Category Archives: Discussion

Safety Work

My son is now 15 and is going to live with his dad. I should have done it a long time ago. (Marley Carroll, November 2018)

At this point I am simply counting the days until she is 18. (Witsend, March 2019)

There are plenty of other similar comments on the Silent Suffering blogsite, and many other places where parents meet up to vent their pain and frustration, and to seek advice and help. An understandable response from a parent,  if the problem is one of regular and increasing violence and abuse over a protracted period of time; rather shocking that it has come to this point where parents feel they can no longer carry on; but ultimately not the preferred outcome if what we are aiming for from the start is greater safety all round.

If a child has to move out to keep everyone safe, the best-case scenario might be a therapeutic setting, experienced foster carers, perhaps a residential school, a hospital, or even secure accommodation, where issues contributing to the abuse and relationship breakdown can be addressed. Sofa surfing between friends, or being shunted between relatives may be a more common resolution. Parents of older children may find they are placed in “supported lodgings” where support may be a misnomer from individuals without the qualifications and understanding to offer specialist help and guidance to vulnerable young people. Organisations such as POTATO and Special Guardians and Adopters Together have much to say about this practice. Other parents report that their younger children have become exposed to drink and drugs, and vulnerable to exploitation, when placed in residential care because a family can no longer cope with them at home.

When a family asks for help, what do we imagine they ask for? What do we imagine they need? Is it the removal of other children for their own safety, leaving the parent to continue to struggle with an angry, needy and potentially dangerous child; and those removed to contemplate why separation from parents who love them and are trying to protect them is the best solution? It might be some advice early on. It might be the provision of therapy to calm things down and work them through. It might be longer term support through an organised programme to restore safety and good family relationships. It might be separation – or respite as a first offer.

Separation offers a drastic response to the need to offer safety to family members, but who exactly are we keeping safe, and why do we imagine that this is the best way to do it? Is there another way?

I started thinking about this a while ago after reading a series of tweets from parents and individuals either seeking support themselves or concerned about what they had heard about others. In March, @FionafromYorks tweeted: Disappointed to hear last night that a mum of a 17yo young man, struggling for years to cope with his daily meltdowns and was told by her she was giving up far too easily, asking for respite. What a . deserve respect & support

Other comments and tweets that I have collected over time include a parent stating that their partner and other children had moved to a hotel temporarily for safety’s sake; and more recently the plea: Officially out of steam for it all. Where are the CPV parents’ refuges? I need one.

The reality is that, if anyone moves out, it might be a partner who feels unable to remain part of this particular family; it might be siblings moved to a family member for a while; but the likelihood is that it will be the young person causing harm who does so. Families are doing ‘safety work’ all the time. How can we support them in this, working with them in what they are hoping for: to keep safe, to stay together, to restore healthy relationships, before it all gets too much and they crash and burn under the weight of impossible emotional and practical demands?

I am struck by how many people report that respite was once an offer but is no longer available to them. Under The Breaks for Carers of Disabled Children Regulations 2011, local authorities in England must have regard for the needs of those caring for a disabled child if they would be unable to continue without breaks being given, or if they could carry out that care more effectively if breaks were given. Families who would have benefited from this in the past are increasingly finding that the funding has been withdrawn in the face of central government budget cuts. Yet report after report points to the benefits (emotional and economic) of respite care to all concerned. Indeed, the NSPCC and Action for Children 2015 report: Supporting Adolescents on the Edge of Care, The role of short term stays in residential care, outlines the value of breaks for the long term outcomes of young people and their families; and at the launch of the Monash Report on Adolescent Family Violence, in August 2018, Liana Buchanan, Principal Commissioner for Children and Young People in Victoria, described the provision of respite for parents, and accommodation options for young people as a ‘no-brainer”. Somewhat bizarrely (or perhaps creatively) we now find authorities “trialing” respite care as part of the Innovation Programme; and there is a focus on appropriate accommodation for young people as an alternative to youth custody.

Sadly, it is likely that there will always be some families where the complex needs of the young person make it difficult to remain at home. Severe mental health needs may mean that long terms secure care is needed (see for instance Raising Devon or Herding Chickens). For many families the level of need will be less, or the support available early on will enable the family to stay together, and to move on. Nevertheless, for some families experiencing CPV a short break gives a chance to breathe, to sleep, to have some normal time with other children and friends, to regroup and to draw the strength to carry on.

When families ask for a break, what do we imagine they are experiencing? What do we imagine they have tried already? What do we imagine will enable them to remain together safely and to work towards a happier resolution? Is it respite care? How can we find a way to make this possible?

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CPV around the world: discussion and support.

I keep my eyes on a number of websites, discussion forums and journals, looking for content about child to parent violence. If you haven’t come across the website, Raising Devon, from Keri Williams, it’s well worth a look for information, comment and colour about living with children with conduct and attachment disorders in particular.

Annie watched in horror as Charlie, red-faced with rage, snatched a picture frame off a wall and slammed it against the bedpost. The glass shattered. He picked up a long shard and brandished it like a dagger. Stalking towards Annie, he growled, “I’m gonna kill you.”

This type of abusive behavior in relationships is far too common. 29% of women and 10% of men in the US will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. Child protective services investigates more than three million reports of abuse and neglect annually. However, Charlie and Annie’s altercation isn’t included in either of these statistics.

