Uncovering The Pain

Parents’ Experiences of Child Protection

Dr Gary Clapton

University of Edinburgh

This article discusses the results of the first Scottish survey of parents’ experiences of child protection.  It begins with what we already know.  Parents are poorly served by existing child protection processes. Parents are not heard and judged, they feel threatened, and speak of feeling punished and harmed.  We also know that these experiences give rise to anger and cynicism.  Parents, especially mothers, feel their identity questioned and undermined.  Suspicion of parents is endemic.  ‘Us and them’ is a regular refrain relating to parents and social workers. 

The survey results echo this existing knowledge. In addition, analysis of the survey results has brought to light less discussed consequences of child protection. These include the debilitating challenges of trying to maintain contact with a child or children in care, the frequency of misunderstanding ADHD, Autism and Associated Conditions, and the sheer depths of despair, helplessness, hopelessness and resignation felt by parents in child protection. Also revealed is being involved in child protection processes has a wider ripple effect that negatively impacts on other family members, results in the loss of jobs, social isolation from friends and neighbours and breakdown of relationships with services such as schools.

Highlights

First Scottish Survey of parents’ experience of child protection backs up experiences of parents elsewhere.

Parents are not heard and judged, they feel threatened, punished and harmed. 

Anger and cynicism is widespread. 

Parents, especially mothers, feel their identity questioned and undermined. 

Us and them’ is a regular refrain relating to parents and social workers.

The Survey also points to:

the debilitating challenges of trying to maintain contact with a child or children in care

the frequency of misunderstanding ADHD, Autism and Associated Conditions

the depths of despair, helplessness, hopelessness and resignation felt by parents

How being involved in child protection processes has a wider ripple effect increasing family, social and economic isolation.

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