Sunday 26 February 2017
For Westminster Forum Child Protection
Conference Report 23/02/17
In January 2014, I had a phone call from a colleague who keeps better records than I do.
"Have you noticed the rise in medical and autism Child Protection cases?"
"Yes, its driving me crazy"
"They all seem to come from a few places."
I Googled the areas she mentioned.
"Oh my goodness, they're the pilot areas for the new Education Health and Care Plans."
"I knew there had to be an explanation."
"If these are the trials, then we'll be inundated when EHCPs roll out nationwide in September."
Sure enough, over the past two and a half years things have continued to escalate.
Published statistics show rises in Child Protection and Family Court cases over the same time period and various explanations have been given. I think one important reason that's been missed, is the change from Statements of Special Educational Needs to EHCPs, coupled with directives to 'work together'. These changes have led to a rise in education, health and social care practitioners (including unqualified ancillary workers) operating in areas beyond their skills, training, experience, expertise and competence. They 'fail to safety' by making risk assessments, where those assessing risk have little or no knowledge of autism, connective tissue disorders, ME / CFS or a plethora of other difficulties. To the uninitiated these conditions can mimic signs of attachment disorders or abuse. Wrong calls are made and damaging investigations opened into families who are not abusive in any way, but whose children may need special educational, medical or social support.
It seems that, although the parents of special needs children may also have special needs, and notwithstanding the Autism Act 2009, few authorities give Autism Awareness or Complex and Additional Needs training to Social Workers. Cambridge University research has shown that children of autistic women are more likely than others to be investigated for possible emotional abuse. http://bit.ly/2hKAv3s
This comment is from a mum, whose family are facing unhelpful professional intervention:
"There is an assumption of competence by professionals of each other. In our county Social Workers are not trained to recognise signs of autism and they will assume abuse when they see those signs. If the parent asks for a referral to get the child assessed, diagnosis will be opposed or blocked on the basis of the Social Worker's professional opinion. The family ends up in the Child Protection system, or even in the Family Courts because the Social Worker misreads the signs, and few parents know enough to ensure that a court appointed expert has appropriate knowledge of autism to correctly appraise what they see.
Until professionals stop making assumptions of competence of other professionals, we will be stuck in a situation where children with genuine medical needs are regarded as abused by their family and are actually abused by a system that tears them away from loving families and then expresses surprise when they get worse, not better, in a new setting. When it turns out a professional was wrong, no one even apologises to the child or the family for the damage done. That needs fixing before we start assuming we have hundreds of thousands of hidden abused children."
A retired university lecturer in autism replied
"Well put ".
Jan Loxley Blount TCert., Diploma in Child Development.
Parents Protecting Children UK was formed in the aftermath of the 17th October 2001 House of Lords Debate on False and Misleading Accusations of Child Abuse. We serve families with complex and additional needs, who have been caught up in the Child Protection system. Our Facebook community currently has around 1250 followers. https://www.facebook.com/PPPC.UK/ We are currently collating results of a survey which lists Local Authorities who have failed to understand unusual family situations and have reported these as emotional abuse. We work closely with False Allegations Support Organisation, Parents Against Injustice Network and a variety of condition based organisations and family support groups
Tuesday 7 February 2017
Refrigerator Mothers and the MSbP Myth.
Autism Families accused of MSbP / Fii - If you've got 53 minutes and can pay $2.49 on a credit card this is well worth watching. Refrigerator Mothers - Kartemquin Films 50th - link below.
It's American and therefore in English, unlike the more recent Sophie Robert TV film 'Le Mur' which is in French on YouTube. (Do watch the short crocodile sequence with a puppet - it transcends language! ) links below.
Both cover the issue of childhood autism being blamed on the mother, as a result of Freudian or Psychodynamic theory, and in particular the work on Refrigerator Mothers, by the Psychiatrist Dr Bruno Bettelheim in the 1950s & 1960s.
There's a fascinating bit in the Refrigerator Mothers film, where Bettelheim actually relates his experience in a Nazi camp and compares the locked in feeling he experienced there to what he wrongly assumes is the child's experience of autism. He blames mothers for this and his view became common in medical and educational theory and practice.
