Why ‘parent blaming’ is so damaging

Having a child with special needs can be tough, on some days even super tough! However, what makes this journey even harder is when professionals don’t listen to what us, as parents, are telling them.

CAMHS

I remember one of my earliest appointments with CAMHS, once we had got through the door, it was suggested by the Care Co-ordinator that I go on a parenting course! Are you kidding me?! I have spilled our whole life story out to you, including the initially embarrassing fact that my daughter is violent not only towards me but to senior members of staff at school, and you are trying to tell me that I need a flipping parenting course!!

At this point I broke down, I mean properly broke down! It was the straw that broke the camel’s back! I had come to CAMHS, for help and support, as I KNEW that there was something going on for my daughter that made her different. I had not come to CAMHS to basically have my parenting judged and scrutinised, so this was a real kick in the teeth!

Unlike some parents, I was lucky enough to have two older daughters to prove that my parenting skills were up to scratch! Not that I should have to PROVE anything! How on earth do parents with only one child get through this barrier?

Time and time again

Frustratingly, I hear time and time again of parents seeking help, support and possibly even a diagnosis and nearly every single one of those parents will have been directed to a parenting course! It’s almost as if conditions such as Autism, ADHD, PDA or anything else, are non-existent and any negative behaviours MUST be down to the parent!

How can professionals, in particularly CAMHS, think that your child is kicking, screaming, biting, spitting, swearing and generally lashing out, because they have not been disciplined or not had strict enough boundaries?? Which is what the suggestion of a parenting course implies! How and why do they not initially consider the possibility that there may be an underlying condition to be explored? Honestly, give me strength!!

Not just CAMHS either!

It is not just the professionals with the powers to diagnosis that are part of the PARENT BLAME clan, schools are one of the biggest culprits!

Far too often, particularly when a child ‘masks’ or ‘contains’ in school, school are far too quick to state that the child is ‘fine in school’, again implying that it must be a parenting issue. They appear to have no concept of special needs and that children with difficulties can, for want of a better word, ‘hold it together’. So if they can ‘hold it together in school, then there must be a reason they can’t hold it together at home, so it must be the parents fault’? Right?! Absolutely NOT!

Fine with….argh!

My daughter’s Social Worker once made the mistake of saying within a Family Support Meeting, that ‘she’s fine with me, fine with CAMHS and fine in school’ (this was a couple of years after she had been in a Specialist placement). So I felt compelled to break down the actual time, during term time, that my daughter spent with me compared to the time she spent in school, at a CAMHS appointment, or in the company of a Social Worker and do you know what….she spent 82% of her time with me, 17.5% at school, 0.2% with Social Worker and 0.09% of her time with CAMHS! So it was no real shock that I was experiencing the majority of the negative behaviours that others weren’t experiencing at that time! Ooh and the added fact that I was/am her ‘safe’ place!

Made to feel guilty for financially providing for my family!

Prior to being moved into a Specialist Independent School, there was an occasion where the Head of my daughter’s old mainstream school even made me feel guilty for working full time! There was I, single handedly providing for my family but even this was criticised! My daughter’s behaviours were apparently because she was craving my attention!

The worst accusation for any parent

I think one of the worst accusations I have experienced throughout this whole journey, was again from the Social Worker, where in front of other professionals in a Family Support (I say ‘support’ loosely!) Meeting, she stated “Children’s Services are concerned about her emotional well-being due to YOUR fixation on further diagnosis”. What??! This was at the time that my daughter was suffering from extreme visual and auditory hallucinations! I was made to feel bad for pushing for further assessment despite me being frantic with worry about what she was experiencing and displaying. How could my genuine concern for my daughter’s welfare have been so twisted to be turned into THEIR concern that I was somehow damaging her!?

After my daughter had received further assessment, it transpired that she was subsequently diagnosed with four mental health conditions! There was clearly a reason for my concern and I should never have been judged for that!

Fabricated illness

Being accused of fabricated illness (where a parent exaggerates or deliberately causes symptoms of an illness) is sadly something that many parents of children with additional needs experience. When it is not clear to a professional, particularly a professional who’s area of expertise is NOT in psychiatry or autism for example, then it is easier for them to look to the parent and lay blame.

