Let me preface this blog by acknowledging that it will be controversial to some. It is a difficult topic. But, I feel I owe it to the children and young people (and care experienced adults) I work with to write it.
Twenty seven years speaking to children and young people (and care experienced adults) who have been removed from the care of their birth parents due to grossly inadequate care and maltreatment has left me with deep concerns about the impact of parental separation and loss on the developing child, and the capacity for alternate care and therapeutic supports alone to compensate for this. What I am referring to are those instances where birth parents drift out of the lives of their children when long-term orders for care and protection are made. I acknowledge that there are circumstances where great caution needs to be exercised regarding contact (eg, where concerns involve child sexual abuse), and that in some instances contact is simply not possible or in the overall best interests of the child or young person. Nevertheless, whereas many aspects of the growth and development of the removed child are addressed via their placement in stable and loving care environments, there is a risk that attachment security continues to be adversely affected where the relationship with birth parents remains unrepaired or is lost.
I have written here about a how person’s overall attachment style, and their associated approach to life and relationships, is influenced by all of their attachment relationships. In short, a person’s overall attachment security derives from an intermingling of all of their key attachment relationships. Where some of those attachment relationships have been inadequate, the task of achieving overall attachment security is that much harder and rests on supporting the development of positive new attachment relationships and the repair of damaged ones.
Sadly, it is my observation that many children and young people do not get the opportunity to form the enriched attachment relationships that compensate for unrepaired ones, nor do their have an opportunity to repair those in need of it.
This brings me to the topic of this blog. What would I have birth parents hear after the removal of their child? While these comments are generally applicable to birth parents who experience the removal of their children due to serious child protection concerns, the birth parents I would particularly target this to are those who are likely to withdraw from contact and involvement in the life of their child.
Birth parents, I get that you have heard that you are a poor parent and a threat to your child. I get that what others have said sounds like your children are better off without you. I want you to know that I am concerned about what has happened that got you and your child to where we are now. It is not good for you, nor your child. Your child needs you to fight. To fight to overcome the challenges in your life that have gotten in the way of being the parent your child needs you to be. To fight to overcome the urge to give up and withdraw from their lives. One day not too far away, it will be important to your child that you tried. It will help them to feel that they mattered, and that they still do matter. Even if it is not possible for your child to safely live with you, they need you to be involved and interested in their life. This will promote their feelings of worthiness that, in turn, will support them to make healthy relationships with others and good decisions in life.
Though they may not live with you, your child still needs you.
In many instances, a child’s ongoing relationship with their birth parents is a vital aspect to their recovery from early trauma.