Its Kinship Care Week this week and National Adoption Week starts on 14th October.
We would like to draw attention to a very serious problem that is having a terrible detrimental impact on the health and well-being of parents and carers – being blamed.
All too easily, if we draw attention to our problems, or a child of trauma talks about their despair, we can end up being the subject of a harrowing safeguarding investigation. The system is risk averse and we take on a huge risk as parents and carers if the support is not there for us. We can even end up in court. In adversarial court proceedings we find ourselves relentlessly persecuted – because this is the nature of care proceedings. It is parental capacity that the court will be focusing on – with all efforts made to deflect from negligence and failings on the part of agencies. It feels like it can never be anyone else’s fault. Mothers and primary care givers are especially vulnerable to blame with children with attachment issues, which most of ours will have.
No apologies will be given if errors were made and there were misunderstandings about us. Professionals were doing their job. The court was being forensic. We can’t speak about any of this because we need privacy and we cannot talk about what happens in court.
What we know is the attitudes and opinions of professionals carry much more weight than ours – yet they do not live with trauma, and they often don’t understand its impact.
Unfortunately, services and courts are not trauma informed. The whole child protection infrastructure is not trauma informed. It is child focused and not family focused – and in families where 25% of us experience false allegations (see Table 12 of our Health and Wellbeing Survey), this hostile safeguarding approach, where we are viewed through a lens of risk to the child we love and seek help for, so that they might heal – doesn’t really work.
It is the worst thing in the world to be blamed when you or your child talks about their despair. You feel their pain, you feel powerless to help -and then their pain is attributed to your failings. When our children feel despairing or even suicidal and and the conclusion of professionals is it must be our fault – this harms rather than helps. This is what we are dealing with and it is ruining lives.
A supportive approach is needed in these incredibly difficult situations – where professionals do not ignore the child’s past, and start to consider the impact the past traumas and losses might have on the child and family life – with experts in the field of trauma and adoption and special guardianship. Working supportively with us will enable professionals to find out if we really are the cause of a child’s problems much more effectively. But too often, risk averse professionals start with the assumption that it might be down to us, monitoring us and looking through the lens of risk. Courts are adversarial by nature and there is limited capacity to cope with complex cases where the laws of the land and legal frameworks were never designed with our families in mind. They were designed for harmful parents.
Instead of seeing we are a family in crisis, they use a sledgehammer approach that destroys our trust and confidence in them and can break the relationships with our children we have tried so hard to build.
Something is going very wrong at the moment and nobody seems willing to talk with us about it.
Over the last two years, we have used social research methods to undertake a programme of lived experience research to highlight our problems. Why does no one wants to talk to us about this research? Do they think they know about this already? That we do not deserve to participate in dialogue? What is going on that SGandAT cannot be part of the dialogue about change? How have we ended up as pariahs?
We need to talk about parental and carer blame and we need to start doing this now!
Talk to us please and help us stop the harmful blame!