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.
Having said that, the question of whether safe accommodation should be made available to young people using violent and abusive behaviour towards their parents in this country is one which has come up in conversation a number of times recently. Removal from the home tends to be viewed as a last resort – frequently meaning that families must reach breaking point before such help can be accessed – and might be through local authority care, hospitalisation or a residential educational placement, or within the youth justice estate if diversion is not applicable. Yet families regularly ask for respite, as a way of meeting the needs of other children, of recharging their own batteries, or indeed as a safety measure because the situation is feeling too dangerous. Who might provide this, how it would be accessed and how it fits into other avenues of help are all interesting questions that must be considered.
The recent research from Condry and Miles into the impact of Covid-19 on the issue of adolescent to parent violence and abuse specifically recommends the establishment of such provision:
4. Provide safe spaces for families at crisis point and respite care for young people
Local authorities need to consider the provision of safe spaces for families in crisis. We were told of an example in Brighton where the police are working with the youth offending service to offer a safe space for young people to go during lockdown. Previously they were taking young into custody as there were no safe spaces for them to go for a ‘cooling off’ period so they have collaborated with the youth offending service and a family support service to offer a safe space for young people to stay while their parents are given support. This kind of innovation is important
at all times, a police cell is not the appropriate place for a child or young person in crisis, but during lockdown when other routes of escape are closed this becomes even more important. As one policy lead said: ‘There is a requirement for safe spaces for families in circumstances when the situation begins to escalate beyond parental control. The risk of criminalisation of children due to these circumstances is increased and should be avoided if possible’.
In an ideal situation there would be help provided before the situation feels unmanageable and dangerous, saving further harm to relationships, to health, to future prospects and wellbeing – and indeed to the public purse. As there is greater recognition of the issue of child / adolescent to parent violence and abuse, and as we see moves for a more strategic and joined up response, we must hope that such provision becomes part of the accepted norm in a suite of responses, designed to meet the very specific needs of individual families.
On August 7th, The BBC published a story on their website – and also covered it on national and local radio – titled Domestic Violence: Child-parent abuse doubles in three years. The BBC piece is clear and succinct, with a straightforward laying out of the statistics, comments from Young Minds and the National Police Chiefs Council (NPCC), a brief case study concerning a parent of an 11 year old girl and the help received from the Getting On Scheme in Doncaster, and a short video highlighting the work of Break4Change in Brighton. The figures were obtained through Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to the police for the period 2015 – 2018, for records of adolescent to parent violence and abuse (APVA). Of 44 forces contacted, only 19 collect the data in a way that is able to separate out APVA specifically. Continue reading
The tagline on the Premier webpage reads Stay informed and inform others with up to the minute news from a Christian perspective.
With a 60% increase in listeners over the year 2017-18, Premier Radio is one of the few winners reported by Radio Today as total radio listening drops; though the total figure of 227,000 still falls well short of the top London station, Capital, with 1.866 million listeners. Nevertheless, there are many whose day-to-day Christian faith includes listening to a radio station which offers music, discussion and news from a particular perspective. I have regularly visited homes, schools and offices where it has been playing as a background track to the business of the day. The website itself boasts 4019 followers, and the Facebook page apparently has 37K ‘Likes’. These things bring responsibility surely. Continue reading
My life now is radically different … But I still can’t sleep. Putting my child into care was searingly painful. I am often paralysed by recriminations, guilt and despair.
The words of a parent, writing in the Observer this last weekend, in a long, tender and heartwrenching piece about her experience of abuse and violence from her teenage son. Tom’s violent behaviour was thought to come from his acute frustration, communication difficulties and problems regulating his emotions, due to a range of diagnoses. It included actual violence to his mother and siblings, damage to property, and controlling behaviours which took over the life of the family, making a normal existence well nigh impossible. The writer, Lesley Clough, describes calling the police on numerous occasions, and the good support of local DV services, but ultimately the impossibility of finding any solution other than her son’s move out of the home and into care. Continue reading
I have written in the past about work taking place in the state of Victoria, Australia, both in terms of research and government policy. You can read about the work the Adolescent Family Violence Research team here, and the 2016 Royal Commission on Family Violence here. (Although set up specifically by the Victorian government, there was a hope that relevant measures might be adopted more fully by the federal government.)
