Child Protection for the Autistic Child - A Resource
The Route into Care
Thanks to Sam for this piece explaining the challenges that she faced before her autistic child entered Care and the support offered set against the support needed to keep her family together.
On a Desert Island
"Well you could eat seaweed for roughage and vitamins, coconuts and fish for protein umm..." The social work assistant tried to extract more out of the exercise but gave up and talked about her grandchildren for the rest of the visit. I was being taught parenting, presumably to think about a balanced diet, even though it would be fairly obvious to anyone even a little bit observant that my children were well nourished and fit. I suppose it may have been helpful if Children's Services were offering to airlift me to a desert island for the respite I had so desperately begged for. I am a Mum of three the eldest two are diagnosed with SEN which has required help outside of mainstream education and led to extreme difficulties both in and out of the home. I also suspect my ex-husband has autism as well. Life could no way be described as normal and although you can do this for a number of years in the end you, to be frank, end up fit for nothing. I literally ached, most of every day, I rarely sat down, I didn't dare lock the loo door as seconds could be vital to deescalate situations. I had to give up work, as my son bounced in and out of school, running away, being excluded, refusing to go. On advice of a retired children's social worker I contacted my local children's services, nothing happened, he contacted them, nothing happened, a carer's centre contacted them nothing happened, I tried again several times more, nothing happened, the retired social worker tried again nothing happened, then my GP referred, well you know what comes next. Eventually something did happen when, I phoned up crying saying I had to drag my son out from under his bed. Bells and whistles then it was a child protection matter, I had touched my child. The hamster wheel starts, a meeting is convened and the children are placed on the children protection register, on a split vote (the children's head teachers vote against ) and the chair ( paid by the local authority ) voted for. So the children are on the register and still nothing happens, apart from I have to learn how to survive on a desert island and I have learned not to trust social workers.
What should have happened?
As a family we should have been provided with tailored support. It may well have been that I could have benefited from a parenting course, and I did do one voluntarily which made sense in relation to my neurotypical child but did not help at all with the problem of parenting a SEN child. We should have been provided with support under Section 17 of the 1989 Children Act. Unfortunately local authorities tend to duck their responsibilities and what could have been a 'child in need' matter escalates into a 'child protection' matter with all the parent blaming that is attached to that label. I could have done with some time off, respite care, for as with many other children with autism, school ended up being a no-go area for a period of time and that meant home education as well. His siblings deserved some attention as he took a larger proportion of my time than a neurotypical child. In hindsight we could have benefited from family therapy and someone actually explaining autism to us. A carer's assessment would have been the icing on the cake. I was not asking for a hand out just a hand up. Instead matters escalated as I became more and more frightened, tired and my son's acting out increased. In all probability well over a million pounds has been spent on my family as opposed to a few thousand spent at the right time to stop the child protection juggernaut.