A significant minority of mothers live daily lives, separated from their children and I am one of them. I have become very aware that my story although a nightmare is not unique...

Monday, 11 December 2017

Discrepancies

This is one of those days when I get an answer which leads onto further questions. I now from this article,  the answer to how many stay at home dad there are. 1.6 % men have given up work to be stay at home Dads.  More than 80% are full time workers.
Yet in other figures from the Office for National Statistics , approximately 10% of single parents are men. Some of them will of course unfortunately be widowers. However that will still leave a percentage point gap between stay at home Dads and those that have residence of the children.

So what?
The question it raises to me at least is if family courts normally place the child with the main carer before the parents split up , why is there a discrepancy in these figures. could it be that men who were not previously the main carer being awarded residence in a significant minority of cases?  Or are these Dad's being awarded the children and still continuing to work full time, something that many single mums on traditionally lower incomes than men struggle to do. Anecdotal evidence suggests ,  men obtaining residence then hiving the children off to the paternal grandparents. Food for thought perhaps.













Wonderful Women

In a  previous post, I was a wee bit negative about some of my fellow women. To redress the balance, I want to thank those wonderful woman who have helped me through my traumatic experience. Hopefully I won't leave anyone out.

Recently, I bumped into the only woman who continued to speak to me, when my children were taken to live with my ex. she once again asked how I was. In the small village, I unfortunately lived in gossip went round like wildfire and I was ostracised,at first: except this young Mum, who lived two doors away continued to  talk to me. Her kindness went a long way. She had seen what had happened and she had been married to a similar character herself.

I had two rocks that supported me, though both lived miles away. One my Mum, who had been right through the same experience herself and the other my oldest school friend. Without either of these who listened for hours and hours over the phone , I am sure I would be a gibbering wreck or dead by now.

Nearer to home, I reached out for help through two local support groups. As shell shocked as I was, I was determined to fight for my children and so would access whatever support I could. To be in a room , hearing versions of your story made me realise I wasn't mad or bad , just traumatised and who wouldn't be, after going through as much crap as I had. Next I have met some great people online and afterwards offline too, once again the kindness of those who have also hit rock bottom provides priceless support. Nationally http://www.matchmothers.org/ are there to provide support for mothers apart.
Being a mum apart from your children is an isolating experience, you feel that you are the only one , you are not, many others are on this gruelling journey too. They are some of the strongest women I have ever met, whatever society says about them, to me many are wonderful women and I salute their courage, tenacity and thank them for their generosity to others in the same situation.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

The Drama Triangle

Everywhere I've turned somebody has wanted to sacrifice me for my own good—only /they/ were the ones who benefited. And now we start on the old sacrificial merry-go-round. At what point do we stop?
Ralph Ellison

I am a parent who has been through care proceedings and I want to talk about something that was an eye opener for me, with apologies to those who are less  of a nerd. My specialist subject today is the Karpman Drama Triangle and how it applies to interactions with professionals.  The what?!

Basically ,there was this bloke , Stephen Karpman M.D. , American of course, who as a student constructed a theory of social interaction encompassing conflict , power and the shifting roles people play. Why I first became interested in it was as a domestic violence victim , I could not understand how professionals did not see past the perpetrators immediate morphing into the victim every time the police were called.  That victim status got him sympathy and belief that he was the injured party.

The Drama Triangle consists of three roles , two at the top of an inverted triangle, the persecutor and the rescuer at the top and one at the bottom is the victim. Although the roles are not static , people often have a natural leaning towards one of them initially in a relationship whether personal or professional. These are learnt roles from childhood.

I am a natural rescuer, though of course I have played of three roles at times. The reason why, is I had too much responsibility as a child and so learnt that my worth is consistent with how much I can help someone. Many caring professionals are also rescuers, but a significant minority can also spend some of their time as persecutors and victims. One such was my children's social worker. I hope I am now not turning into the persecutor but rather pointing out bad social work practice. I will not name her , lets call her Susan.

Susan was actually a little bit younger than me, she had like many come to social work late, in her late 30's . I got to know her well, too well, as she used to slot me in as the last visit of the day and sit and talk about herself. She told me about her strained relationship with her mum, the split with her ex, all the jobs she had prior to becoming a social worker,her son, a difficult removal of a new born baby, her problems with her job..... I listened. What I didn't realise at the time was that she was playing the victim and I was playing the rescuer, when in fact I was an actual victim whose needs she should have been attempting to find resources for. For instance we were supposed to have a family group conference and I should have had a carer's assessment. When my situation worsened she of course then shifted roles again to be the persecutor.

