On hearing the voices of children

” ‘So, your mum and dad can’t drive the car to work Jimmy, here’s the keys, perhaps you could do that for them.’

So, your mum and dad can’t agree where you should live or when you should see your dad Jimmy, perhaps you could tell us what you think you should do.’ …
When a child says ‘I don’t want to’ and family services simply report that as fact and act to uphold the child’s ‘decision’ the child is placed firmly into a double bind from which they cannot wriggle free. When family services examines ‘I don’t want to’ and sets that against the need to help the family to adjust to liberate the child, the child is freed to drop the defence and move back into the flow of living.

Which is what we all want for our children isn’t it?”

Karen Woodall

There is a  trend within family services to listen to the voices of the children who are in the midst of family separation. This trend, which appears to me to be growing stronger, is focused on the need to put the child in the middle of the separating couple’s relationship breakdown so that they, not their parents, can determine what should happen in the years hence. To me this is a tragedy nothing less than child abuse because the very last place a child should be is in the middle of the breakdown of the relationship between parents, with all of the attendant horrors that brings. Never-the-less, from the birth of CAFCASS’s Wishes and Feelings reports, to the training undertaken by Social Workers and Mediators, listening to the voice of the child seems to be all about making sure that children say what should happen when the family separates. So…

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