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Between a rock and a hard place – How parents deal with children who use substances and perpetrate abuse 2011/12/13.

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Presentation on theme: "Between a rock and a hard place – How parents deal with children who use substances and perpetrate abuse 2011/12/13."— Presentation transcript:

1 Between a rock and a hard place – How parents deal with children who use substances and perpetrate abuse 2011/12/13

2 Background Substance Use stats Up to 350,000 children are affected by drug use, up to 1.3 million children affected by alcohol use (government figures) Up to 8 million family members, including partners, affected by someone else’s drug or alcohol use (Velleman and Templeton 2007 ) 44% perpetrators under the influence of alcohol, 12% drugs (BCS Review) Alcohol thought to be a factor in at least one third of all domestic violence assaults (Finney 2004)

3 Background Domestic Violence stats Women experiencing DV are 15 times more likely to misuse alcohol, 9 times misuse drugs (Barron 2004) 1 in 4 children said that they had witnessed DV between adult family members. 47% of incidents involved physical assaults, 13% with an object or weapon (NSPCC survey 2007) Children witness ¾ of abusive incidents (Royal College Psych. 2004) Based on a large volume of research, child care law now includes witnessing or hearing the ill treatment of someone else as causing harm to children

4 Adfam/AVA collaboration - background Project One – 2010/11 Research conducted by Dr Sarah Galvani DVD resource kit for practitioners working with young people affected by DV and SU – ‘Thinking it Through’ Comic Relief funded Project Two – 2011/12 Research into parents affected by child to parent violence (CPV) from SU children, with focus groups around England and training developed Department of Health funded

5 How parents deal with children who use substances and perpetrate abuse Interviews with 88 victims of CPV from substance using children. Project report and executive summary available at Project Two – Between a rock and a hard place (2011/12)

6 Meet the parents… Nine focus groups with 88 parents Groups facilitated by existing Family Support Groups Ages of children ranged from 11- late 40’s (although teen years are when it mostly began). Most were sons. For a significant number of parents, there was a background of domestic violence Far more mothers than fathers (88%) and many single parents. 95% identified as white British.

7 About the abuse Parents reported emotional abuse, financial exploitation, death threats, serious physical assaults with weapons, destruction of property in the home and social isolation caused by emotional manipulation ‘I’ve had text messages saying he’ll have his legs broken if we don’t pay £500 by this Friday and we’ve got ourselves into serious debt ‘ Impacts on parents included: Worry, fear, lack of sleep, and profound emotional distress for all parents, serious financial worries, prolonged involvement with the criminal justice system and admissions to hospital with CPV-related injuries.

8 Context 1 Significant majority took a long time to find help Many parents felt guilty, or that they had failed in the parenting role, and that the behaviour of their children was at least partly their fault. Some of the mothers identified past domestic violence that had taken place in the family. ‘I still cry buckets over my son because I’m frightened he’s going to die before me’ ‘I one hundred per cent totally believe it was my fault - the partner I had at the time abused him’

9 Context 2 Many spoke of the double stigma they faced in society from both the drug use and the violence they experienced. Parents were often scared of admitting what they were experiencing to professionals, but also to their own neighbours, families and friends. ‘One of my mates said ‘it’s because you’re a one-parent mother’ ‘That guilt is crippling, it’s absolutely crippling ‘

10 Context 3 Knowing what to call CPV and how to conceptualise it was very problematic for parents. ‘You don’t label it that [domestic violence], not until you start speaking to somebody and you start thinking then actually this isn’t normal, this isn’t what my sixteen, seventeen year old son should be doing, although you do know it, it’s strange, it’s actually only when you hear those words you think that’s actually it, and it sounds really dumb, it sounds really stupid, maybe that’s part of the denial’

11 Barriers to finding support 1 Lack of awareness of existing support – especially family support groups ‘I rang them [drug clinic] and they said yes, we can give him an appointment… four weeks ahead. And I remember thinking ‘he could be dead by then’ Parents not seeing themselves as legitimate recipients of support

12 Barriers to finding support 2 Lack of awareness of drugs / signs ‘I used to think addicts were from bad families’ Didn’t think it would happen to them ‘You don’t expect your own child to turn on you’ Lack of consensus on the best course of action within couples. ‘If you have a spouse, you’re not always feeling the same’

13 Barriers to finding support 3 Stigma and shame – including from own family members ‘You can talk to strangers when you can’t talk to your own family, I get too upset. My twin sister doesn’t know my son is a drug addict and he’s been an addict for 20 years and she doesn’t know and she’ll come tomorrow, she’s coming on Friday and I want to tell her but I don’t, I feel ashamed.’

