Category Archives: radio and video

Unless we address the issues behind CPV, “we are committing children to failure”

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.

Nearly 3000 families were surveyed for the report, and the findings are unsurprisingly in line with the report into adoption disruption by Professor Julie Selwyn from 2014. More than a quarter of families described themselves as in crisis, with serious challenges impacting on other members of the family, and at risk of breakdown or already disrupted; but almost two thirds reported aggression in the home and half had sustained serious violence, with injuries requiring hospital treatment and even sexual assault. Within the radio programme, interviews with families related extreme levels of violence and destruction from even young children of primary age, necessitating calling the police. While a high proportion also reported that they were glad they adopted, the meaning and interpretation of this figure has been contested by parents since the report has been published.

The programme goes on to explore the levels of information or help available from local authorities and the difficulties in accessing this, in the face of extreme levels of distress and mental ill health in the children affected. Child to parent violence has been hidden for a long time, and though it is now discussed more openly, there is catching up to do in the help available. While some pockets of excellence are developing, there was concern expressed at the patchiness of provision, as well as the lack of oversight and evidence base for some practices. With contributions from the organisation Family Futures, Professor Jonathan Green from the University of Manchester , Nigel Priestley from Ridley and Hall Solicitors, and Lord McFarlane the discussion concluded with a question as to whether it is time to reconsider the model of long-term care for children who have experienced such degrees of harm and trauma in their early lives.

Clearly child to parent violence has come out of the shadows, and is now a widely recognised phenomenon – within adoption at the very least. The commitment of families – the perseverance and love reported in the face of extreme levels of violence and abuse directed at parents, siblings and home, was overwhelming. The more important aspect of this programme for me lies though in two thoughts: in highlighting the shocking experience of CPV for parents, we must not then demonise the children, neglecting the needs of the child that have brought them to this point; and without proper support for child and family, we are “committing children to failure”.

A number of organisations have issued releases or responses to the report: Local Government network here, the Consortium of Voluntary Adoption Agencies here, the Centre of Adoption Support here, Beacon House here. You can see the results of the survey itself on the CVAA website. There is an extraordinarily moving response from an adopter in the Huffington Post here.

The link to the whole episode of Victoria Derbyshire, and interviews with a number of adopters, is here. You can see short clips below.

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“Children who exhibit the most severe and persistent anti-social behaviour are being failed by the system”

There has been a mixed response to the item about children with “Callous Unemotional Traits” on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme this morning.

 

(Clip here)

An interview with both parents and the young person just after 7.30am, was followed by discussion from leading psychiatrist, Professor Stephen Scott, after 8.00 and then a final segment asking if children with severe behavioural problems are being failed by ‘the system’ just before the end of the programme. Justin Webb‘s sensitive interview highlighted the regular violence and abuse experienced by the family, which leads them now to seek residential school or accommodation under section 20 for their son ‘Max’, as there is no other prospect of change in sight. Max is adopted but his difficulties were explained not so much by early trauma as by a psychopathic trait: Callous Unemotional Trait, which leaves him unable to feel empathy for others, or understand the problems with his behaviour. The overall message was: With an estimation of 1 in 100 adults exhibiting psychopathic traits (and overwhelmingly represented amongst the prison population), should we not be paying more attention to these children who seem to be heading that way, to find ways of moderating their behaviour and teaching / modelling greater empathetic behaviour, if not feelings. Multi-systemic therapy was suggested as one possible route, but the need for significant improvement in the provision of mental health services for young people was emphasised, both from a humanitarian / medical point of view and in view of the costs incurred in ignoring the issue.

So why the mixed response?

It was great to have such prominence given to the difficulties experienced by families in accessing help when they are being abused by their children – and these parents left no doubt that they considered their experience the equivalent of intimate partner violence.  The figure of 1 in 100 children being affected in some way by this condition was alarming (in the context of the many other additional causes that we know about), and there was no suggestion that this was the only explanation for abuse from child to parent, but it lent some weight to the general statistical discussion. There was some suggestion that children could be helped towards more appropriate social behaviour through rewards systems and positive reinforcement, notwithstanding the unlikely improvement in genuine demonstrations of empathy.

