Toolkit for Transformation: Support Groups for Impacted Parents

The International Parent Advocacy Network (IPAN) partnered with Rise to develop the Toolkit for Transformation. Here, we highlight information and resources from the Support Groups for Impacted Parents section of the toolkit. 

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 judgment.

Peer support groups 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 impact families and bring 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.

The Grief and Loss Education and Action Project, Canada

The Grief and Loss Education and Action Project is a harm-reduction support group held in Toronto, Canada for mothers who are past and/or current drug users and who were “apprehended” by child welfare and/or whose parental rights were terminated.

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