Two particular things stuck with me after my recent visit to listen to the Birmingham CAMHS team on the adoption of Non-violent Resistance (NVR) in their work with families:
- A pervading sense of thoughtful, calm, enquiring support of each other, with plenty of space built in to reflect on the work as it progresses – or not. It is not unusual for a sense of helplessness and hopelessness to transfer from families to workers, and supervision is vital to work through the pain.
- And a degree of realism that celebrates the successes of NVR as an approach, but also acknowledges that not everyone can be helped, not every act of violence prevented, not always a happy ending. When continued funding is dependent on “evidence” of something working, it is more usual to hear practitioners trumpeting their success rates, and so this honesty was refreshing.
This is a bit of a different post to usual. I’ve alluded to the interest of the media in parent abuse in recent weeks, but as this has come up over and over again recently I thought it worth a mention in its own right. In a nutshell, the question seems to be, how do we reconcile our desire to raise awareness of parent abuse and the need for greater service provision, with our duty to protect the families we work with from further harm?
Over the years that I’ve been tracking this, child to parent violence, or parent abuse, has been covered in what we’ll call a “positive” way in various media: in the local and national press, in professional publications as well as academic journals, in a popular weekly magazine, on radio news and magazine programmes, in TV drama and documentary, in film and on YouTube; and those are just the ones I’ve caught. It’s also attracted attention in more dramatic and contraversial ways through programmes such as Dr Phil, where families are “paraded” in front of audiences who have chosen to be present for motives which, it’s probably fair to say, don’t include the hope of witnessing a complex, sensitive process of restoring healthy family relationships. Then there’s the other side of the story in the context of the long-term failure of mainstream agencies to respond to families experiencing abuse from their children. How will the professionals come out of this? Do we really want to put ourselves through further grief at a time when the drive is rather to find positive stories of social work involvement to bring balance to the argument? Continue reading