BUT….

The overwhelming sense of hopelessness was very strong. Not only was this a condition that might not be treatable, but the very means of help and support is out of reach for many as mental health services, particularly for young people, remain so poorly resourced. I think some parents felt that this was yet another possible diagnosis amongst so many others; and with still no real sense of definition of the problem or official recognition.

Family Futures, an independent adoption support agency, have written a response which you can read here. They remind us of the need to consider the whole picture and not to be hasty in ruling out the effects of early trauma on the developing brain.

I will remain optimistic because that is in my nature. And because the more coverage the better from my point of view – though clearly if you are a parent experiencing abuse on a daily basis, this is small comfort. I would like to know more about the condition, and to see for myself how it fits into the existing understanding and models of child to parent violence and abuse that we already have.

The radio interviews will be available for the next four weeks.

 

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Child to Parent Violence and the Coronation Street spin-off

As the Coronation Street story line featuring Simon’s abuse of his step-mum Leanne Battersby rolls on, Radio York featured child to parent abuse in the “Georgey Spanswick at Breakfast” show last week. For those not following the soap, there has been considerable exploration over the last months of the difficulties in the relationship, and things came to a head after an argument over the washing up when Leanne was knocked unconscious.

With three segments, (at 00.13, 01.08 and 02.07) Georgey, and reporter Sarah Irwin, interview “Kitty”, a parent who has experienced violence from her young son, and Sarah Hill, Director of York IDAS; Sandra Hiller of Family Lives; and Angela Whitlock, Parent Coach in Ripon. Continue reading

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Lazy reporting could not spoil an opportunity to discuss parent abuse

This started off as a weary rant from me today and then changed tone as the day progressed!

While it has been exciting and encouraging to see the increase in coverage of child to parent violence and abuse in the media over the last week, I have been disappointed yet again by the tone of some of the pieces and the apparent laziness of reporting.

Times headline

The main headline in the Times, (you may not be able to read the next line, “Families cannot deal with minor domestic rows”)  today picks up on the report from Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary into the welfare of vulnerable people in police custody, which has held centre stage across the media today. This highlights the often inappropriate use of custody for individuals experiencing poor mental health, or other vulnerabilities, because of a crisis in other support services; and while researchers have said that the findings show pressures faced by many families and carers, and the fact that the police are often used as the agency of last resort, the first example given – thus setting the tone – is of a dispute over a TV remote control. Other examples are given of greater severity of risk and violence. Parents are described as contacting the police because they reach breaking point. But there is no exploration of this issue in a wider way, other than to suggest lone women are finding it particularly difficult to bring up children. Continue reading

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“I promise you we’ll do some more investigation”

Following on from the fantastic UK media coverage of parent abuse in the second half of last year, the radio features and interviews have continued through January.

This week both Eddie Nestor, on his BBC Radio London Drive Time programme (01.21.50 – 01.26.26), and BBC Radio Oxford’s Phil Gayle with the Breakfast show (01.40.18 – 01.44.48) have brought children’s violence to parents to the attention of listeners. Continue reading

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News from the 2013 Youth Justice Convention

The Youth Justice Convention, hosted over two days in Birmingham, UK, at the end of November, included this year a seminar on children’s violence to parents (CPV).  The convention is an annual event – this was the fourteenth – and is an opportunity to debate and discuss the latest youth justice policy developments. All the seminars are archived online and can be accessed here.

The CPV seminar, number 20 in the archive, was chaired by Paula Wilcox, with Martyn Stoner of Break4Change, and Paul Morris and Vicky Hodgson, from Hull Youth Offending Service, where a Step Up project has been piloted. Each gave a presentation of their project with a discussion at the end about differences and similarities. Continue reading

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Parent abuse coverage during the international week to end violence against women

BBC Radio Northants provided a comprehensive backdrop to the NADA (Northamptonshire Against Domestic Abuse) Domestic Abuse Conference which took place in Kettering on Wednesday 27th November, during this International End Violence Against Women week. Stuart Linnell used his breakfast show to introduce the issue of parent abuse and to interview parents as well as keynote speakers at the conference. You can listen again here for the next few days. Continue reading

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