by George and Mel O’Neil

empty chair

A long time ago George worked with a young man who was with foster carers.  They spoke to him about his past, when he lived at home with “Bad Jackie” (his mother).  You will not be surprised to hear that the placement with those foster carers did not last.

We know also about a young man, aged twenty one and autistic.  He lives with two carers in their own home as part of a supported living scheme.  The young man’s mother complained about something the carers  did.  Since then, seven months ago, the mother has not had chance to meet with her son.  She is told that he does not want to meet with her.   He has spoken with his mother, by phone, twice in the last several months.  The last call was about two months ago.  During the previous call, about a week before, he started to cry……then his mother started to cry.  The phone was passed to somebody next to the mother. The young man shouted, “YOU ARE RELIEVED OF YOUR COMMAND !”  When he was asked if this was from the recent Avengers film he replied, calmly, that no – it was from Dr Who.  Maybe the shouting was for the benefit of the people he lives with, who were standing nearby.  One of these workers wanted then to talk about how upset THEY felt about the actions of the parent.  The other stood in the background saying loudly, “Tell them !  Tell them !”

We have recently become interested in stories about what is called Parental Alienation.  Usually this relates to the situation where one parent in a separating family “badmouths” the other parent.  This manipulation of the young person can be conscious or unconscious, deliberate or non-deliberate.  Mixed messages can present problems for the young person caught in the middle – “Oh, go on then, phone your father.  I suppose you’d better get it over with !”

Other coercive relationships have similarities.  Cults try to distance possible members from their families.   So do organisations trying to recruit those who might carry out terrorist activities.  There is a wealth of information available on all of the above situations.       and

Think about the balance of power in fields such as social care.  Current thinking is that the best practice for people who need support lies in them have the chance to make decisions for themselves.  They should not be making choices to meet the needs of those who are supposed to offer support !

The latest news in the life of the young man described above is that, following a discussion with an inspecting body, he returned to the care setting and exploded at the carer .  Often inspections ask “Do you get chance to meet with your family ?”  The carer had to have hospital treatment.  The young man went to a respite placement for a few days then returned to the house of the carers.  He promised to behave better in the future.  If he felt angry he would go to his room.   At the time of writing nobody has found out WHY he exploded.  Many people believe that  occasional ‘challenging behaviour’ is to be expected from somebody labelled as having a condition such as autism.  Thankfully, as far as we are aware, nobody in this story has suggested the use of medication.  But that method of control has been used in similar cases.

Tony Benn, one time MP for Chesterfield, asked five important questions:

“What power have you got?”

“Where did you get it from?”

“In whose interests do you use it?”

“To whom are you accountable?”

“How do we get rid of you?


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2 Responses to Alienation

  1. Good questions.

    I was a short term foster parent for 14 years. By the time we stopped that crazy ride, we had cared for over 300 kids, mostly teens, all in trouble with the law. Two things drove me crazy – the first the therapists who blamed every thing on parents; the second, the fact that non of the “professionals” asked the kids what they thought about their problems and particularly about where they should live. I wrote a lot about my experiences, see my Katherine Gordy Levine Amazon Author’s Page; but as no one listened to the kids, not many listen to me.

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