Due to the nature of relinquishment many families are understandably reluctant to track back through the events leading up to their decision. Finding people willing to talk to me was difficult. I made contact with two separate families but after initial cups of tea and general chats it became obvious their level of discomfort was far too great to continue with the process.
Though this was frustrating, I was more concerned about what the impact would be once the play was written. Could I ask families and individuals with the lived experience to sit through it? Was I picking a scab which wasn’t mine to pick?
As intimated before, I’ve previously worked with and for young people who were relinquished into the care of the state. Some had continuing relationships with their families and other did not. Their path into care was littered with hospital admissions, abuse, absconding, occasional police interventions, Behaviour Management Plans, Restrictive Practice protocols and a bingo-card list of trialled medications. I’ve also been in the privileged and fraught position of working with families who have had no other option but to create a separate space outside the family home for their child. Working long term with these families afforded me an opportunity to observe the shifts in family dynamics when fear of unprovoked violence and attack is mitigated by distance. Hearing accounts of sunday night dinners ending with sirens and patching broken windows has never left me.
Again, it was Carer’s Queensland who provided the link into further research options. I was directed towards the Victorian Equal Opportunity & Human Rights Commission report - Desperate Measures: The relinquishment of children with a disability into state care in Victoria. May 2012.
It took a while to recover my heart from the vice-like grip of this harrowing and blunt account of research findings from the Commission. The record of interview of some of the families is beyond reckoning. The isolation, expectation to provide care no matter how hard funding was cut, the breakdown of marriages, the fear of physical harm to siblings, the cold shoulder of Child Services when pleading for help, being pushed so far your only option is to put up your hands and say ‘enough’.
Like a many branching warren, I found myself lost in articles, transcriptions, blogs, youtube clips of families wanting the world to see their reality. I had to let go of the notion that I could only get a handle on lived experience by sharing cups of tea and listening to a flesh and blood person. I needed to drop the ego and hunt out what was already there. I had to make technology my friend and tool.