it’s something I’ve carried from my childhood and, as I’m more aware of it, I reflect on when it can be a helpful stance to take – or not!

It’s something I hear of a lot, listening to parents who are living with violence and abuse from their children, as they become more and more restricted in the space they have and the lives they live in an attempt not to trigger ‘an incident’. Something that can seem helpful at the time perhaps, but ultimately this is going in only one direction. 

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CPV: Challenging (my) assumptions

In early research it was reported (Charles) that child to parent violence (CPV) was an issue more likely to be found in white families, as black or Hispanic parenting practice was considered to offer greater protection through a more rigid and traditional style. And yet, in Britain, we see Afro-Caribbean young people over-represented in the police statistics when the figures are broken down. For many years now, children and young people’s violence and abuse towards their parents has been documented right around the world, whether through research or via media reporting. When I was studying the issue in 2005, I came across stories from Saudi Arabia, China, Singapore, Malta, and Nepal. Amanda Holt references work from both north and south America, Europe, Australia, South Africa, Iran, India, and Sri Lanka; and of course we have research too from New Zealand, Japan and Egypt. Simmons et al suggest that this is a phenomenon of industrialised nations wherever they are. But how do we interpret this sort of information, and what conclusions do we draw? What do assertions and data such as these really tell us about what is going on? What assumptions underlie the work we do?

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Raising awareness #FASD

You may have noticed on social media that today (September 9th) is International FASD awareness day – and in fact the whole of September is FASD awareness month! FASD (which stands for fetal alcohol spectrum disorder) is now recognised as affecting more people than autism or ADHD. FASD is a group of lifelong conditions affecting people in different ways physically, emotionally and behaviourally, and because not everyone will be affected in the same way it is not always diagnosed early on. As a developmental condition there is no cure, but early diagnosis is important in order to be able to put support systems in place to help families cope and thrive.

Because some of the effects of alcohol on the developing foetus relate to later difficulties in processing information or in regulating emotions (for instance) some children with FASD will show patterns of difficult and challenging behaviour, sometimes using violence in the home and towards their parents and carers. Understanding more about FASD can help with understanding what is going on behind child to parent violence, and can be an important start in putting in place the networks and systems that are so vital for families in this situation.

The National Organisation for FASD is a good place to start (in the UK) if you want to develop your own awareness and understanding. There is a very helpful Preferred UK Language Guide on their website. Sandra Butcher, their CEO has been busy tweeting all day and you will find a lot of links to other resources from her, and news of anticipated policy changes.

If you’re on social media and you want to keep in touch with the latest research findings, policy and training, these are some people that I have found helpful to follow:

There are many more, I’m sure you’ll find the people who you can connect to best!

FASD is just one of the many different issues which can lead to families experiencing CPV. Its good to see that this condition is closer to getting the attention it deserves.

See the Government website for Guidance published September 9th on health needs assessment of families affected by Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

To download factsheets about FASD produced by FASD Hub Scotland click here.

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Do you know about the Forensic CAMHS service?

I must confess I hadn’t heard of Community Forensic CAMHS services, so it was interesting to sit down (virtually) with Dr. Andrew Newman from Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust to hear all about the work they do. The service is quite new, established nationally around 3 years ago, although already operating in some areas prior to that. Currently it covers all of England, divided into 13 regions. As a highly specialist service, the regions are large and Andy works within the South West (North) Community CAMHS service, covering Bristol, South Gloucestershire, Gloucestershire, North Somerset, Wiltshire, Swindon, Bath and North East Somerset.

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Familial IDVAs

IDVAs (Independent domestic violence advisors) are front line practitioners with specialist training in delivering practical and emotional support to victims of domestic abuse, and their children. While the vast majority of clients will have experienced violence and abuse from a partner or ex-partner, a small percentage of the work involves what is termed “familial violence”, and I was pleased to be able to speak with 2 Familial IDVAs recently to hear more about what they are able to offer.

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School based support for #CPV

I feel very strongly that school-based family workers are ideally placed to offer parents support, where there is child to parent violence (CPV). Let me tell you why.

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