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:
provide clear information on what domestic abuse is in order to assist with its identification
provide guidance and support to frontline professionals, who have responsibilities for safeguarding and supporting victims of domestic abuse, for example through outlining relevant strategic and operational frameworks
improve the institutional response to domestic abuse by conveying best practice and standards for commissioning responses
The guidance extends to England and to Wales insofar as it relates to reserved or non-devolved matters in Wales.
You will find links to various versions of the draft guidance and information on how to submit a response.
Child/adolescent to parent violence is specifically mentioned on pages 20 – 23, including an illustrative case study; and there is discussion about age on page 36, the impact on a child of living with domestic abuse from page 59; and chapter 5 deals with multi-agency cooperation. However, there is real value in reading the whole document, with a recognition of the many different vulnerabilities experienced by families, and multiple points of discrimination and stigma.
Whether or not CPV should be considered as a form of DA remains a contentious issue, but, nevertheless, it is contained within the Act and strong arguments have been made regarding the connections with DA. So regardless of whether you feel this is the right place for a response to be sited, please do take the time to read the draft guidance and consider whether there are comments you can usefully make to improve the document – and policy and practice – as it stands.
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 have been asked by Amanda Holt to post this request for practitioners based in London to consider taking part in an important research project. The surge in interest in child to parent violence and abuse over the last year has been truly impressive, and this research, commissioned by the London Violence Reduction Unit, seeks to move beyond interest to understanding, and then hopefully on to provision.
I often reflect on how far we have come in the UK in terms of speaking out about child to parent violence and abuse. It is too easy to live in a bubble and assume that the willingness to talk about the issue, and the development of a response is something that has happened world wide, but there are many places – even close to home – where stigma and fear prevent parents from speaking out, and where an absence of academic research leaves a hole in national awareness, and ultimately in support for families.
Last week I had the privilege of speaking with Hilde van Mieghem, who has directed a number of TV documentaries in Belgium about violence within families between partners, and from parent to child – and now wants to explore violence and abuse from children towards their parents, in conjunction with Borgerhoff & Lamberigts TV. Her work is unusual in that she is not particularly interested in hearing the “what” and “when”, or in sensationalising the story, but rather focusses on the effect the abuse has on the individual, and their search for help: what feelings were aroused, the psychological impact, how people responded, how easy (or hard) it was to find help. The previous series were well received within Belgium and prompted many individuals to come forward who had not previously thought about their experiences as abusive or who had been too ashamed or afraid to seek support. They sparked parliamentary discussion, led to the establishment of new training courses for social workers and care givers, and encouraged the development of peer groups and awareness and prevention campaigns.
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.
From time to time I receive books for review, particularly where they address the issue of child to parent violence and abuse. Where appropriate, I am pleased to comment on the content and provide comments for review. The new publication from Louise Allen, How to Adopt a Child, Your step-by-step guide to adoption and parenting, was one such book, and I was interested to find out about her comprehensive knowledge and experience of the adoption system. I have attached the review as submitted. You can purchase Louise’s book on Amazon (or through your local independent bookshop!) and you can read more about Louise’s work on her website.
Louise Allen makes it clear from the very first pages that this is a book with adoptive parents and their children at its heart. She writes from personal experience, laying out every aspect of the adoption process, in order that those thinking about adoption might have no surprises later. Not to put people off – unless that is the right response – but to leave you fully informed, fully armed, fully prepared to offer the support, the healing and love that will be needed. There is much about trauma, which will feature heavily for children who find themselves in need of a home. Allen pulls no punches in describing what this looks and feels like for the child, and the consequential feelings for the adults, but she goes on to offer very practical advice that comes from many years of training, parenting, and above all listening to children. As she says, “Living with a violent child that you have committed to love while everyone around you is offering their opinion is hard, very hard”. Allen is here to make it just a little less hard.