Bryan Samuels: Why removing a child from harm’s way should not simply mean ‘case closed’


IMG_5433 (10)The University of Chicago’s Bryan Samuels during his presentation to this year’s Helping Families Change Conference at Beurs Van Berlage  in Amsterdam.

Mounting evidence of the cumulative effects of complex trauma, toxic stress and adverse childhood experiences has helped shift the way that child support services are delivered across a number of US states, this year’s Helping Families Change Conference (HFCC) was told.

In his keynote address to the 17th annual HFCC in Amsterdam, the former director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, Bryan Samuels, said that for the past 15 years, US state administrators had focused on the safety and permanency of children in the welfare system at the expense of outcomes based on child welfare.

“There is no doubt that children in harm’s way should be removed from a dangerous situation,’’ Mr Samuels said. “However, simply moving a child out of immediate danger does not in itself reverse or eliminate the way that he or she has learned to be fearful. The child’s memory retains those learned links and such thoughts and memories are sufficient to elicit ongoing fear and make a child anxious.’’

Read more

What should parents do if their child is bullied at school?

Having your child bullied at school is one of the greatest fears of parents – and research shows this fear is well founded. School bullying has been described as the single most important threat to the mental health of children and adolescents.

Well-controlled studies show that being bullied in primary school increases the risk of serious mental health problems into adolescence and ongoing depression leading well into adulthood.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t?

So when parents find out their child is being bullied, they are right to be concerned. But what exactly should they do about it? Should they tell the school, approach the parents of the other child, or just let their child deal with it?

It can be difficult to weigh up the sometimes conflicting advice given to parents. Parents desperately want to help their child, but if they jump in too quickly to protect their child they can be labelled as over-protective or over-indulgent.

School authorities often recommend parents leave the school to handle it. This is fine if the school is successful in stopping the bullying. However, this is not always the case. Most school programs to address bullying make only modest improvements, leaving some children to continue to be bullied.

This could be why we often hear of parents taking matters into their own hands. This can lead to uncertain legal ground if parents reprimand other children and to ugly arguments between parents. Clearly none of these approaches is ideal.

Read more

Taking care of vulnerable children starts with empathy

When it comes to the difficult topic of child maltreatment, it’s easy to condemn. What might not be so easy to understand for parents who sacrifice the second car for the school fees or drive hundreds of kilometres each weekend taking kids to social and sporting events, is that even parents found guilty of neglecting their children want better lives for their kids.

I’ve often seen this in clinical practice. It’s not that struggling parents lack the will to provide a safe and loving environment for their children. What they are lacking are the skills, knowledge and confidence to create the kind of environment where children feel safe, loved and secure, where kids can grow up to become capable people ready to deal with the world and its challenges.

The lives of parents struggling to look after children can be full of turmoil and riven by poverty, a situation reinforced by social structures where a lack of opportunity is transmitted from one generation to the next.

Read more

‘Parents these days’ are judged too harshly

The ConversationThe following article was first published in The Conversation. At the time of publication, it was the second-most read article authored by a University of Queensland staff member. It has been published in print in The Melbourne Age and online at The Washington Post.

I need to start with a confession: I’m not a parent.

I am someone who investigates how science can help parents deal with the sleepless nights, the fussy eaters, the sibling rivalry, the intrusive in-laws, and a career that favours fulltime hours.

I certainly don’t know what it feels like to hold your own child in your arms and to see that same child grow to become an independent human being.

I haven’t experienced these things.

What I have experienced, though, is the growing and seemingly widespread view that parents these days aren’t doing a good job – that in fact they’re doing a “crap” job.

Parents are out of touch, we’re told, and too soft. They give in to their kids too easily. They’re over-involved helicopter parents, or under-involved don’t care parents. Or they could be bulldozer or lawn-mower parents, the ones who smooth the way for their child’s transition through life and make life difficult for everyone else in the process.

This is the old “kids these days” narrative but applied to parents.

