Child Protection for the Autistic Child - A Resource
Snowfall in Summer
When my son entered Care it sometimes felt as though we have got him on the last transport out of a very dangerous city in a time of war. We, the adults, had been left behind to face a regime focussed on our ‘re-education’ while he had been rescued to a place where we could never go. One of the most surreal moments I experienced during my re-education ( Troubled Families Parenting Programme - 30 hours plus etc.) was sitting facing a panel of police officers while they explained the concept of 'joint enterprise'. I was surrounded by parents in similar circumstances. My peers appeared to be reasonable parents although we all had various difficulties to varying degrees often around violence, poor mental health and lack of support. I'm not sure if telling us about one of the dangers of 'gang' membership could ever do anything more than frighten us and we were all frightened enough already to my mind. . I can only imagine that someone had an idea in their head of what our families needed and had developed a 'one size fits all' programme to address these stereotypical needs.
On our parenting course no one ever talked about the impact of poor mental health, poverty or domestic violence. These omissions were not explained and no one seemed to consider this a lost opportunity or that courses such as these could be harmful if they gave all a sense that difficulties were being addressed when, for many, they had not been understood. This is not to denigrate the programme but to use an analogy, It was as if, before the doctor in a NHS hospital would see us, we were first prescribed antibiotics and measured for a shroud by a private company with a contract to measure for shrouds and prescribe antibiotics only, on the basis that some people would benefit from this.
The reality is that families may have any number of difficulties that cause a rift between parent and child and indeed children may enter Care for lots of reasons including death of a parent, abuse, risks that adults in their lives pose, violence or addiction in the home, illness of parent or child and lack of resources to address difficulties. This lack of resources puts parents in poverty at most risk of losing their children although for each child and family there are likely to be a unique set of circumstances that can lead to the same outcome.
Working with Families
Good social work I believe, although I'm not a social worker, involves engaging families with an open mind, responding to all as individuals and engaging with the reality of their needs and circumstances. By contrast popular culture presents people in need of children's social care as crude stereotypes - feckless, drawn to crime, poorly educated, brutal and always 'less'. It is if all believe that it is not 'morally acceptable’ to need services in and off themselves. The Victorians took the same stance. They gave the destitute ‘moral instruction’ via the pulpit. Church attendance was required if anyone needed to access parish relief. Parish councils gave way to local government. Eventually the welfare state was born. Those involved in its birth were incredibly proud of their achievement. Those now dismantling it seem very pleased with themselves too.
Children that enter Care
When a child enters Care it is almost inevitable they will experience difficulties within Care and beyond as a result of their experiences although with good support, the effect may be minimised and the child may thrive. That is what all hope for and should be working towards. Any way to help carers and others to understand why life might be difficult for a child in/from Care and how to help them has to be positive. There are ethical ways of presenting this information including using first person narratives to educate others about the impact of action/inaction, abuse, neglect. These can be illustrated in cartoon form to protect identities. If an abused child enters Care and in turn loses her own child to the State she could give a first person narrative of how her abuse affected her and how her own corporate/adoptive/foster parent could have helped and prepared her for parenthood. If an foster/adoptive parent wishes to give an account of how their previously abused child is struggling coming to terms with what happened to them and how it negatively impacts family life, than that is a first person account that can be taken at face value. These are all powerful, ethical ways to explain the negative impact of abuse and neglect and life experiences on a child and what might help.
Why would we need to paint anyone as a demon before we can care about their child – even though that is the job all take on?
I have heard looked after children speak about foster carers in the most positive terms possible – about love and care given and received well into adulthood and beyond. It is essential when all are prepared to understand children who enter Care who may not be able to name their complex emotions.
Unfortunately some information provided to social workers, foster carers and adopters portrays a picture of birth families as stereotypically neglectful and abusive. One company in the business of selling their services promote what is described as ‘virtual reality’ to explain the impact of poor early caregiving on a child including virtual reality from the perspective of a fetus. http://www.communitycare.co.uk/2018/02/08/virtual-reality-can-help-give-social-workers-adopters-carers-new-insight-child-abuse/ This material ( independent evaluation carried out as part of the Innovation Programme - see below **) does not make clear what are beliefs and if so whose, what is known and what is disputed. This is one of the most extreme portrayals of families who have need of services but I've seen lots more that come from the same perspective. To my mind, this material is a crude exercise in selling services and raising income yet there appear to be no critical examination of its extremist nature and the harm this can cause.
