Professionals assume it must be mum, but who is REALLY the person fabricating the truth? Mum or the professionals?

I was listening to the BBC Radio 5 Live coverage of Fabricated and Induced Illness (otherwise known as FII) on Sunday 5th May, and I felt compelled to text into the show because it is an area that really intrigues me whilst triggering significant anxiety within myself.

You see, prior to setting up Sunshine Support, I was accused of ‘over representing’ my child’s difficulties. No one could ever present any evidence of the harm they insinuated I caused by this, nor did any Doctor diagnose me with Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy, but it didn’t stop the insinuations of MSbP and accusations of FII that came my way and damaged my family.

Thankfully, we proved that we were right and the so-called professionals were wrong in our case; but what about the families who aren’t as fortunate? As many know, this is why I set up Sunshine Support, to help provide information and guidance on topics that normally would leave a parent/carer feeling isolated and vulnerable.

Almost half of our families stand accused of FII
These days, we see approximately 40-50% of the families we help suffering from professionals who don’t have a specialism in the area in which it’s needed. Said professionals appear to take the ‘FII’ route, but this is to explain their own misunderstandings.

The guidance on FII is unclear, and if the professional doesn’t have an understanding of the disability in which they’re tasked with supporting it can become a really tricky situation. The work by Cathie Long (Independent Social Worker), Dr Judy Eaton, Dr Fiona Gullen-Scott and Sally Russell is really starting to change the landscape of FII, improving awareness and in turn social care practice. Read more here.

The impact on families is so real though.

We have captured some alarming statements from parents and carers that we have included in this article, the families wish to remain anonymous but have asked us to include them to raise awareness of this scandal… But first do watch the video below featuring our founder Chrissa Wadlow explain the effect of wrongful FII accusations on her family.

Expertise in Creative and Manipulative Writing
Professionals who typically do not have the expertise or skill set to help with complex presentations or hidden disabilities, unfortunately really struggle to fill the gap in their knowledge of these areas of specialism. Rather than researching, they can often fill the gaps in their knowledge with alarming made-up stories of child abuse that can prove hugely traumatising to read. The consequences of said reports can lead to very traumatising experiences for the family.

It’s alarming how far their creativity takes them, but they go to extreme lengths to fabricate stories. What’s odd is how thoroughly passionate said professionals become about preventing the parents from gaining the support needed; in fact support is seldom offered.

We are really delighted that the work of Cathie Long and BASW(British Association of Social Workers) is now acknowledging the malpractice and lack of awareness, and they’re striving to improve this understanding and practice to improve the outcomes for all – social workers included.

First signs of FII Accusations..

We have spoken to hundreds of families about FII. Some knew what it was and had never, ever been accused which was great. But some knew what it was BECAUSE they had been accused of it.

The first signs of FII becoming a concern in the families we support are:

At these early stages it is important to seek help, and understand how you can work WITH the professionals to avoid a fully-blown accusation of FII and Child Protection proceedings.

If this sounds familiar and you have concerns, please contact our FII Advocacy team by clicking here, and we will help you.

What begins as a simple misunderstanding due to the professionals’ lack of knowledge can soon spiral out of control when a) the parent is asking for support that is outside the expertise of that professional (and possibly will cost more money!) or b) the parents’ outstanding knowledge of their child’s presentation undermines and intimidates the professional.

Professionals Cutting Costs
It’s not unusual for parents to claim that LA/NHS professionals undertake wonderful assessments of their child when they’re not asking for special educational needs provisions. The moment the parent begins their quest for an EHCP said professionals often make a u-turn, claiming a very opposite point of view making it very clear they have seemingly been told by the purse-string holders to do whatever it takes to STOP the parents getting help.

As parents, we feel embarrassed for these professionals who are trying so hard to carry out their roles and who’s views are undermined by less qualified bean-counters. When these matters get to tribunal, it’s very difficult for the LA professionals to give an accurate view of the child as they have to take into consideration what the bosses are telling them to do financially and what their professional expertise is telling them is ethically right. Or, at least, this is how it appears.

Now, we aren’t asking for every professional to be fully specialist in every condition, that would be impossible. But what needs to change is ATTITUDE and CULTURE.

If professionals approach all complex cases with an open mind and the enthusiasm to learn more about the conditions presented to them, then we would have far less cases of wrongful accusations of FII, and we would have a more powerful workforce of professionals. Professionals who would end up caring for those who they’ve been assigned to, surely that’s why they went into their profession anyway? Not to abuse families but to help and care for them?

We urge all social care professionals to undertake training in FII by Cathie Long and BASW.

We need better outcomes. There is NEVER enough focus on achieving positive outcomes!

Wrongful accusations of FII can lead to deterioration of mental and physical health in parents, carers and ALL children in the family. It can lead to fractured relationships that sometimes entirely break down. How can this be acceptable? How can this be a satisfactory outcome?

Parents who know more and know best
It is clear in safeguarding rules that if a parent knows an inordinate amount about something medical, that professionals need to highlight them as being possibly at risk of developing FII or, worse still, Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy.

But the question has to be asked, if the professional doesn’t understand the child’s diagnosis or presentation and doesn’t take time to research it then who will? Any parent worth their salt would research their child’s difficulties so that they can help them, right?

According to some of these LA and NHS professionals, if a parent takes that much interest in their child it is not healthy. WOW.

The extent of the scandal
FII is fast becoming a national scandal. Of course there are REAL cases of FII and even Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy, there have been some very high profile cases of physical harm that have made it to the mainstream media. But they are very few and far between.

Proven cases of FII are very, very rare. So why are the accusations for such a rare condition on the rise? It’s simple, because more families are asking for help and that help costs money.

What can you do if you find yourself being accused of making it all up or exaggerating your child’s difficulties?

Get INDEPENDENT help. There are a number of places you can reach out to for real advice…

Whatever you do, don’t suffer alone. Reach out, get support and help. It IS available.

Blog written by Chrissa Wadlow May 2019. Updated July 2020.