Navigating relationships when our children are in out of home care: A narrative therapy group for parents whose lives are affected by child protection intervention and the removal of their children by Lauren Graham

Lauren describes a narrative informed group she developed and conducted for parents whose children are in care, and the ripple effects of linking communities through the sharing of stories and documents initially generated through the group.  This initiative is linked to the work of a local action group in which Lauren is a member, in partnership with parents, which helps raise awareness and promotes strategies for family inclusion. Her work with this community continues and the themes of the group and stories generated continue to be shared, helping to make visible the skills and knowledge of parents on this journey, including the ways in which they resist the effects and find ways to sustain themselves. As an identity project, this has helped open up opportunities for parents to address the concerns that required child protection intervention.


Lauren lives and works in Newcastle, Australia in a non-government organisation which provides support for families with children who are experiencing disadvantage. At times the context of this work involves child protection intervention and when this results in child removal services are withdrawn from parents. Over the years Lauren has noticed the effects of social isolation for parents facing these circumstances, the impact on their sense of identity, their capacity to address the concerns and consequently, their relationships with their children. Lauren can be contacted via email

Published July 28, 2017

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Miimi Morris

    Hi Lauren

    This is Miimi Indigenous mother with 4 kids in oohc, whom i havent had contact with for over 5 yrs, they are with a non Aboriginal carer and non Aboriginal care agency. Ive been fighting structural racism for all my life. I would like to talk with you about support to help me set up aAboriginal parents advocavy group.

  2. Troy Holland

    Hi Aunty Lauren! So great to see your face and hear your voice :)

    I found the work you and the folks and families have been doing very real, inspiring and hopeful. I really loved the different and creative ways the ‘all in the same boat’ metaphor was applied to problems, values and hopes, and in particular to multi-storied descriptions. I especially appreciated the nuanced way shame and guilt were approached and that some efforts and possibilities were explored in separating the shame and guilt loaded upon someone and the shame an guilt that spoke to a preferred valued that may have been compromised or acted against. It makes me feel like these parents are well aware of and prepared to face the consequences of particular actions, but no doubt find it very difficult to do this in the face of a barrage of judgement and shaming from workers, systems and in popular discourses.

    The work you have all been doing together will help keep me stauncher in resisting the binary positions that we are so often invited into in work conversations as well as social conversations. I hope I might also get the opportunity to share some of the parents’ skills and knowledges with people I meet with and will let you know if they have some responses to share back.

    I also very much appreciated that you have an accountability process with consultants who are adults who experienced abuse as children. I wonder, are some of these consultants teens who are still in care, transitioning from care, or who have just recently turned 18? I have met young people in those circumstances who I think would find it very empowering to play a role as consultant to these conversations.

    Great to be in touch Aunty Lauren, thanks again to you and all involved.

    1. Lauren Graham

      Hi Troy,

      It’s lovely to hear from you and thank you for your response.

      I have found as you describe, a ‘nuanced’ approach to exploring Shame and Guilt, fosters multiple possibilities. The initial group exploration makes visible both the politics of their experience as well as the threads of their personal ethics of which they’d become separated from. I have since experienced that, where parents have chosen to continue to consult with me, this kind of exploration of Shame and Guilt has contributed to a sense of accountability to the particular principles for living and caring for children.

      In relation to accountability processes I’ve had some opportunity to consult with young people who have lived in care. In a particular instance the young person’s contribution, and what became a two way exchange, was significant in a parent getting back in touch with the kind of parent-child connection they longed for and a commitment of never giving up on their child. I recently heard that the young person consultant still speaks fondly of this experience of contribution.

      I’d welcome and greatly value other opportunities to consult with young people who have insider knowledge in this context of this work.

      Troy, I would be delighted to share documents if you find opportunities to share them with others who might be linked in some way with these experiences or context.

      Thank you again and I will pass on your appreciations to the parents involved.
      Warmest regards,

  3. Miimi Morris

    I love this work you have done its so important for parents to have a voice and be herd around these issues and to be externalised as the guilt and shame internalised causes so much ongoing pain and trauma.

    1. Lauren Graham

      Hi Miimi,

      Thank you so much for your comment Miimi. Certainly as a community we have been very slow to realise what difference can be made for the lives of children when their parents’ voices are heard. I have found many parents in these circumstances genuinely wish to address the concerns which have led to child removal, but in so many ways the systems, policies and practices make this very difficult to achieve. Of course the significant effects of Shame and Guilt can be so disabling.

      I’ve always been heartened by parents’ skills for tenacity, to never give up, in spite of Shame and Guilt. I am also heartened that there’s a growing appreciation that, by including the voices of parent’s, we are better able to address the systems that have failed so many children whose lives are affected by child protection and out-of-home care systems.

      The parents involved in this work and who have joined in since are creating ripples across different communities through the sharing of their stories and hard-won knowledge. I feel very privileged to be a part of this as well as very hopeful.

      Warmest regards,

Leave a Reply