Albinia Stanley spoke to Dr. Barbara Rishworth, clinical psychologist and co-founder of ReFrame collective, and Dr. Anna Gupta, Professor of Social Work at Royal Holloway University and trustee of ReFrame, about their new project's aims, values and hopes for the future.
AS: What is the ReFrame Collective?
BR: ReFrame is an action collective focusing on issues connected to care-proceedings & Child Protection systems. It grew out of a therapeutic service I was running at the Brandon Centre in Camden for young parents who had had their children removed from their care. It was an unusual service in that it didn’t limit the amount of time parents could access therapeutic sessions, and some parents continued to work with me for the whole four years that the project was running. The longevity and consistency of the service was part of what made it effective, as it enabled the young parents to slowly build a trusting relationship with me and my colleagues. After four years, the funding for the service came to an end. To mark this we responded to some of the parents desires to raise awareness of their experiences and held an exhibition at The Roundhouse in Camden. We had such an incredible response from the range of people that attended and the parents involved turned to me and said, we have to do something bigger about this, we can’t waste everything we've done so far. So ReFrame is that, and it is a collaboration between parents and a collective of professionals (social workers psychologists and family court solicitors) who fundamentally believe that parents should be directly involved in developing a more socially just child protection system.
AS: How can therapists work well with young parents?
BR: Young parents whose children are subject to child protection will often have have often experienced difficulties in their early years. They will have been referred for counselling before and are often distrustful of therapeutic services. Many feel that traditional therapy models do not help them. Therapy needs to be redesigned to better meet the needs of young parents, especially those leaving care themselves. For example, when at Brandon Reach, we would not insist on holding sessions in a clinical setting. Instead, we wanted to show therapy could be done more flexibly, in spaces in which parents felt safer and more comfortable for example, by talking on a walk along the canal, or chatting in a café or the parent’s own home.
AS: What goals do you have for the future?
AG: As well as being activists and providing training and consultation to various local authorities and supporting the involvement of birth parents in services, we want to deliver services. One of the ideas we have been developing, is to deliver a model of peer mentoring for the Child Protection process and care-proceedings which can run parallel to therapy provided by Barbara and other psychologists. The peer mentors, parents who have experienced the system themselves, would be clinically supervised and work from a psychologically-informed model. The peer advocate in this space is a translator, navigator and adjudicator, who can bridge the gap between professionals and parents.
BR: We have a lot of different ideas we are excited about developing; from supportive spaces for parents to co-producing an early intervention courses, which would explore relationships and parenting approaches outside the standard mainstream paradigm.
If you would like to find out more about the ReFrame collective, please contact Barbara on firstname.lastname@example.org.