It was very encouraging last week to see the press release from the Victorian government concerning the announcement of $1.35 million over 2 years to strengthen work addressing the reduction of adolescent violence in the home. This will go towards programmes across three sites, which seek to access help for young people in areas of their lives impacting on the use of violence; in strengthening family communication and relationships; and crucially, intervening early to offer help before violence is entrenched and serious. The funding announcement has been welcomed by groups such as that in Geelong, which runs the Step-Up, Building Healthy Relationships programme, and which last year offered support to 96 families.
Where governments understand the issues there is real hope for funding and change. Sadly, this is not the case everywhere, and continuous budget cuts (for instance in the UK) not only slow down the development of support services, but also risk decimating what early help there is.
Tuesday, this week, saw an explosion across the media within Britain of items on the challenges of adoption, particularly the impact of child to parent violence.
The BBC’s joint investigation with Adoption UK culminated in a 40 minute File on 4 radio programme, Adoption: Families in Crisis, which was picked up on national and local stations, and TV programmes such as Victoria Derbyshire; interviewing families and organisations and further unpacking the crises in which many families find themselves. Continue reading
As a new year begins most of us hope for better things to come. The last year was considered by many to have been particularly vicious in an inanimate sort of way. I do believe there is always something to celebrate if you look hard enough; and for those working the field of child to parent violence there has been, within the UK at least, an encouraging interest in training, and a period of consideration of what I have termed nuance – understanding that not all experiences of child to parent violence and abuse will be the same, with a corresponding need for varied responses.
But there have also been personal setbacks for some, with a fear that no one understands their situation. It may have been an unanswered plea for help; or they may have been at the sharp end of an investigation with false allegations made by a child against them. It is right that procedures then roll into action – allegations must be taken seriously, but this should involve a thorough and proper investigation of what has supposedly taken place. Sadly, for one mother in Tennessee, events took a rather different turn, as reported here. Whether out of prejudice, misogyny, or sheer ignorance, is not clear at this stage, but, thankfully for her, her lawyer has supported her all the way and is now calling for a review of procedures in this instance, and in general. The lawyer’s letter follows: Continue reading
This was a headline in the Sun newspaper last weekend, in an article by Michael Hamilton. Freedom of Information requests to 149 councils in England resulted in a figure of 62 children, ranging in age from 10 upwards, removed from their homes in 2015 by just 16 authorities. Some authorities refused to answer, citing data protection laws. The article lists the authorities which did respond and the relevant number in each case. The corresponding number for 2014 was 49. There are no other details, other than comments from an NSPCC spokesperson, recognising the impact of trauma on children’s behaviour and highlighting the need for help and support for families. Please assume my usual comments about the reliability of statistics such as these! Continue reading
This headline and the accompanying piece in the Family section of the Guardian last Saturday could not fail to shock those who came across it: a mother describing the terrible physical abuse she experiences at the hands of her teenage son.
“Sarah” has found it almost impossible to admit that she is scared of her son, and yet when she first asked for help was told that it was unlikely she would get any – because he was loved and not in any danger. This reflects the prevailing story: that in a culture that separates children’s and adults’ needs and services, and focuses on the rescuing of children from danger, we fail to recognise the centrality of relationships in family lives, whether in their fragility of care or their strength to bring healing. Feeling undermined by professionals as much as by strangers and increasingly isolated at a time when their need for support on every level increases, the family is now offered 2 nights respite care every six weeks. Continue reading
Some good news at a time when we are becoming used to hearing of funding being cut. Congratulations are due to Learning Links, a charity based in the south east of England, who announced last week that they have secured funding from Children in Need which will enable them to continue to run their Circles of Support programme for a further two years. Circles of Support consists of Non Violent Resistance (NVR) sessions with additional parent and child relationship building activities. The target is to reach and support parents and carers of 90 children aged between 5 and 17 years.
The Business Development Manager, Clare Mussell said: “Our NVR courses have been absolutely crucial in supporting families who are living with child to parent violence. It is crucial that families get support to alleviate stress and to ensure that children achieve the best outcomes in life. The BBC Children in Need funding will enable us to deliver NVR and build bridges between parent and child and bring the family back together”.
Learning Links has offices in both Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight, and details of how to contact them can be found here.