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Mark Cary Mercy Family Services. What motivates parents hostility  Parental grief/loss over child’s removal  Loss – daily interaction/responsibility.

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Presentation on theme: "Mark Cary Mercy Family Services. What motivates parents hostility  Parental grief/loss over child’s removal  Loss – daily interaction/responsibility."— Presentation transcript:

1 Mark Cary Mercy Family Services

2 What motivates parents hostility  Parental grief/loss over child’s removal  Loss – daily interaction/responsibility  Distress confronting/complex child protection system  Underlying mental health, substance abuse, domestic violence issues

3 Definition “Hostile,is being unfriendly or expressing anger or annoyance towards another. Aggression is an act of attacking without provocation or hostile or destructive behaviour” (Aust.Pocket Oxford Dictionary,1993. “Aggression may be expressed as verbal aggression,physical aggression or both, towards object people or self with intent to harm” (Rickelman 2005)

4 Grief impact on Parents Behavior  Grief & loss cycle  Gives rise to aggression if not resolved/managed.( Howells & Day2003 )  Grief retriggered at points along CP continuim ( O’Neil 2005,Littlechild 2002 )  Initial removal  Initial Court and later reviews of order  Family contact face/face,telephone  DOC’s meetings where child is focus  Family celebrations – Xmas, b/days

5 Impact of grief  Parental grief publicly unacknowledged  Fear expression due to public condemnation as “bad parent”  Unexpressed grief/unacknowledged over separation from children can give rise to hostility (Stanley& Goddard 2002)

6 Impact of grief  Cognitively and emotionally preoccupied distress of separation  Unable to listen, comprehend what’s said, notifications, legal process etc  Become frustrated, angry, hostile  Ability to address parenting issues impaired  Feel inadequate and leads to further anger and hostility.

7 Tips to manage parent grief  Acknowledge & validate parental grief in dialogue & interaction with parents  Let it inform case plans  Workers limited in support & time  Direct parents to professionals for help to work through grief & manage feelings as they progress through CP system

8 Tips to manage parent grief  Inform parents repeatedly and through different mediums what is going on  Check to ensure they understand information fully and correctly

9 Impact of CP system on parents  Grief & loss heightened by fear of removal/continued separation  Powerlessness in relation to worker authority to remove translates to aggression towards workers

10 Relationship issue  “The power of the CPS worker to move children into foster care taps into a parents fear and sense of powerlessness- feelings that may be expressed as open hostility or passive resistance.” (Palmer 2006)  Must be addressed to form working relationship

11 Where it can go wrong  Information provision  Communication & inclusion in decision making  Working in partnership  Power & control

12 Information provision  CP concern insufficient/unclear information to parents  Parents misinterpret, confused, fearful – frustrated, angry  Ambiguity about role of workers/ change of workers causes confusion  Misconceive as primarily for help, but reality balanced with investigative, assessment or reporting roles

13 Parents feel misled/distrustful if workers not honest with them  “They came & I told them everything. They said they were going to do this & this for me. Nothing ever happened, I got to court & they had turned around everything I’d said to them” (Parent in My Family First workshop)

14 To establish open honest relationship & avoid distrust  Explain clearly role, limits and the purpose of your intervention.  Ensure they have info they need & check their understanding  Explain what has happened, why & what the casework/legal processes will be  Provide records/info variety mediums

15 Communication and Inclusion  Fear/anxiety over safety of children in out of home care.  Fear they may be replaced by carers  Limited or no mechanisms for getting info on well-being of children – practice vs policy  Anger, hostility about care of children

16 Practice tips  Safe parent/child contact ASAP  Constructive parent/carer relationship promoted where safe  Provide regular info on child progress  Promote alternative forms of contact if direct contact unsafe Educate about roles, training, standards and monitoring of carers

17 Parents experience of CP system Confused by statutory/legal process Intimidated in meetings Distressed at short notice of meetings No time to prepare or compose Uninformed about purpose of meetings No support person present/encouraged Not invited to place own matters on agenda (FIN 2007, Dale 2004)

18 Practice tips Hold meetings at mutually convenient times Inform as to purpose prior to meeting Provide relevant info beforehand Encourage parents items on agenda Encourage support person Facilitate parents to voice opinion

19 Practice tips  Listen actively to understand parents situation & point of view  Every day language. Check their understanding  Provide documentation on what was said and agreed outcomes

20 Practice Tips  NGO/SP assist parents before meeting with what they want to say and do at meeting  Training in basic assertive communication skills so can represent themselves positively.  Identify limits to availability to respond to parents enquiries.

