Relinquishing care of a child with developmental disabilities can be a traumatic experience for parents. The aim of this study was to explore the perception of professionals regarding the relationships within families and service systems that contribute towards the relinquishment of children with Intellectual Disability (ID) and challenging behavior. Fifteen disability professionals were interviewed from a variety of disciplines, each having been involved in supporting a family while they relinquished care. A constructionist grounded theory approach was used for analysis, with data interpreted through a systemic lens. An accumulation of factors led to relinquishment, including the cumulative isolation of mothers within the family and within informal and professional networks of relationships. These findings must be understood in the context of societal discourses that both pathologise and overburden mothers with caregiving roles for children with disabilities. Interventions need to focus assertively on whole family involvement and repair, and on community development, if relinquishment is to be prevented.


Relinquishment, Challenging Behaviour, Family Therapy, Discourse

Author Bio(s)

Jessica Ng is a Psychologist who completed this research as part of her Psychology Honors Degree at The University of Sydney. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: jessicang93@gmail.com.

Associate Professor Paul Rhodes is an academic at the Clinical Psychology Unit at The University of Sydney. He is a family therapist who has published a variety of papers on family therapy and developmental disabilities. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: p.rhodes@sydney.edu.au.

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