We all get payback from the roles we play. Susan initially got me to confirm her victim status, she sat on the pity pot and I said the appropriate responses. Remember on the whole I am a rescuer and it was a role I was very familiar with. It was extremely unhelpful to the situation though, by rescuing , I could stay in denial about my problems and by Susan maintaining her victim status she was telling me that she was helpless to make changes to her life let alone enable me to make changes to mine. We were both trapped on the merry go round.

Act 2
Whilst Susan continued to play out her victim role , the situation worsened and our positions on the triangle shifted. She became the rescuer of my children and my ex , plus my persecutor. I then felt like a victim, when no one would acknowledge that, I in turn became her persecutor , if she had done her job properly would we have reached crisis?

Social Work in particular
I have every empathy for social workers, heavy case loads,  working conditions and the undoubted trauma they face every day. However, and you knew there had to be a however, they are not victims. They are middle class , from social classification, and have far more choice and advantages than their clients. Including the ability to move jobs, if they really cannot stand the position they are in. Their client group, if it involves child protection or mental health has multiple disadvantages. Yes some of clients problems are inter generational, but you can't actually be blamed for your parents. Clients live very different lives,with very few options; some days just living is a miracle.

What is in it for me?
This is the single most helpful tool I have found in breaking the drama triangle. Not being over analytical, but simply working out what payback that both you and the person you are in any relationship with are getting. Is one helping the other , giving too much time , money, sympathy without any return. Do you know absolutely nothing about your friend but they know your complete history. Healthy relationships benefit both parties, I'm alright, your alright. that includes relationships with with professionals as well.



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Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Summer Hols

Children everywhere, parents getting stressed, broke and wishing them back to school. What would I give for just a couple of hours with my child.
I had to travel by bus today, there was a bright 3 year old in front, chatting away to her Grandma. On the way back, there was an older child who had evidently spent the morning getting her school uniform.

Triggers
All the time I am surrounded by children, it triggers memories of mine. Memories now tainted by separation. It is so difficult not to feel an overwhelming sadness, part of the grief cycle. My mum said she used to look out for little blond boys. My brother is now as bald as a coot, but the trauma lingers.  She has not only been estranged from her son, but is now facing the same situation with her granddaughters thanks to my controlling ex and those who have helped him.

What helps
Remember your not the only mum going through this trauma. It may feel that you are , but 14%of single parents are dads. Some of course will be agreed arrangements or as a result of bereavement, but a considerable percentage may be such as myself  and my mum, forced estrangement.
The holidays are not forever, they are already over in Scotland , just try and take each day at a time.
Be kind to yourself, we are our worst critics, you have gone through something beyond horrendous, cut yourself some slack.
Reach out for help, MatchMothers run a helpline staffed by volunteer mum's apart from their children.

Love to all separated mums everywhere x




14%

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Domestic violence/intimate bullying

Does any of this sound familiar?

  • Name calling and teasing
  • Taunting
  • Mocking
  • Making offensive comments; verbally, by text message, by email or by social networking sites
  • Malicious gossip
  • Stealing
  • Physical violence
  • Making threats
  • Coercion
  • Isolation from group activities
Actually it is not about domestic abuse , but from an article about the bullying of children at School.

I am sure most victims will relate to some if not all of the methods of bullying. So would it be easier, to explain and more importantly victims to be understood if for instance the term intimate bullying was used rather than domestic violence?
After all bullying is more easily understood, most  people will have either been an unwilling victim  or witnessed it at school or in the workplace. Some of course would have been the bully themselves.

Victim blaming is rife in schools, not matter how many anti bullying policies, they may have. With quite often the victim having to move schools and the bully remaining to choose yet another victim. The same happens in the workplace .

Then the isolation, the sense of helplessness and the crippling shame would be more blooming obvious. Perhaps it could be understood why she just doesn't leave, but is stuck like a rabbit mesmerised by the headlights of an oncoming  car.

Perhaps they could see beyond the perpetrator's facade , see how he works the crowd, to isolate the victim, just as the school bully does. Understand how his character flaws led him to the need to dominate in the first place.

