Susan's Positive Parent's Vision
In this blog post, we want to shine the light on some incredible work that is being done by one of our very own Pathways to Care participants.
Susan is determined to bring change, sometimes not at the pace she had hoped for but still, but small steps are still welcomed.
In 2008, Susan found herself in a situation she never wanted another parent to experience. Her daughter was taken from her care by Child Protection, not through any fault of her own but because she had a disability. There was no support for her in regard to the process, what her rights were, and how she could work towards getting her child back. And in fact, it seemed evident that she wasn’t going to ever get her daughter back into her care.
Susan took action, the more she spoke with those around her, and word got out through Reinforce (a self-advocacy group), the more it dawned on her, that her situation was sadly not unique. It was because of this that Positive Powerful Parents (PPP) was born in 2012. It was initially only meant to be a small thing, but word got out, and slowly but surely, parents in the same position as her, started to multiply in their numbers.
Today the group supports more than 20 people, with parents coming in and out as they need. Plans are in place to help set up a PPP support group in Queensland and New South Whales. Their reach isn’t just confined to Australia as well, they have a member in their Facebook group (exclusively for parents) that is from the United States. This just confirms this is not just an Australian issue, it goes far beyond our country.
For the last 10 years, Susan has been helping support parents with intellectual disabilities deal with the Child Protection system. Unfortunately, Susan hasn’t seen any huge changes in that time. It is estimated that up to three in every five children with a parent or parents with intellectual disability are likely to be removed from their care according to research from around the world (source).
Discrimination is the strongest feeling felt by parents at PPP. Susan says “discrimination between the different parents in the system feels very real. The opportunities given to parents that have different issues i.e., drug dependency, seem to have more pathways to reunification compared to parents with an intellectual disability”.
With the NDIS there is hope that parents will be able to access the right supports to grow their skills and knowledge base. This may be slower than expected, as the concept of parenting is not seen as an activity of daily living for people with a disability but one that is expected. Meaning participants struggle to get funding to directly assist them to become better parents. Studies have shown that with the correct supports and resources in place parents with intellectual disabilities have positive outcomes for themselves and their children. Something Susan says is obvious! Currently, PPP is trying to engage with Child Protection to work with them as advocates to have better conversations with the NDIA about what supports would lead to better outcomes for all involved.
Despite being up against it, Susan is determined to continue to advocate as well as provide an environment that is safe and inclusive for parents in need. “The support that we are able to provide, that isn’t anywhere, that is the best thing”. Every Friday night the Friday Friendship Group, organised through PPP gets together. The group, alternating between virtual event and face-to-face in Melbourne and then in Morwell give that face-to-face support and a sense of community many parents aren’t getting elsewhere. Slowly but surely the good news stories come out in these gatherings, which is so important, not just for other parents to be given hope but also for all systems involved to hopefully pay attention and learn to put into place strategies that have been proven to work.
For Susan, “there is still quite a way to go. It’s a long-term vision. What I want is even, just one parent to be able to keep their child with the support they need. That is a win. I will keep plodding along. We need to talk more about it, don’t get me talking about it though you won’t be able to shut me up!”.
You can read more about PPP via their website here as well as find them on Facebook here.