So what is the harm in material like this?
I question if suitable carers and adopters should need to be told birth parents are stereotypically abusive and in stereotypical need before they can understand how to love a child and try to reach a child irrespective of how unlovable they may first appear because they are hurting so much. If you need to first hate the parent, before you can love the child what kind of parent are you likely to make? How is this equipping a carer to help a child come to terms with their own identity and help build their self-esteem?
It is also questionable whether social workers who have considerable power to intervene in families are helped to view each situation on its own merits when for example their employer exposes them to portrayals of the 'virtual reality' of life in the womb of a neglected child that needs rescuing. Shared parental responsibility when it applies, is hard for all and takes commitment to work through in a child’s best interest. A carer or social worker is very unlikely to show any commitment to it after viewing extreme anti-parent material like this.
The most disturbing aspect of material that reduces people to crude stereotypes, for me, is not that it is out there being used by local authorities day in, day out but that few people seem to question why this might be a problem even though if it were produced about any other group, much of it, or so I believe, would be a hate crime. There appears to be no examination of motivations, no ethical standards, no scrutiny and no control mechanisms.
Is this an almost inevitable consequence of the 'privitisation' of the Care system? What and who have we been left with as the State withdraws from service provision and what are their motivations other than to serve their own needs and keep a healthy balance sheet?
Evaluation of the Cornerstone Adoption Support Programme ** http://springconsortium.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/1.2.81-Cornerstone_Adoption_Support_Programme.pdf " The Beginning Attachments training strategy was to embed the theoretical principles underpinning an attachment-based therapeutic method, known as ‘dyadic developmental psychotherapy’ (DDP), in a group-based course with individual follow-up, which was jointly designed and taught by accredited DDP therapists or trainers and adoptive parents employed by Cornerstone. Cornerstone’s proposal suggested that the training would be the first of its kind in the UK which is designed for parents by parents and benefits from leading academic input and validation (Cornerstone Partnership, 2014)."
This was the researcher's conclusion about the programme:- "the specification and alignment of the distinctive, and separate, adoption support roles of statutory social workers, independent trainers and peer mentors is of most significance. Tension between the various roles should be allowed for, as this can enhance service impact. and Similarly, where there is any risk of role substitution and role blurring, this should be mitigated in service designthe integrity of the social work role must be preserved as a matter of priority, where support functions are re-aligned, to ensure statutory duties owed to parents (and children) are exercised appropriately. " and " Individual children were not identified and tracked, and so programme impact on children’s experience of adoptive parenting (the overarching aim of the intervention) could not be measured and compared with the experience of those who were not in the programme. Nonetheless, when comparing Adopt Berkshire service data for the year prior to intervention, outcomes do not indicate any notable programme impact."
The report pointed the following fundamental difficulties with the Programme:- "Parenting is fully therapeutic when it incorporates the capability to enable children to ‘preserve their personal history to use and revisit at their own pace’ (NICE 2015, Para.1.1.15). However, the significance of research findings on effective and promising approaches to enabling children to develop narrative coherence about their life story (Watson et al., 2015) was not uppermost in programme thinking and design at the outset. A key challenge for adoptive parents is enabling children to hold in their own minds, as well as address directly through contact, those attachment and other relationships which are disrupted by the journey through care (Thomas et al., 1999; Brodzinsky, 2006; Boswell and Cudmore, 2014). It is rarer still to find children’s own accounts of the adoption process on which to base service development (Morgan,2013; Neil,2012, 2013; Selwyn et al., 2014). Furthermore, research findings addressing family relationship dynamics in adoption from other theoretical perspectives werenot cited as being relevant to enabling practice success."
It is like the ‘Therapy’ word is meant to act as a off-switch for the brain.
Shaping Autism Research in the UK - A starter pack for Participatory Autism Research It describes how you can begin to genuinely involve ... people in your research – in such a way that it promotes trusting relationships, is built on mutual respect, and involves listening to, and learning from, one another – that is, being empathetic researchers.
All the Cards are ACEs http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/730b9508-5ff6-4464-a7b8-2bbb6f709ef5