The Sophie Robert film demonstrates that his theories are still alive and well, with French autistic children being denied an education, in favour of the kind of terrifying treatments which one presumes we're going on behind the locked door of Bettelheim's house, as shown in the American Film.
I was wrongly accused of MSbP in 1999, and it appears, from recent events in my locality, that there are still those who believe that I was / am mentally ill and have caused my son's Asperger's Syndrome and invented the hereditary Ehlers Danlos Syndrome which afflicts my daughter quite seriously (and my son and I more mildly). This is all part of the Freudian / Bettelheim mythology.
A fortnight ago, before I'd heard of or seen the Refrigerator Mother's film, I met to discuss current trends and crises in Child Protection legislation and practice, with a leading solicitor who deals with false MSbP / Fii cases. I shared with him a thought which I've only previously ever dared to share with my immediate family, but which I'm beginning to think needs wider consideration. I hardly dare to utter it here, but I'd be interested in feedback, especially after I've just watched the Refrigerator Mothers film.
In 2000 / 2001 the Blair government were given ample alerts to the growing problem of false accusations of MSbP and even promised Kirsty Wark, on Newsnight, that they'd investigate, but they didn't. Socialist administrations in France have similarly failed (as instanced by Sophie Robert in the film and through the long documented legal battle to bring 'Le Mur' to public view). The whole Freudian construct of Refrigerator Mothers and Crocodile Teeth on which MSbP / Fii is based, has its origins in the persecuted Jewish Community in Europe surrounding WW2. This was horrific and I fully sympathise, but we mustn't make mistakes now and in the future because of what happened then and there. Might it be that modern socialist administrations have feared to refute the MSbP myth, because they are afraid to take on the elderly Jewish academics (filmed in France by Sophie Robert, but I've also seen and heard their UK counterparts lecturing to academic and political gatherings) - for fear of being labelled Holocaust deniers?
There may also be a tenuous link, which I'm still trying to think out, and on which I'd love feedback, with regard to John Bowlby's Attachment Theory. This was developed from a very small sample in a very unusual post war situation (children born to women whose husbands either died in the war or returned to their original wives and families when the war ended). This theory has become very popular again today, despite the irrelevance of the original research to today's social, economic and medical circumstances. Bowlby's research was conducted at the time when Bettelheim was, by all accounts, a towering figure in the sphere of Freudian theory. Is it possible therefore, that Bettelheim influenced Bowlby's thinking? Might that be part of the reason why Attachment Theory is proving to be a stick with which to beat the mothers of sick, disabled or neurologically different children today?
Jan Loxley Blount 07:02:17
Autism Families accused of MSbP / Fii - If you've got 53 minutes and can pay $2.49 on a credit card this is well worth watching. Refrigerator Mothers - Kartemquin Films 50th
Refrigerator Mothers Trailer - Refrigerator Mothers - Kartemquin Films 50thhttps://kartemquin.vhx.tv/packages/refrigerator-mothers/videos/refrigerator-mothers-trailer-sd
LE MUR ou la psychanalyse a l'épreuve de l'autisme - vidéo Dailymotion - this is in French but there is a Canadian English subtitled version somewhere in existence - I've seen it - however I can't find it! If you can find it please tell me.https://www.dailymotion.com/video/x16d4fv_le-mur-ou-la-psychanalyse-a-l-epreuve-de-l-autisme_school
Short Crocodile excerpt with puppet: https://youtu.be/1Z0ADVq0SH0
Another related but lighter film worth watching is First Do No Harm - it's Meryl Streep, so you'll enjoy it! Her character's child becomes ill. She engages in research to find a cause and a cure and is blocked by the powers that be, who close ranks to defend their professional theories and reputations, at the expense of the mother, her family and especially the sick child. It's an excellent and horrific account of what goes wrong and so often leads to wrongful charges against parents.
First Do No Harm -Full moviehttps://youtu.be/HyeC9IiFKpw