I’ve heard absolute horror stories where parents are put under scrutiny by Children’s Services, which must be hugely stressful and worrying, and even been threatened with removal of their child/children. How is this right? These are families reaching out and desperate for help. Where is the support?

Mental health versus physical health

What is incredibly frustrating is that if you take your child to A&E with, say, a suspected fracture, you wouldn’t then be advised to go on a parenting course, to learn how to be a better parent, or indeed get accused of fabricating the suspected fracture prior to an X-ray! So why on earth, when parents show concern about their child’s mental health, does this happen?! Not just to one family, but time and time again! It is SO wrong and it HAS to change!!

Many of you may have heard this comparison before, but it such a great way of acknowledging how mental health is as important as physical health.  

The knock on effect of ‘Parent Blaming

The knock on effect of parent blaming should never be underestimated.

Why professionals can’t grasp the fact that us parents are having a tough enough time, not only dealing with our child’s behaviours but everything else that comes with this. This endless hours spent researching behaviours, recording behaviours, looking for patterns and triggers, trying to unpick what may or may not be going on, looking at what WE could be doing differently….all this before putting our heads above the parapet and reaching out for help, support, advice and guidance!

Instead of receiving what we eventually reach out for, we are often left feeling criticised, judged, alone, isolated and totally inadequate! That is IF we believe the professional doing the blaming! Then comes the feelings of failure and guilt, even questioning ourselves a million times about where we went wrong!

However, IF we as the parent indeed have the confidence in our own abilities and stand our ground, ‘parent blaming’ then brings feelings of frustration, anger, insult and isolation.

How ‘Parent Blaming’ feeds into ‘Burnout’

When you are constantly having to fight against services, fight for support, fight for someone to believe you, and yes that’s what is boils down to, this naturally is going to have a negative effect on your own mental health and well-being.

But sadly these particular professionals go home at night without a second thought of the damage they have caused, potentially from one flippant comment or indeed the constant belief that parents are at fault for their child’s behaviour. Not realising how seriously damaging this is for the receiving parent.

What benefit is it to anyone to blame the parent?

What I don’t understand and really struggle to get my head around, is WHAT possible benefit is it to anyone to lay the blame on parents?

What parent in their right mind would make this stuff up?

What professional in their right mind would insinuate a parent would make this stuff up?

Why are professionals so unprofessional that they want to shy away from diagnosis or so unskilled that they need to blame parents rather than acknowledge what’s staring them in the face!?

What harm can be done by listening to parents? Taking on board their concerns?

It needs to STOP! Time to listen to parents!

This culture needs to STOP! It HAS to change! Parent blaming is so detrimental, not least for our children who are being failed, yet again, by the system!

Parents really do know their child best and it’s about time professionals embraced parent views/opinions and saw us as equals and not someone they need to fight against! It’s time to work in collaboration!   

BELIEVE IN YOURSELF! YOU KNOW YOUR CHILD BEST!

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16 Comments

  1. Vicki
    November 21, 2019 / 8:31 pm

    We have 2 autistic children, well 16 and 19 years old, I, like you got accused of Emotional Abuse and the kids were put on the “register” for 18 months, this was 5 years ago,the local MAAT didn’t give our kids the diagnosis they both needed as S.Services told them not to diagnose them!! After it was over the MAAT assessed them again and they got their diagnosis saying “we knew all along that they were on the spectrum”!!!

    • November 28, 2019 / 12:26 pm

      Wow Vicky I’m so sorry to hear this! Far too many families, parents, are blamed in the process and it’s so wrong and needs to stop! x

    • Diane
      January 25, 2020 / 12:18 pm

      This is what happened with my son. He is now in his dad’s care but still without diagnosis. I fought to get help and support from when he was a baby, only to have him removed from my care and my contact limited. Its heartbreaking what they do to children and their families.

