Child Protection for the Autistic Child - A Resource
Commitment Meaning - the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity
When things kicked off, I felt very angry with myself that I had’ent followed my own instincts when my son was younger and gone looking for answers much earlier. As it turned out timing is everything and for our son, adolescence was the worst time to be told he was different and in many people’s eyes, maybe even his own, ’less’.
When he entered Care, social workers said in reassurance “We won’t give up on him. If asomething does not work, we will try again. We will stick with him until we get it right”. It struck fear in my heart because where he is concerned, one chance is all you get. You need to prepare and get your timing spot on. You need focus because if you make a mistake (e.g. failure to follow through on a commitment, no matter how casually made or apparently minor) there will be no going back. He is not a child in Care who yearns for love because he missed out on it. He ticks differently and needs understanding that can come from a place of love or expertise.
Trying to explain this is very hard. Either professionals are very confident they have the answers or you scare them, because they know they don’t. Each seem to have to learn the same lessons anew. When it goes wrong adults cry, professionals question their own competency and value, lives are changed in detrimental ways that cannot be changed back. More often than not everything begins anew in a slightly different context. The same play, different set and actors other than the lead. You’ve seen it before and the ending always looks the same. You try to remember that the future is full of possibility, not predestined. You somehow cling to faith and hope. You know your commitment to your child is of a different quality to that of professionals. They may not remember his name within months. He grew inside you and etched his name on your heart.
Although every family situation is different and most are not like ours, parents of children with significant vulnerabilities usually learn to live with high levels of worry about their children. We may hope the next professional, the next plan, the next step will be the missing piece and we may have faith in the approach by this specialist or that school but we can still be an anxious lot. Sometimes professionals focus on this anxiety. ‘’Mum seems anxious’’ or even “Mum is quite negative” with the implicit criticism that this is the cause of much of a child’s difficulties. The other accusation, and it can feel like that, is “Mum is over-protective” Parents usually know how to risk assess and have been doing it for years. If a professional can demonstrate they can too and have a genuine commitment to and understanding of my son then I'm happy to take that criticism, otherwise not.
When you are paid to care for children and you've taken on the responsibility willingly, then commitment to the children in your care, should be a given. Expertise is something else. It is rarely held by one person or group. Many people have may something to contribute. I believe any professional who is good at their job, will listen very carefully without judgement to parents of children with vulnerabilities, and assess what they are hearing on its own merits. When they do, they are likely to find a lot of information to help build a workable plan for a child or young person. All need to be prepared to negotiate and have a little bit of patience, hope and faith. There are, in my experience, many committed professionals prepared to do this but the systems they work in seem to place a tiny value, if any, on this way of working and often frustrate it. Our son's specialist described us as a 'protective factor' for him yet the systems he and our son's social workers work within place almost no value on what we bring. This lack of commitment to or belief in the value of families, causes profound harm to the children and young people many systems, including the Care system, exist to help.
I believe that the Child Protection system and Child Protection mindsets help a small number of children as they should but they cannot compensate for or even mitigate the harm caused by the absence of a genuine commitment to children within families by policymakers. Change is now inevitable because the current system is unsustainable and when it happens it will take commitment combined with expertise from multiple stakeholders, including families, to ensure change benefits these same children and families.