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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
I have always welcomed guest posts on this blog, and so it was good to be able to invite Michelle John of PEGS to contribute to our mutual learning and understanding of the issues. Michelle is the Founding Director of PEGS, and has the rare combination of a background in domestic abuse advocacy, lived experience, and the willingness and ability to speak up for her fellow parents. Michelle and her team support hundreds of parents impacted by CPA, alongside delivering impactful training for organisations such as police forces and local authorities, campaigning nationally for policy change, undertaking speaking engagements and raising awareness of the issue.
Government of Catalonia sets up state flat for Spanish teenagers who beat up their parents
I was really interested to see this piece in The Times this morning reporting on the provision in Spain of accommodation for young people using violence within the home.
Despite the framing of the story in the headline, and indeed in the main body of the article, those offered a place will have been convicted within the juvenile justice system, and the 9 – 15 month placement will be “offered” as an alternative to remaining at home under supervision. Such accommodation is intended to provide respite for both parents and teenagers, while they undergo counselling to address their mental health and behaviour. This response to the issue of adolescent to parent violence is typical of the Spanish approach which differs somewhat to that in other countries such as Britain.
I was interested to read this paper from the Chief Social Workers for England, when it was published at the end of February. A spectrum of opportunity: an exploratory study of social work with autistic young people and their families looks at three things:
- how responsive social workers were to the needs of young adults and their families
- what barriers there were to enable more effective interventions
- how things could be done differently to improve outcomes
I won’t go in to detail about the main body of the report – it is straightforward and easy to read, so I recommend it to you. It talks about what works well and what needs to be done better. Unsurprisingly, it points to the importance of the development of specialist knowledge in social workers, joined up work across agencies, and earlier intervention and proactive support to provide help before things go wrong; with the centrality of long-term trusting relationships between families and workers. Sadly, there is mention once again of parents’ fears of being labelled as ‘bad’ or ‘failing parents’.
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.