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Parents of violent kids often face shame, stigma

On Behalf of | Dec 9, 2019 | Child and Youth Services (CYS)

If a parent commits domestic violence against the other parent or a child, it can have profound and life-change effects, both ordinary and legal. Credible claims of child abuse can affect your child custody rights, for example. You could be facing a restraining order, which could keep you from living with your family. It could result in the state challenging your parental rights.

Although domestic violence is never acceptable, it’s common enough that the courts have relatively standard ways to address the issue. But what happens when a minor child is violent towards a parent?

This is also considered domestic violence, but dealing with it can be a real challenge. The state’s first step is often to remove the child from the home, putting them in foster care or a residential treatment setting. Parents can obtain restraining orders against abusive children, although many choose not to. Criminal charges can be brought, although it’s often hard to see how that will help.

The issue often starts in childhood. That’s what parents Jenn and Jason told an NPR affiliate. The couple says their son was always angry, even as a small child. A slight conflict could send him into hours of destructive rage.

They’ve had their son in various types of therapy and on medication, but it hasn’t been enough. Now 15, the young man is bigger than both of his parents and has taken his rage out on both of them.

Child-on-parent violence is a serious problem

The problem is more common than you might think. According to some estimates, between 5% and 22% of families experience child-on-parent violence. That translates to several million U.S. families.

The Justice Department found in a 2008 study that about 1 in every 12 people who came to the attention of law enforcement for domestic violence were minors. In half of those cases, the victim was a parent.

Since the incidents usually take place at home, there are few witnesses. Many people feel stuck in a volatile situation with little help available. Many experience stigma or the sense that, in the end, the entire problem is the parent’s fault. Many people hide the problem from their friends and family, limiting social supports.

Getting help is critical

Jenn and Jason finally made the decision to send their son to a residential treatment facility for children who have severe behavioral health problems. This was after near-daily threats, outbursts and property destruction. It was after frequent calls to the police for help.

The first step is finding a resource like a specialized treatment center or a support group. A lawyer may be able to help you develop options for intervention that limit contact with law enforcement.