It is  time to stop bullies, bullying wherever it occurs,acing the blame where it lays,  including in intimate relationships.


Sunday, 7 May 2017

I wish I didn't have to say I told you so, but I did

  Just before Easter, HMIC released an inspection report into child protection of my local police force ,amongst others. They had rated Humberside as inadequate and identified a number of areas that required immediate improvement. The Chief Constable had left the force prior to this report.
 Extracts from report are  in bold. 
The report flagged up very serious failings with regard to investigating and safeguarding CSE victims, children witnessing domestic violence, monitoring registered sex offenders and procedural failures leading to insufficient investigation into offences.
I wish I was surprised,but it simply confirmed my experience of daring to report child abuse to them.





The force has only provided limited training for control room staff in relation to vulnerability, including child sexual exploitation, domestic abuse and coercive control . The force has recognised this and plans to provide training to all control room staff in March 2017 to improve understanding. To address this gap in knowledge, it is essential that the force provides this training. The introduction of the VIAT is in part an effort to mitigate this issue, but it is not operating 24 hours a day and in any case does not yet consistently identify vulnerability in a timely way to help assess risk to children.

This is fairly self explanatory, it should have however been dealt with years ago. Humberside is the force that failed to red flag up Ian Huntley



Domestic abuse


The force responded to a 999 call from a victim of domestic abuse three-and-ahalf hours after receiving it. Information in the log relating to the incident indicates that criminal damage may have been committed to the victim’s laptop. When officers did attend the premises, they advised the suspect to leave the premises and concluded (incorrectly) that no crime had been committed. The force assessed this incident as standard risk. However, the victim had been the victim of domestic abuse on numerous previous occasions and there were also other risk factors including a child being verbally abused, drug abuse and separation. No referral was made to children’s social care. Since this incident there have been five further domestic abuse incidents, most of which were assessed in isolation by attending officers as standard risk. We found that officers did not recognise that the escalation and frequency of the occurrences increased the risk of domestic abuse in this family

A neighbour called the police having heard screaming from an adjacent address. A mother of one and three-year-old boys had been assaulted by her partner. The police arrested and charged him. However, there is no entry relating to this incident on the child abuse tracking system, so it is not known whether the children were seen or if their welfare was checked. Further, it appears that no referral was ever made to children’s social care services in relation to two young children exposed to domestic abuse. 

This is appalling, but from my experience not at all unusual, I contacted them a number of times with concerns, supplied historic details, witness contact details and even audio recordings. My youngest told a police officer her Dad had threatened her. My eldest was a victim similar physical abuse to what I had reported months before.  As they say in Yorkshire,nowt appened .



The force does not always record the demeanour of a child, including what the child said to the officer. The force has tried to improve the recording of such information by including specific prompt questions on its domestic abuse risk assessment forms, but the quality of its responses remains inconsistent

Once again from my personal experience, that they actually take very little notice of what children say, leaving them in very high risk situations


The mother of two children (aged six months and two years) reported being sent intimidating text messages and photographs of damage which her ex-partner had caused to the house. She was too frightened to return home. The child abuse computer system was not checked but would have shown a child death linked to the suspect. There was an initial delay in police attendance while young children were left in a high-risk situation with a suspect who had attempted suicide the previous week. The officers failed to identify coercive and controlling behaviour by the suspect. They did not make a timely child protection referral, as this was not highlighted as a case involving children. As a consequence, the case remained in the backlog of cases awaiting inputting on the computer system

Looking at this, how long before another child death, like Ellie Butler?


The force does not consistently record decisions from principal safeguarding meetings in minutes. For example, the multi-agency child exploitation (MACE) meetings held in Hull and East Riding do not record minutes, and so there is no record of any actions agreed. Inspectors also found that the minutes of some strategy meetings and initial child protection conferences did not contain a record of principal decisions made. This means it is unclear what activity has taken place, or is required to keep children safe. It is also very difficult to hold staff and other agencies to account for their action, or inaction

and with regard to the use of Police Protection
However, inspectors were concerned by the force's failure to record data relating to its use of protection powers consistently. The form that officers completed when they exercised these powers should be uploaded to the force intelligence system, but this did not always happen. This means that the force cannot rely on or assess any data it holds and represents a gap in intelligence that might otherwise inform the force's decisions when dealing with future safeguarding incidents
Parents will not be at all surprised at this, many have been complaining nationwide regarding police forces failing to follow procedures then this tainted evidence used in family proceedings.

