Home > Between a rock and a hard place. How parents deal with children who use substances and perpetrate abuse. Project report.

Adfam, Against Violence and Abuse. (2012) Between a rock and a hard place. How parents deal with children who use substances and perpetrate abuse. Project report. London: Adfam and Against Violence and Abuse.

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Previous research commissioned by Adfam and AVA found that the problem of child to parent violence (CPV) was under recognised and under supported by services. It found that many groups which offered support for families affected by drugs and alcohol came into contact with parents who reported high levels of violence from their drug or alcohol using children which in many ways was similar to what is widely considered domestic violence under the definition of intimate partner violence (IPV).

This stage of the project consisted of facilitating nine focus groups throughout England with 88 parents affected by CPV. In these focus groups parents were consulted on to their experiences of CPV – what form it took, when they first realised what was happening, which services they turned to first, and which services were the best in providing support. The focus groups were conducted in a safe and confidential manner by an experienced facilitator, with Adfam and AVA providing a confidentiality protocol and a consent form for parents taking part. The second stage of the project will provide training for family support groups and a series of briefings on CPV.

Conclusions and recommendations:
• There are parents who are affected by violence and abuse from their substance using children, often to a severe degree, who feel they have little or no recourse to help from services.
• The policy and service frameworks that exist are failing to meet the needs of parents experiencing CPV. CPV does not currently fit neatly into any governmental policy nor into the strategic vision of service provision for victims of domestic violence. This is partly due to the current governmental definition of domestic violence which explicitly defines it as occurring between only those aged 18 or over. This clearly does not capture the experiences of all the parents in this project, many of whom were affected by CPV perpetrated by children aged under 18.
• Increased recognition of CPV (and an accompanying modification of the governmental definition) should be implemented to bring about a sustained improvement in the support offered to parents. Part of this recognition is dependent on bridging the gap and increasing dialogue between the family, substance use and domestic violence sectors over where the issue sits and what each sector can contribute.
• With family support groups clearly recognised by parents as the most effective method of help for families suffering CPV efforts must be made to support them, increase their capacity to screen for CPV and offer appropriate sign-posting to domestic violence services and others. For groups to offer sustained support to parents they need to be properly resourced. They are often small, and run by passionate people who are experts of their own experience, but operate on small budgets. Large or complex tendering processes can be very demanding in terms of time, and efforts should be made to make these processes accessible and open to all providers, including small voluntary and community sector services.
• There is a lack of perpetrator programmes for those aged under 21 years old. The current conceptual framework around domestic violence and perpetrator programmes assumes the perpetrator has a level of experience in adult relationships. Clearly many perpetrators of CPV have very different characteristics and therefore need a different type of programme to work on addressing the violence they perpetrate.

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