I have done some interesting work recently, helping adult victims of child abuse. My clients were a young couple in their twenties, with 4 children under the age of 8, who had 3 different fathers. The children were the subject of court proceedings, with the objective of deciding whether to remove the children from the parents "under the category of neglect."
Both parents had been poorly parented themselves so they had no decent example on which to model themselves as parents. The man had been badly abused as a child. So while the court case had been adjourned, Social Services were attempting to improve the parenting skills of the couple in order that they stood a chance of keeping the children. They wanted to show the court that they had done everything possible to help the parents.
Now some would say that if they were incapbable of looking after 4 children, then the couple should lose the children and they should be taken into care and looked after properly and given a better chance in life. I will admit that I had a similar viewpoint. On closer inspection, it is not quite as simple as that. Firstly, it benefits Social Services to leave children with parents because a child in care costs a fortune. To place a single, simple child with no additional needs into any sort of care costs over £400 per week. Yes, per week! Care is VERY expensive for the taxpayer.
The second reason why Social Workers like to leave children with parents is that children in care tend to do badly throughout their lives. Most of the British prison population have been in care as children. Taking children away from parents is a marker for future social problems, which have to dealt with and paid for by the state. So the arguments for children remaining with families are quite persuasive - current cost, future cost and short and long-term wellbeing of the children.
So my role was to help these two parents come to an understanding and an acceptance of what happened to them as children. The aim was that they could move on from the trauma, enabling them to lead easier, happier lives. And Social Services aim then was to help them to learn improved parenting skills, once they had more of a blank canvas to work with. Someone who has been abused as a child has multiple problems and hang-ups that they have to deal with and they can often be quite traumatic.
The man in particular had been through a hell of a childhood and really had suffered, which was affecting him day to day. After several weeks of work, both individuals were feeling much happier and calmer. They both reported a great improvement in their relationships with each other and the children, they played with the children more and were more positive and optimistic in general.
I was absolutely thrilled. To have such a result for these people was fantastic for me and so rewarding. I saw both parents change for the better over time and I loved seeing it. Ultimately I don't know whether they will keep the children. I am just glad that I could play a small part in helping these people to enjoy their lives.
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