  Although inspectors found some cases where the decisions reached clearly took account of the needs and views of children, many case files contained very little information about the views of the child. The delays in speaking to children and dealing with suspects seen will do little to deepen the level of trust that children at risk might have in the police or other agencies and may lead them to conclude that the police do not believe them

Which puts them at so much greater risk, both short term and long term.



Inspectors found that most PVPU staff spoken with who manage child abuse investigations are knowledgeable, committed and dedicated to providing good outcomes for children identified as being at risk of harm. However, many PVPU staff have not completed the specialist child abuse investigator development programme (SCAIDP), nor are they detectives or working towards full detective status. No SCAIDP courses are currently available to staff. This lack of training in safeguarding and investigation was apparent through our case audits, in which inspectors found that wider safeguarding issues remained unaddressed. This left children potentially at risk of harm and meant the force was not pursuing some investigative leads.

Case file analysis Results of case file reviews During the course of the inspection, Humberside Police assessed 33 cases in accordance with criteria provided by HMIC. We asked the force to rate each of the 33 self-assessed cases. Practice was viewed as good by the force assessors in five of the cases and as requiring improvement in fourteen. In 15 of the cases practice was considered to be inadequate. HMIC also assessed these cases. We were pleased to note that we agreed with all the force assessors’ gradings. Inspectors selected and examined a further 63 cases where children were identified as being at risk. Sixteen were assessed as good, 21 as requiring improvement and 26 as inadequate. 
Can you imagine if a surgeon operating on children having such a failure rate still being allowed to operate?




The context of the court proceedings

Very rarely have I seen police evidence criticised in judgements. yet from this and I am sure Humberside are not the only force to be failing in this way, it ought to be given more scrutiny ,  I feel that more weight is given to professional evidence in court proceedings .  Parents are seen as conspiracy theorists or non complaint if they question it's validity. This clearly demonstrates it cannot be trusted.
There are of course reasons why, the police are underfunded like every other public service and being inspected may actually add to the problem.

 What if you are that Mum who has called the police numerous times and then Childrens Services get involved saying you don't have understanding of the risk to your children. Or you are facing a child protection conference where the decisions taken are not minuted.   At risk of sounding like I am throwing my dummy out of the pram , it really is not fair. More importantly it is not safe for children.







Monday, 17 April 2017

It hurts when you lose your Mum

Prince Harry has had the courage, to admit that he shut down emotionally after the death of his mother. I discuss the grief cycle  here . He seemed trapped in denial for many years before he could address it and from reading, it was his older brother who prompted him to seek help.
I have seen a number of people trapped in this cycle of grief for years. A friends Mum being very shut down and addicted to prescription medication* after the death of an elder daughter as a toddler.

It started me wondering , I must admit not for the first time what the long term effect on the mental health of my children will be. They have effectively lost their Mum, have they stuffed emotions down? One of my children has definitely developed mental health problems already, it is very obvious. Yet the situation that has caused the harm does not change.

It is not just traumatised children who use denial as a tool, professionals do too. It  is all lets pretend that it hasn't happened, we haven't placed these children with a controlling man, with a previous history of abuse. We will make out that all is well with these children, even though they have been traumatised, we will deny they haven't.  No, no all is well and isn't he doing as excellent job as a  parent.  It similar to a toddler who has found  a chocolate stash and despite the evidence plastered over their face denies that they have been eating chocolate at all.

Ironically my ex , lost his Dad at a young age ( he died suddenly) and I know  he has never recovered from the trauma. This is really what does screw my head, why would he let his children go through the same loss of a parent when he knows how detrimental it is. Would he not want to break that cycle or does he not have the ability to do so. Or maybe it is part of his journey, to realise that blaming everything in life that goes wrong on his bereavement  as he did, just allowed him to escape from personal responsibility.

More positively though, I as well as Prince Harry know that you do not have to be a victim of your past. You can work through trauma, not matter how complex. That gives me hope for the future of my children, it may not be at this moment, but as it becomes less stigmatised to seek help for mental health issues maybe, just maybe they will be able to reach out to grasp what is on offer as adults.

* help for those addicted to prescription drugs