She would barge into their home once a week, sometimes twice, demanding her children back.
It could happen at any time: during the day, after school, at night – whenever she was high.
After six years the kinship carer snapped and went to the police.
“She was upsetting the children,” said Linda (not her real name). “She would demand they had to go to her house and stay with her, or go in the car.
“The children wouldn’t go. They were traumatised by it.”
Linda took out a family violence intervention order against the mother, forbidding her from approaching the children, or those who look after them.
According to a new report by community organisation Baptcare, family violence in kinship care is an under-researched and often ignored issue potentially affecting hundreds of thousands of Australians.
An online survey of 101 kinship carers who had experienced some form of family violence found more than eight in 10 had experienced psychological, emotional and verbal abuse. Half had had their property damaged.
The research found nearly half of the abuse towards the carers was by the children, mostly boys aged five to 10 years old. And 36 per cent of the carers said they had experienced violence from the child’s father.
But the main perpetrators of the abuse were the children’s mothers.
Violence was directed mainly towards the carer, but 68 per cent said the child was also victimised. More than a quarter of carers said their partner had been targeted.
Baptcare Mission Development general manager Olivia Maclean said the study’s results made for a “disturbing read”.
“It provides us a rare glimpse inside the homes of many of the most vulnerable Australian children,” Ms Maclean said. “Through this research we hope to identify ways to reduce the incidence of family violence, and provide higher levels of care and support for all involved.
“The provision of support to kinship carers is widely regarded as inequitable in comparison to foster care, and the results of this research reinforce this fact,” she said. “We’ve all been talking about this for too long – it’s now time to act.”
Carers who took part in the survey said the violence had a detrimental effect on their mental and physical health, caused conflict with other family members, and led to a sense of powerlessness.
In Linda’s case, last year, despite the family violence intervention order in place, the mother showed up at a public place and tried to grab one of the children.
The mother was hauled to court, but a month later she again confronted Linda and the children.
Linda said they had installed security cameras with night vision around the house, but the constant attacks made them fearful.
“Foster carers wouldn’t tolerate the crap we have to,” she said. “You have to be alert all the time.”
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