Update: Al Coates has made a short part of his lecture available on his Podcast service. You can listen to it if you click HERE.
Yesterday 2 amazing things happened. One was that I was able to carve out some time for myself and I could actually travel to a different city for a conference – well, at least part of it I could listen to. The other, even more amazing thing was that a Social Worker was openly discussing CPV in front of a 200 strong crowd filled with current and future Social Workers, foster carers, university staff and adopters!
It was organised by CEL&T – Children experiencing loss and trauma. I knew one of the speakers will be Al Coates (The man behind the widely popular blog Misadventures of an Adoptive Dad tweeting under @NadjaSmit) so I was really praying the children will not kick off too badly in the morning and I can actually make it. Sadly I missed the morning sessions, but I could listen to his speech at least. Oh man…
Deafening silence from Social Workers – until now
I was genuinely surprised that a Social Worker was actually standing in a lecture hall openly discussing this secret topic! As with many things in life you don’t care much about it until you are personally get involved. But once it happens to you or somebody you care about you soon realise you have no other option but to become a somewhat expert on the subject and use your personal experiences to educate others. Al’s presentation resonated well with many of us in the audience and reinforced our personal experiences. When our 5y old boy moved in with us he was on full on attack mode pretty much constantly. When we desperately called our SW she just gave the useless usual answers ‘you are not allowed to hold him down‘, ‘just make sure you are safe’, ‘walk away’ but also ‘don’t leave him alone‘ …etc. With other words, the professional Social Worker was clueless as to what to say so she chose the easy and frankly the worst way: ignorance!
When I showed some of the wounds on my body and mentioned ‘CPV is our biggest concern‘ she didn’t even pretend to know what I was talking about and asked me to explain CPV. If she was surprised to hear my black marks were caused by a sweet little tiny boy, she didn’t show! And that’s one of the biggest find of the survey Al conducted last year! I also filled it out with apparently many hundreds of other people.
Violent under 6 year old children are a reality
According to the survey a lot more violence is committed by small children than adolescents and it is poisoning families and contributes to placement and adoption breakdowns on a daily basis! When asked ‘who experienced CPV’ about half the hands went up. When asked ‘who had it from an under 6 year old child’ many hands stayed up! On one hand it is absolutely disheartening. On the other hand it is encouraging to know we are not alone! I think I wasn’t the only one who looked around the lecture hall with a sigh of relief and feeling ‘if I speak up now, people will believe me, people will not label me a bad parent who can’t control her own child and most people will understand our desperation for things to change!’ I assume most of us felt the same way!
Fellowshipping with people who understand
Al’s presentation included several personal experiences and as you look around the hall you can see people nodding. Some people were taking notes (I assume the SW students) and there was a general consensus that we understand where it comes from, we do NOT blame the children, but ‘a chair thrown at you is a chair thrown at you regardless of if it was a 30 year old or a 6 year old doing it‘.
It was very encouraging to hear from a SW who was sharing good practices from her LA and just in general to hear constructive discussions taking place out loud, in the open! We all know it is happening, that it has always been there and it will continue to be a huge problem, but this was the first time it has been discussed with SWs. I am thrilled this lecture has been accepted as part of SW’s CPD (continuous professional development) and it is my personal, selfish hope that in the future it will be compulsory for all SW to gain some understanding on this topic. And then the next step can come: How do we deal with it? I think it’s a great first step to admit that it is a thing. Now the clever people can get together and develop strategies and advise desperate parents that will hopefully lower the number of adoption breakdowns! See? It’s all connected!
Meeting Twitter friends in real life
Another advantage of attending such gatherings is to meet people I feel close to, although I have never met them in real life. I only know many of them by their Twitter handles and don’t even know their real names, yet, because of our shared difficulties we are quite close and we all know we can count on each other for support!
I do not want to write more on the lecture, I think Al will do similar presentations around the country, plus the link above should take you to some further resources. One thing that shocked me was the lack of research and literature written about this as of yet. My only hope is that with people like Al with the help of CEL&T and others who campaign hard for this topic, things will continue to move forward in the right direction. So come on people, let’s make some more noise, share stories (you can read and link up CPV stories at the wonderful Hannah Meadow’s blog ), spread the word and change perceptions one conversation at a time!
On a slightly related topic (yes, it’s a shameless plug) I wrote an article to Adoption UK‘s magazine about Hope After and Adoption Breakdown with some mention of CPV. It’s a print magazine, but I took a picture of the article – you can read it here.