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National Adoption Week 2016 – Behaviour (Child-on-Parent Violence)

Published: 17.10.16

To mark National Adoption Week 2016 (17th-23rd October), Adoption UK is sharing a number of powerful stories from both adoptive parents and adoptees on subjects including disruption, post adoption support and child-on-parent-violence (CPV). In the first of our stories, adoptive parent Lydia tells how her family overcame CPV.
 National Adoption Week 2016 – Behaviour (Child-on-Parent Violence)

An adoptive parent who was repeatedly attacked by her sons has told how violent incidents are now ‘very rare’ ever since she learned techniques to de-escalate their anger.

Lydia* attended Adoption UK’s sell-out Non Violent Resistance (NVR) course in Birmingham, last year, and told us how her sons, “hit, bite, kick and spit at us” and how their 10 year-old even came at her with a knife.

At the time, Lydia said: “I’m quite embarrassed and ashamed about the idea that I get beaten-up by a 10 year-old boy. It seems quite a pathetic situation to be in.” Her husband, John*, added: “I hate the fact my children, who are quite young, hurt my wife. They have impulses that I simply just don’t have.”

But their situation has transformed remarkably over the last 18 months since employing NVR techniques in their family home. Lydia describes it as a “turning point for our family”.

“Far from daily occurrences, aggressive incidents are now rare in our family,” Lydia said. “When we think about our boys’ future now, it is with hope. They are growing up into strong and caring young men, and we are very grateful for the role that Adoption UK has played in helping them to get here.”

Under-researched phenomenon

Lydia concedes that they could not have managed without their support network - one of the key principles of NVR, nor without their two boys who have “worked incredibly hard and deserve to be proud of their achievements”.

Most people cannot imagine what it would be like to be physically attacked by a member of your own family...in your own home...on a regular basis. And it’s even harder to comprehend if the perpetrator is your own child.

If you were beaten-up by a child who you’ve chosen to join your family, to love and nurture forever, how would you feel? Would you blame yourself, or be too ashamed to approach professionals for help for fear of having your child taken from you? Would you keep the violence secret from friends and relatives in case they judge you, or your child?

Child-on-Parent Violence (CPV) is an under-reported and an under-researched phenomenon. Often it is the mother who suffers the most. It can include physical violence, verbal abuse or damage to property.

Almost half of all of the families, who received peer support services from us in 2015/16, did so because of significant physical and/or verbal aggression from child to parent.

Concerns about Child-on-Parent Violence have been known to us through the experiences of our members and were starkly evidenced in the research report by the University of Bristol, Beyond the Adoption Order, which found that only 3% of adoptions disrupt but many others were in crisis due to extreme behavioural problems.

Children who have suffered the trauma of abuse or neglect respond differently to other children

Last year Adoption UK was awarded a government grant to deliver peer-to-peer support to adoptive families who were experiencing CPV. At the end of its first year, the project, which was piloted over four regions in England, has already helped 100 families. The Welsh Government has also funded Adoption UK to deliver NVR training for adoptive parents and social workers.

Adoption UK’s chief executive Hugh Thornbery CBE said: “Parents and children both need skilled help and support so that we can help to reduce the adoption breakdown rate. For parents, it is just as important to know what not to do - i.e. actions that will escalate violent behaviours - as well as how best to manage both at the point of crisis and beyond.

“Children who have suffered the trauma of abuse or neglect respond differently to other children, they have experienced the world being an unsafe and dangerous place so what might be minor issues to others - such as mentioning homework or setting reasonable expectations on tidying up at home - will trigger violent responses. The child's violent behaviour reveals extreme distress and a need to feel safe and protected. These children need a particular style of parenting to overcome early childhood trauma. They need clear boundaries but they may reject any attempts at parental affection or management of their behaviour.”

Adoption UK’s purpose is to give voice to adoptive families and to ensure that the right support is there for them. Anyone experiencing difficulties is urged to become a member of Adoption UK and contact our helpline on 0844 848 7900 or by emailing helpdesk@adoptionuk.org.uk

* Names have been changed.