14 First disclosures No clear pathways taken by most. First professionals included: GP (most popular); police (prompted by criminal act or from desperation);. internet (especially Frank) Looking for: sign-posting, reassurance, a shoulder to cry on and practical strategies on arguing, avoiding conflict etc. Some parents asked for help for behaviour difficulties rather than substance use ‘Support is needed at the beginning when trouble is just brewing rather than further down the line when it’s more extreme’ ‘Emotional support from someone neutral’ ‘Someone to say ‘it’s not your fault’’ ‘I was looking for strategy more than anything’

15 Negative experiences of seeking support 1 Confidentiality issues ‘I have no access to anything because of data protection’ ‘General feeling of failure of services / not listening ‘Services ‘treat carers like a piece of dirt – do not want to know, no empathy’

16 Negative experiences of seeking support 2 Lack of partnership work / joined up services ‘The mental health professionals and the drug and alcohol professionals don’t mix, they don’t work together…they pass the buck like something not right, badmouth each other’s services, talk a load of waffle and run rings around you’ Lack of empathy ‘Blame was laid at our door as parents’

17 Specific examples of negative responses from: Social Services Church Police Probation Hospital staff GP YOT Psychiatrists Al-Anon BUT…..

18 Positive experiences of support Parent Support Groups Police GPs Ambulance staff and paramedics Social Services AA Counselling Church

19 Types of help that are valued Welcoming atmosphere Feeling of acceptance rather than judgement Meeting others and sharing of experiences Being able to be honest and not have to worry about shocking others A space to think about themselves Reassurance re. their perspective Encouragement to stick with boundaries Reducing isolation To be treated as a concerned and loving family member and not the cause of the problem / acknowledgement that they’re trying their best

20 Conclusions 1 Many factors are very similar to partner violence but… Not naming it as abuse / domestic violence Unwilling to involve CJS Parent-child bond seen as unbreakable / still taboo to admit not liking your child Huge amounts of shame, stigma and self-blame Lack of information / advice Risk not recognised by professionals Seems to have a particular type of pain for fathers For some (not all) an event between ages seems to have been the starting point Difficulties in distinguishing between ‘normal’ teen angst / moodiness and a serious problem

21 The policy and service framework that currently exists is failing to meet the needs of parents experiencing CPV. What motivates children and young people to perpetrate CPV is still not fully understood. Children can be both victims and perpetrators. Stigma plays a key, paralysing role in stopping families from looking for help for themselves when abused. Drug and alcohol family support groups are the most highly valued sources of support for families with children who use substances and perpetrate CPV. Conclusions 2

22 What changes would parents recommend? More FSGs needed (very popular) For schools to be involved more and signposting for families. ‘Show them this side of the nightmare’ More powers for police More money for trained drug and alcohol workers Less stigma / judgement from professionals ‘Important there’s an acknowledgement that behaviours shown by teenagers aren’t always the fault of parents’ Leaflets on drug/alcohol don’t have section for families Listen to carers ‘Give absolute respect to anyone who is caring for somebody who is a user’ ‘Listen to us – we will give you the truth’

23 Recommendations 1 Increase recognition of CPV at a national policy level Including CPV into the standard definition of domestic abuse Increased awareness of CPV in family support groups Improved multi-agency working between services

24 Recommendations 2 Existing for a should be used better to tackle CPV Ensure grass-roots voluntary organisations are funded to support parents Enabling those that support families to better help parents Supporting the development of perpetrator programmes for under-21s


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