The aim of the Mothers Apart Project is to develop a multi-agency workshop for professionals responding to mothers who have become, or are at risk of becoming, separated from their children. Mother-child separations often occur in a context of domestic and/or sexual violence and abuse (DSVA), particularly the non-physical kinds of abuse that involve coercive control. It is common for mother-child relationships to be targeted by abusers who utilise grooming and alienating strategies involving ‘the use of children’ to cause psychological/emotional harm to mothers. Exploitation of institutions and manipulation of the children, professionals, friends and family are key tactics in such strategies. Mothers apart are frequently to be found at the intersection of the family courts, social services and women’s services, where a contradiction between violent men and men as fathers mean that mothers are blamed both for failing to protect children and for failing to encourage contact.
This is a PhD project funded by a Faculty of Health and Life Sciences PhD studentship at Coventry University. Ethical clearance has been granted for this project number P26848 entitled: Developing training for professionals working with mothers separated from their children in a context of domestic and sexual violence and abuse. The principal researcher and project leader is Laura Monk and the supervisory team comprise Professor Erica Bowen (Director of Studies), Professor Sarah Brown and Dr Emma Sleath.
The overarching aims of the project are to raise awareness of the needs of mothers who become (or are at risk of becoming) separated from their children, improve responses to these needs and inform policy making. The needs of the children in many cases would be best met by first meeting the needs of their mothers. As Liz Kelly said this year at the Women’s Aid 40th Anniversary National Conference: “Woman protection is frequently the most effective form of child protection”. In the spirit of keeping mothers and children together in the aftermath of violence and abuse, mothers apart and interested professionals are invited to inform the planning and development stages of a training programme aimed at best practice in responding to complex needs. This is a community based action research project that seeks to involve and empower the communities who are the potential beneficiaries of the training developed in this study.
Methods of data collection for this project include a survey, interviews, focus groups, planning groups, autoethnography and this blog. Comments made on this blog will be collected and used to inform the intervention planning, development, implementation and evaluation. Therefore, by posting a comment on this blog you become a participant and consent to your comments being used in the study. If you make a comment that you wish to remove you will need to contact me and request this by email within two weeks of posting. Participation in this study is entirely voluntary. If you are disclosing information about becoming separated from your children in violent/abusive circumstances, please post anonymously and protect the identity of others.
WARNING: As with all questions/discussions about domestic and sexual violence and abuse, survivors can sometimes be triggered, so please contact me on email@example.com in the event that you become distressed as a result of taking part in this project and I will direct you to an appropriate source of help and support.
This blog will be used to generate ideas, seek answers to questions, document progress and reflect on the process of this PhD project. I am interested in your feedback and welcome directions to literature and arguments that I have not yet discovered. I am particularly interested in existing interventions aimed at mothers apart from their children and training aimed at the professionals involved in their lives, so please do share information about these.
I have been very inspired by Pat Thomson’s blog, patter, which is a great resource for PhD students. The blog is a mine of information that has influenced my decision to blog about my research project. Pat’s recent post on research project blogging coincided nicely with ethical clearance for this blog so thank you, Pat – it was very helpful. I am looking forward to my journey into blogging and getting to know the blogging community. As a mother apart myself, the Mothers Apart Project is close to my heart and I am committed to creating real change. I am not an academic helicoptering in to study a community only to leave once the study is complete without achieving anything positive for the community members. I want to thank the charity, MATCH Mothers, that I have been a member of for over ten years by giving something back. This charity is an amazing community of incredibly brave women who offer their strength and support to each other in terrible circumstances of becoming separated from children. Please consider joining if you are a mother apart and please donate if you wish to offer much-needed financial support.
I hope you check-in again soon and I welcome your feedback.