Seeing Unseen Children



The stories of parents labelled abusers by society and the courts, as they learn to "see" their children and recognise how their own pasts influence their parenting.

Tessa is a single mother whose first daughter was taken into care. She was accepted onto the pioneering Lighthouse Project in the final stages of her court case. The Lighthouse Project helps parents to see themselves as the beacon of light their children need. To do this, they need to learn how to "see" their children - their feelings and needs. In doing so, they often confront their own painful pasts.

Now pregnant with her second child, Tessa still struggles with mental health and her anxieties about what a second child might mean so soon after her first daughter is returned to her.

Ross and Marie have two children on the Child Protection Register. Both parents suffered neglect as children and now describe themselves as big children catching up on their own childhoods. There are, Ross says, many good times - but there are also very difficult times and, during the course of recording for the programme, Marie breaks Ross’ arm during an argument.

Although toxic arguments are a feature of their relationship, both Ross and Marie believe this is a one-off due to Marie taking a cocktail of anti-epilepsy and anti-depressant tablets. They believe that, now she is drug free, the situation will improve. Social Services do not share their optimism.

The programme is given unique access to some of the one-to-one sessions between Ross and his main therapist, Gerry Byrne, who is also the lead practitioner on the Lighthouse Programme. It builds up relationships with Ross and Tessa and tries to understand their stories and how the interventions by Social Services are working for them.

Producer: Anna Scott-Brown
An Overtone production for BBC Radio 4

The stories that lie behind parents labelled abusers by society and the courts.