21 Further systems challenges  Following removal of children parents need accurate info as to safety concerns/reasons for removal  Current practice often full concerns withheld.  Tasks needed to achieve reunification vague or shifting  Confused angry as goal posts shift

22 Practice tips  Parents need clear precise reasons for removal  Prioritised goals to achieve for reunification  Include behavioural indicators of progress

23 In partnership with Parents Workers style can impact positively or negatively on parents willingness to engage

24 Workers can avoid evoking anger and promote engagement by  Not “wearing authority like a crown”  Not being excessive or arrogant  Leaving parents feeling negatively judged  Pursuing unproductive questioning that had the potential to push parents over the edge  Leaving parents with no alternatives or ways forward ( Dale 2004)

25 Qualities that evoke engagement  Open  Respectful  Honest  Clear about purpose of intervention (Littlechild2004)

26 Additional Qualities Good at listening Understanding Resourceful Respectful Humorous Matter of fact (FIN 2007;Dale 2004)

27 Quote “We’ve been very lucky –he’s great. He’s been very helpful, his mannerism, we’ve even looked forward to him coming. He’s not treated us like criminals – not like we were treated at first. He’s obviously taken everything in – seen the big picture” (Dale 2004)

28 Power and Control  The impact of a workers use of power influences whether parents respond in a negative/hostile way or work collaboratively (Dumbrill 2006)  View power used over them in a coercive way - control  Power being used with them to do things in their child’s interests was viewed as support

29 Practice tip  To help parents see workers as allies working in their child’s interests provide practical assistance e.g.link to Centrelink, suitable housing, food  Provide words of encouragement  These are what they value & remember

30 Monitor own responses to anger Avoid power & control dynamics by becoming defensive or going on the offensive & becoming authoritarian. “ engaging in a power struggle by subtly or overtly trying to establish authority over the angry client can result in an escalation of aggression” (Texas Dept of Mental Health and Mental retardation 1999)

31 Skills to reduce anger/hostility  Calm body language  Non-threatening voice tone  Reflect on parents feelings/behaviors  Calming validation of expressed feelings while providing guidelines, choices & alternatives (Horejsi & Garthwait 1998; Crofoot 2006)

32 Psychiatric,drug,alcohol or aggressive social behaviours  Sometimes parents with mental health, alcohol/drug issues, controlling, anti- authority attitudes or previous patterns of violence are not prepared to engage cooperatively whatever the skills/ attempts of the worker (Littlechild,2003,2005)

33 Psychiatric,drug,alcohol or aggressive social behaviours  For some parents with a history of DV maintaining power and control of their family is threatened by workers authority  Will direct aggression and violence against workers to prevent intervention (Stanley & Goddard 2005)

34 Practice Tips  Obtain professional assessment of identified mental health, drug or alcohol issues  Identify stress triggers for hostility  Gain advice – how to communicate & interact to develop trust & working realtionship

35 Self management strategies  Talk respectfully  Assess own feelings and monitor own reaction  Avoid engaging in a power struggle  Avoid defensiveness or going on offensive  If parent aggressive secure safety in line with service policy

36 Self management strategies  Ignore anger if not reached aggressive/threatening levels  Remain concerned. Focus on their feelings. Respond to what may be behind their anger.  Avoid overly insisting they confront upsetting material, hurtful comments  Remain calm if refuse to cooperate  Acknowledge their concerns seek reasons refusal  Offer choices, acceptable alternatives. Invite to problem solve with you

37 Protection of workers in face of parental aggression  Essential for workers to report parental aggression  Seek help and use agency resources to minimize risk to themselves  Access counseling for associated stress & trauma  Ensure good agency policy re worker support post aggressive incidents

38 Mark Cary Toowoomba, QLD Ph


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