Support Groups for Impacted Parents

When the child welfare system removes children from their homes, parents experience extraordinary grief. They also experience loss related to their identity as parents. However, they grieve without the rituals or support that typically accompany loss.

When children are removed, isolation can deepen shame and shame can deepen isolation. Stigma, too, keeps parents from talking about the trauma they’ve endured. “If you say, ‘I’ve been involved with this system,’” explained one parent advocate, “people say, ‘Oh, so you’re a child abuser?’ They see you as a monster mum.’”

One way that parent advocates support parents impacted by the child welfare system is by facilitating support groups. Bringing together parents who have experienced the trauma of child welfare involvement is not easy. Group leaders need to help the group create norms that build safety and protect against further trauma and judgement.

Peer support groups also have the potential to help parents know that they are not alone. Groups can build a shared understanding of how race, class, discrimination and historical trauma impacts families and brings them disproportionately to the attention of child welfare. Groups can help parents envision and work for change in their own lives and in the world around them.

 
 

Addressing Grief and Loss, Canada

The Grief and Loss Education and Action Project

This paper and PowerPoint describe The Grief and Loss Education and Action Project, a support group held in Toronto, Canada, for mothers whose parental rights were terminated because of drug use and street work.

 

Nicole, author of One Safe Place, with Rise staff

Acknowledging Trauma and Supporting Safety, The United States

Rise

At Rise, writing and discussion groups are often an important first step for parents in making sense of their child welfare experiences. But writing about past traumatic events and hearing about the traumatic experiences of other parents can be triggering. Parent advocates can read and discuss this resource in groups to help group members develop a shared understanding of what trauma is, how it affects people, and how everyone can protect themselves while in the group

Read one parent’s story of how a support group helped her forgive herself for her own pain and be present for her daughter’s pain.

 

Reducing Isolation, The United States

Parent Cafes

Isolation has been shown to contribute to child welfare involvement. Bringing parents together to share, learn and grow together can keep some parents from ever coming to the attention of child welfare while supporting them in building stronger, happier families.

Parent Cafés is a movement that has been spreading across the United States and offers an example of how group work can be used to keep child protection from ever coming into families’ lives.

 

 

Additional Resources

Moms Matter, The United States: Interview

Dena Garzone is “the founder of a program called Moms Matter which establishes support groups for mothers who have children in the child welfare system.” Dena was selected as a “Reunification Hero” for National Reunification Month in 2020. In this Reunification Hero interview by the ABA Center on Children and the Law, she describes her work.

Rise, The United States: Healing Ourselves, Healing Our Children

Parents who grew up with chaos, trauma, or family separation need guidance to build safe, nurturing homes. The 10 stories and worksheets in this workbook from Rise offer non-judgmental guidance from parents who have reunified with children placed in foster care. Ideal for use in parent support groups, preventive services, or with reunified families. Parents will feel capable of setting family routines, improving communication, and using positive discipline. Most of all, stories model how to think about children’s needs (and parents’ own needs) and solve problems.

Family Inclusion Strategies in the Hunter (FISH):

See how FISH advertises Morning Teas for Parents. Morning teas are peer support events that are coordinated and run by parent leaders from FISH with experience in different aspects of the child protection system.

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