      • January 30, 2020 / 10:42 am

        Oh Vicky, I’m so sorry to hear this, this is horrific! In my mind it just doesn’t make sense that professionals don’t work in collaboration with parents. I’m so sorry you went through this 🙁

  2. January 26, 2020 / 9:11 am

    Absolutely! Parents spend enough time questioning their own parenting skills without being knocked down when they ask for help. My first job with parents is very often to encourage them to stop blaming themselves.

    • January 30, 2020 / 10:45 am

      Absolutely this! That’s great that you are in a position to support parents, however it would be amazing if this culture could be stopped/changed.

  3. Ruth
    January 26, 2020 / 2:27 pm

    I remember our first visit from Manchester Social Services who had come out to support us. 2 social workers came round and we seemed to be talking a little at cross purposes. When I mentioned my child’s disabilities, one laughed very loudly and said:
    ‘WHAT DISABILITIES!?! THE CHILD IS NOT DISABLED – IT’S YOU’ My child has severe autism, Tourettes, Dyspraxia, hypermobility and ARFID.

    The social worker had ‘concerns’ about my parenting requiring her to escalate my case:
    1. Limited range of foods in cupboards and freezer. (see above ARFID)
    2. There were many children’s books in the house.

    • January 30, 2020 / 10:47 am

      WOW! I’d would love to be able to say that this is unbelievable, but in reality, sadly, it’s not. I’m so sorry you went through this 🙁

  4. Aukje Noorman
    January 26, 2020 / 2:58 pm

    Brilliant!!!! Thank you for writing this and putting it so clearly and strongly. I have been through the same utter s**t last year with Camhs and school when my daughter had severe mental health problems . I am still furious and appalled at how I was treated- I pulled her out of Camhs when the parent blaming turned into saying we needed social card involved…. I was scared and beyond livid . Took her to a private psychiatrist who listened, prescribed fluoxetine, she got better. And is now being assessed for asd . School was appalling too- patronising, blaming, disregarding, threatening prosecution, etc etc- I cant understand either why this has become the prevalent culture. It’s just the worst thing when you are already struggling and vulnerable. There is no help and you can’t trust anyone.

    • January 30, 2020 / 10:51 am

      Ahh thank you so much for your kind words! However, I’m also very sorry you have had such an awful experience! It’s SO wrong and parents shouldn’t have to be forced into private assessments and support:-( The system needs a complete overhaul!

  5. January 26, 2020 / 4:55 pm

    I genuinely believe that a lot more could be done to support parents of children with special needs or any other needs that lead them to access CAMHS/work with Children’s Services . The support should be for all involved and not apportion blame on anyone. The minute blame becomes the focus all is lost in terms of productive problem solving and promotion of good mental health for all. Sometimes a parent is at a loss and not sure how to navigate the challenges and very often they may reach breaking point where their coping ability completely breaks down due to lack of empathy, support and compassion. More needs to be done and I am on a mission to do my bit with my new Psychological services. I know lots of parents may not be able to access due to affordability but at least I am acknowledging that there is a problem and we need to act now!

    • January 30, 2020 / 10:55 am

      Very well said, I couldn’t agree more! That’s great to hear that you are on a mission, we need more professionals taking your lead so it is affordable or at least accessible to all parents that need it. Well done you!

  6. Charlotte Lane
    January 26, 2020 / 9:20 pm

    Brilliant article! I have the exact same experiences. It is just so exhausting on top of the day to day challenges of caring for my PDA son. Thank you.

    • January 30, 2020 / 10:57 am

      Ahh thank you so much for your kind words! I’m sorry though to hear that you have experienced the same:-(. Far too many parents are going through this and it needs to stop!

  7. Tracy
    January 27, 2020 / 8:23 pm

    I was told by a CAHMS worker that I was wrong to feel embarrassed by some of our son’s behaviour and that part of the problem was that I couldn’t forgive him for being adopted – he is the eldest of our 3 children (all adopted!) I tefused to go there again and the peadiatrician apologised for referring us (she’s a lovely lady)

    • January 30, 2020 / 10:59 am

      I’m so sorry you went through this:-(

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