That’s because Charlie is a 13-year-old boy. And Annie is his mother……

In this recent post, Keri talks about the hidden nature of violence and abuse from children, and the assumptions that other people make about what is going on “next door”. She writes from America, but many of the stories will feel familiar wherever you are, speaking as she does to the relief of finding you are not alone, and the importance of support from people who really understand your situation. She links in this particular post to an article in the Atlantic by a colleague of hers, Lillyth Quillan, and an online support network developed in the States, but now attracting parents from around the world. Lillyth Quillan is the executive director of the organisation, Society for Treatment Options for Potential Psychopaths. 

Depending on where you live, you might feel more or less comfortable with some of the language and terminology, but stick with it!

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#CPV on Drivetime

A huge thank you to Eddie Nestor, of BBC Radio London Drivetime, who devoted more than half his programme yesterday to the topic of “children who hit their Mum.” You can catch the programme by following this link. The show is available till the end of May. Eddie starts off by interviewing Yvonne Newbold from about 1:21.00 and then takes calls from around 1:48:00.

 

With Yvonne’s particular area of expertise, the focus was on children with “special educational needs and disabilities”, but Eddie was keen to find out more about the wider reasons which might lead to children being violent. There was considerable treatment of the issues around traditional parenting, and the tendency to assume that parents just aren’t trying hard enough, but as Yvonne and several of the callers explained, in situations like this, traditional parenting techniques may have the effect of adding fuel to the fire; and if you’ve tried everything and it isn’t working, you have to try something else. Several of the callers had attended Yvonne’s seminars and were highly appreciative of the impact this had made on their family life. You can find out more about these courses via Yvonne’s website, or on Eventbrite. There was also acclaim for NVR as an approach to enable de-escalation and restoration of parental authority. Finally, Eddie spoke to Sarah Whalley of the Key Clinic exploring other issues behind the challenging behaviour of young people on the autistic spectrum.

Overall, there was a sense of how confusing people find this issue – the difficulty in believing it could be happening and that it can’t simply be solved by ‘parenting harder’, but also a real desire to find out more and to be able to offer hope to parents through the provision of answers and support. This is very much an interest of Eddie’s and he is keen to explore this taboo further in future programmes. Do look out for him, and add your voice if you can in raising awareness of the issues!

 

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A response to the proposed changes to Domestic Abuse legislation in Britain

These comments are my own and do not necessarily represent those of other parties working and interested in the field of child to parent violence.

I have used the terms adolescent to parent abuse (APA), adolescent to parent violence (APV), child to parent violence (CPV), and parent abuse (PA) interchangeably, except where this has been made clear, to reflect the different usage at different times and by different people.

 

This week the Government published their landmark Domestic Abuse Bill, alongside the response to the Consultation, Transforming the Response to Domestic Abuse. The Consultation looked at four specific areas:

  • promoting awareness
  • protecting and supporting victims
  • transforming the justice process and perpetrator response
  • and improving performance.

The Consultation Response and the Bill have been welcomed by many, particularly for the inclusion of economic abuse within the definition, recognition of the harm afforded to children and young people affected by domestic abuse (DA) within the family, for the protection afforded to victims and witnesses in court, and for the commitments to secure tenancies for those being rehoused. Nevertheless, there has been significant concern expressed about the need to translate words into actions, with adequate funding of services. Particular interest groups have rightly pointed out areas where they feel commitments could have been stronger, or where a change of direction is needed. Continue reading

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CPV: Fighting for a kinder, person-centred response in the future

For the last few years it seems, in amongst all my other CPV posts, I have thought, discussed, and posted a lot about the experiences of adoptive parents experiencing violence or abuse from their children, but this year feels already like there’s going to be a lot of attention – rightly so – given to those struggling with the behaviour of their children with learning difficulties or disabilities. With the treatment of children and young people in assessment units very much in the news, expect to hear even more! For many, the conflation of this type of behaviour – identified as a response to anxiety and stress in the face of unreasonable (and often very reasonable) expectations – with deliberate, manipulative acts of violence and control from some neuro-typical children does not sit easily. Indeed, Yvonne Newbold has coined the term Violent Challenging Behaviour to make this distinction.

This post, Time to breathe out, from a mum blogging about Life with Aine, starts us off. Continue reading

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CPV: Standing together

I am breaking my silence.

I am breaking my silence for any person who is a stepparent, and they are living in a dangerous situation at the hands of their stepchildren.

I am breaking my silence because I know what it is like to scourer the internet trying to find someone or some resource to signal that I was not alone.

So begins a post from Dr Sam Kline. You can read the rest of the post here, and there is the promise of a follow up on her site in a week or so. You will recognise many of her comments: Continue reading

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CPV: Looking forward with hope

Well, it’s been an interesting year, culminating in a hectic last few weeks!

Thinking about what to write today I flicked back through old reports, including that written by Parentline Plus ten years ago, “You can’t say go and sit on the naughty step because they turn round and say make me”. In some ways it feels as if nothing has changed, the same stories from parents, the same understanding of background risk factors, the same difficulties in accessing help. But what does feel different is the volume of coverage, and the gradually changing tone. Continue reading

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