Read more

The quest for glycemic control in children with type 1 diabetes. Can a parenting intervention such as Triple P help?

Parenting interventions such as Triple P have been shown to reduce mental health problems in children. But can a parenting intervention moderate the impact of type 1 diabetes in children as well as improve their mental health and wellbeing?

Two separate studies into the effects of Triple P – one conducted by a team across Melbourne, the other by an international team from Manchester and the University of Queensland’s Parenting and Family Support Centre – suggest these research questions are definitely worth pursuing.

The Melbourne randomised controlled trial (RCT), published in Pediatric Diabetes last year, tested whether Triple P could reduce or prevent mental health problems and improve glycemic control in children with type 1 diabetes.

Meticulous glycemic control is regarded as crucial in preventing serious complications for people diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

If not managed properly, type 1 diabetes can lead to serious short-term consequences, such as extremely low and high blood glucose levels, both of which can be fatal. Long-term complications include blindness and damage to kidneys, nerves and heart.

Unfortunately, day to day management of type 1 diabetes is complicated and onerous, especially for teens who would prefer someone “just invent a cure already’’ and parents struggling with behaviour problems in their kids.

Read more

Japanese researcher’s background as a nurse eventually leads her to publish on Triple P

Dr Rie Wakimizu

Dr Rie Wakimizu

Dr Rie Wakimizu is an Associate Professor from the University of Tsukuba in Japan.

She was part of an interdisciplinary group whose study on the effects of Group Triple P for families raising preschool or school-aged children with developmental disabilities adds to the growing Triple P evidence base in Japan.

In this translated version, Dr Wakimizu explains what prompted her interest in helping children with developmental disorders and their families.

During my two years nursing in a paediatric ward, I looked after a child with a developmental disorder who also suffered from malignant tumours.

The child’s mother was a single mother with severe depression. The patient’s sibling was neglected and then went on to develop problems such as refusing to go to school.

It was because of this case that I became really interested in interventions for children with developmental disorders and their families.

Read more

Independent evaluation of the Triple P – Positive Parenting Program shows population-level health benefits across an entire community

It’s been years in the making but now that the findings have been released, it’s immensely heartening to see that those who deserve the credit in Ireland are gaining the recognition they deserve.

The results of an independent evaluation conducted by a research team from the National University of Ireland in Galway into a population-wide rollout of Triple P were launched in Athlone, in the Irish Midlands, this week.

And the findings, which included a 37.5 per cent drop in the numbers of children with clinically elevated levels of social, emotional and behavioural problems, show just how powerful local partnerships can be when they share a vision to support all parents in the task of raising their children.

Read more

When spanking is at the heart of controversy, so are the myths. Ron Prinz weighs into the debate in a South Carolina newspaper

Spanking and corporal punishment can set off a firestorm of debate under any circumstances.

Add a high-profile NFL case, and we have a recipe for a vigorous public dialogue about parenting, child abuse and best practices.

Public debate is healthy. Unfortunately, this one tends to be marked by myths and distracting generalities.

Myth No. 1: All spanking is child abuse and therefore should be banned. Fact: Most spanking episodes in fact do not rise to child abuse.

Myth No. 2: Parents who spank are bad parents, and spanked children will suffer poor outcomes. Fact: Parents who spank represent a very broad spectrum, ranging from effective to abusive. Generally speaking, children fare well if their families provide a warm, structured and safe environment with appropriate encouragement as well as discipline and limit-setting — whether parents spank or not.

Myth No. 3: Parents who do not spank are effective parents. Fact: Not necessarily. There are many other elements that go into what makes parents more or less effective.

We have all seen an out-of-control child running amok in the grocery store. And we have heard bystanders comment, “What that child needs is a good lickin.”

However, we also have observed parent-child struggles where the young child acts up in the market, is yelled at, continues to act up, gets slapped or spanked and a few minutes later acts up again.

In such common scenarios, the fundamental question is not whether to spank. Instead, it is how parents get into such predicaments and how they can extricate themselves or, better yet, prevent such events.

Read more