We are very pleased to provide a platform for another progressive voice for change.
This time, our guest blogger is a senior social services manager who is a change catalyst within her social services department.
She recognises that parent alienation is extremely concerning and a growing problem, largely because it is not properly understood, is often wrongly blamed on non-resident parents and very little is being done to understand and promote the importance of children having a loving relationship with both parents. She wants to change that situation.
The Peace Not Pas ethos is that parenting should be shared not bossed or governed by one parent simply on the grounds that they somehow obtained primary carer status, usually by way of adversarial legal processes that too often cause severe and lasting damage.
There’s an important amount of information so this will be a blog in two parts.
Here is the first:
Including Fathers (or other alienated/absent parents):
IS IT ME?
As a daughter of the most wonderful and precious father, a man who was my hero and my inspiration, and I miss him every day.
I write this blog in his memory detailing why fathers (or other absent parents) must be part of any process. Children need fathers in their lives, I would not be who I am today without mine, children need both parents.
The problem of erasing parents from the lives of children is hugely destructive and is growing.
Whilst this two-part blog will look at fathers, who are still by far and away the group most targeted by alienation practices, it is meant for the alienated parent generally (regardless of gender).
Make no mistake, if we do not address the problem of parental alienation, more and more mothers will become targets as well, as gender equality at home catches up with the gender laws at work. Already, former same sex parents are enacting parental alienation dynamics too.
So, how do we ensure equality in parenting and prevent parent alienation becoming a disturbing, abusive norm? What does absent/alienated parenting mean? How do we change this and include alienated parents, especially the Hidden Men…
As a social worker, and a manager and I have worked across many domains in both public and the private sector.
I am passionate about:
- Good social worker practice
- Upholding parents’ rights, families’ rights, including the rights of those, for whatever reason, are absent/hidden in children’s lives.
I advocate for families’ rights every day and develop teams where this is held in high regard and the whole family at the centre of all we do.
I want people to read this blog, who may find that they are lone parenting and to stop and ask themselves, “How did this happen?
Is it me?”
For if we all change our behaviour a little for the better, our children will be the ones to thank us for it.
I design and deliver training on ‘Hidden Men: Fathers can safeguard too.’ The training is meant to open our minds to the fact there are as many good fathers out there as mothers, they are very valuable and they have rights the same as the mother, and should be included fully by the social worker in everything they do.
Social workers often work with the ‘main carer’, it is often that work is undertaken with them to support change within the family home. Who that person is, is largely decided before our involvement.
Learning from serious case reviews, one of the revised approaches for improved practice includes:
- Identifying the men in the child’s life
- Involving fathers/men
- Seeing men as protectors
This indicates that there has been learning from serious case reviews.
But has it really changed our practice?
What is clear to me is that we need to fundamentally change the culture of social work, changing the thinking, believing that fathers can safeguard. But also, mothers can harm.
Children need safe parents and where safe to do so they need BOTH parents.
It has to be all about the children, their needs, their voice and their wishes not the agendas of the adults, which will not always be child-centred. Alienating one parent from another is clearly a growing, of less well understood or publicised cause of harm.
My minimum expectations in social worker practice is:
- Genograms are undertaken from the outset, who is who in the child life; these are done with the adults and done separately with children and young people. This enables us to assess those absent adults
- Genograms allow us to start conversation with the resident parent/main care giver
- Absent comes in many forms, working full time, service families, and those parents who do not live with their child, absent parenting takes many forms and I want social workers to engage, include, speak with, visit, share, the same level of work, support, everything they offer, share or give to the main care giver
- Social Workers also need to fully understand parental alienation and the signs, signals and proven pathways and tactics that lead to it
- The alienated/absent parent, must be included, invited to meetings, sent reports, information should be shared equally with parents
- Sessions with the father (absent parent) should always take place, their voice is vital within any assessment, court report or intervention being offered, regardless of where they reside.
- If a child is open to social care, there is some concerns, therefore the non-resident parents may be a protective factor, and this cannot be disregarded.
- Two parents sharing care in some form will, more often than not, be a safeguarding asset rather than an additional risk.
- Mediating can be useful, but social worker must remain focused on the child and they need to have the view that the child needs both parents in their life.
- Assessments should not be signed off by managers unless there is a clear voice of the absent/alienated parent – the assessment needs to understand how parents conflict impacts on the child as well as parental alienation, assessments and reports need to offer a balanced view, where all sides have been given equal weight and outcomes are evidence based with the child at the centre.
- Some resident parents may not be open about the alienated parent, they may say they don’t know where they live ect… it is the Social Workers job to build a relationship with the main carer to ascertain this information and keep talking about the importance of the child.
What we need to do to involve fathers:
- From the very beginning, emphasise to parents how crucial the father’s role is to the child’s well-being in the context of both parents being important.
- Encourage fathers to attend appointments and classes. Make appointments for times convenient to them, such as evenings.
- Involve fathers and male carers in assessments. Ask them directly about risky behaviours such as drug and alcohol use and offer them services based on their needs, if there are any such needs.
- Make sure fathers and male carers, including those who are not directly involved in mothers’ and children’s lives, know about concerns relating to their approach so they can take any necessary improvement action. Consult them about plans, invite them to child protection conferences and include them in core groups.
- Some fathers (parents) may still choose to not engage, this is their choice, but a social worker MUST try to understand this, and still include them regardless.
We need to change the narrative from seeing men as threats and to start properly appreciating their role, especially as protectors.
- Estranged fathers and ex-partners may be able to give crucial information about a mother and children. Likewise, the siblings of an at-risk child can give insights into family dynamics and important people in their lives.
- We must explore the potential of estranged fathers to offer protective care and stability; many can if we engage them.
- Fathers can safeguard too. Paternal family can safeguard too, we must adopt a whole family approach.
- Children need to know their wider family; they have a right to understand their whole journey and we have a duty to provide this.
It is clear that alienation of non-resident parents, predominantly Dads, can and is having a very detrimental effect on the development of thousands of children.
Social workers can and should adapt practice, do this differently and in many cases are doing it differently; we just need to continue on this road of change and inclusion.
In the second part of this blog I will highlight some of the ways in which I am modifying social worker practice under my control to be much more inclusive of fathers and male role-models, combating alienation practices wherever we encounter them.
Please Note: We will gladly refer readers to true professionals who add value, deliver results and operate in line with our core principles.
We are also more than happy to feature quality content by writers; any wish to remain anonymous will be respected, as is the case above.
So if you align with our vision and ethos, have someone to recommend, are someone we would recommend or have something to say on the subject of shared parenting and parent equality in either a personal or professional capacity and would like a platform to have your say or contribute in some way to our cause, please contact us.