We work with families where the parents themselves were poorly parented as children; subjected to neglect, emotional, physical and sexual abuse. Parents may have additional issues of mental ill-health, learning difficulties, substance misuse, domestic violence or as adolescent parents, lacking resources to put a child’s needs before their own. Families are almost without exception in receipt of state benefits, with the stresses that accompany poverty such as poor housing, debt and health problems.
We use different methods, including the PAMS assessment tool, to work with learning disabled parents, according to their particular difficulties. We have developed a range of teaching tools and approaches to support parents where there are particular difficulties in time and task-sequencing, learning, retaining information and difficulty in generating effective solutions to problems.
We provide detailed assessments of the additional measures a learning disabled parent might need to be able to meet their child’s needs, and whether a parent has the capacity to continue to meet their child’s needs as they grow and develop.
Our family assessment staff are trained to work with families affected by domestic violence, including violence in adolescent relationships, and parents who have themselves been abused as children. We help prevent cycles of abuse by supporting parents to understand how their experience may affect their relationships with their children and how domestic violence impacts on children’s ability to thrive and form relationships in later life.
Mental ill-health and personality disorder
One of our residential family assessment centres has considerable experience of working with parents affected by mental ill health, ranging from schizophrenia; paranoia; bi-polar affective disorder; depressions to all types of personality disorder. In addition to mental ill health there may be other issues such as substance misuse and/or domestic violence.
Working with parents with a personality disorder is particularly challenging as behaviours associated with the disorder can be divisive and destructive, making assessment of parenting capacity very difficult. This centre has developed particular ways of working with and supporting parents with complex needs - in particular mental ill health and personality disorder - to develop their understanding of parenting and the skills needed to care for their children.
The managers of this unit also train staff across St Michael’s in a variety of interventions when working with parents diagnosed with a personality disorder.
Substance and alcohol misuse
Our expectation is that parents with substance misuse issues will have engaged with a specialist agency and will either be substance free or on a managed programme. Our assessment will address their ability to meet their child's needs in the context of their work with the specialist agency and in light of their dependency. We work with the parent in partnership with the agency to address areas of concern maintaining the focus on the child and the parenting they receive.
We can begin working with adolescent mothers from late pregnancy onwards. Our dedicated centre for adolescent mothers offers a nurturing supportive environment that gives them the opportunity to take stock of their lives. Placements focus on
- teaching of parenting skills
- transition from adolescent to parent
- ability to put the child’s needs first
- preparation for independent living
- an assessment of the availability of a wider support network
Where appropriate, adolescent mothers can use the teenage parent support groups that we run as part of our outreach service. This can be effective in widening their support network, particularly when a young parent is preparing to make the transition back to the community.