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Parents with learning disabilities: the concept of ‘substituted parenting’ and its use in the family court context

Date:20 MAY 2024
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Beth Tarleton Senior Lecturer University of Bristol
Nadine Tilbury Policy Officer for the Working Together with Parents Network (wtpn.co.uk)


Over recent years the term ‘substituted parenting’ became established in the family courts. It seemed to be used by local authorities when the support needed by parents with learning disabilities was extensive and it was felt that this high level of support would be detrimental to the child/ren as they would form inappropriate attachments to the workers.  This small-scale exploratory study found that parents with learning disabilities were shocked by this term and concept and felt they would be powerless to inhibit workers’ connections with their children. Through our interviews with professionals (judges barristers solicitors CAFCASS guardians and lay advocates) we found that there is a lack of clarity regarding both the term ‘substituted parenting’ and parents’ support needs. The perceived risks associated with a high level of support were neither sufficiently evidence-based nor analysed in those cases where the issue of ‘substituted parenting’ had been raised.  The paper includes a number of recommendations which if adopted and applied alongside the principles of the Good Practice...

Read the full article here.