“You are one hell of a dad!” », says Emmanuelle Roy, volunteer trainer at the Criminal Aid Association in Paris. In front of her, Mr. S., 44 years old, in a garbage collector’s outfit, pants and orange vest, displays a broad smile. On this day in November, he is having the last interview of his “parental responsibility course”. Father of a large family, he found himself there for having “slapped his daughter”.
Provided for by the law of March 5, 2007 on the prevention of delinquency, these internships are carried out at the request of the justice system. In the case of Mr. S., it was ordered by the prosecutor as an alternative to criminal prosecution. “These courses punish an offense of low or medium seriousness,” explains Diana Franchequez, coordinator and employee of the association. This is a chance that we give to the parents because nothing is recorded in the criminal record. This is not the case for internships requested during a judgment. »
Paid, depending on the situation of the parents, they “are very often put in place following violence against children,” specifies Marie-Anne Lemoine, president of the association. They can also sanction the non-schooling of children, neglect or non-payment of alimony. After the riots which engulfed France in June 2023, the Prime Minister announced that she also wanted to develop them for parents whose children commit crimes.
An educational objective
Mr. S. admitted to having hit his daughter after finding her in her bed with her cell phone, even though he had forbidden her to do so. The teenager complained to the high school, who reported it to the police. And Mr. S. found himself in police custody. “I have never hit my children,” he calmly repeats to Emmanuelle Roy, whom he is seeing for the third time. Especially not her, she’s my first daughter and we were friends. »
What made her lose control that day was having surprised her in conversation with a boy, the host later deciphers. Since the events, the young girl has been placed in a foster home and they no longer have contact, especially since she gave birth, without him even knowing that she was pregnant. “This situation disconcerted him,” adds Emmanuelle Roy, who sees in this father of six children, from three unions but all of whom he welcomes into his home, a desire “to have a structured family.” The problem, she adds, “is that he wants to control everything and with teenagers it’s complicated.”
The objective of these courses is “educational”, underlines Marie-Anne Lemoine. “It’s about making parents aware that they have an educational responsibility and obligations. We are not here to judge them but to listen to them and support them in the interests of the children. We don’t work miracles but sometimes we manage to unblock certain situations. The satisfaction rate is high,” she assures.
To the question “What did you think of this internship?” “, Mr. S. replies that he did him “good.” “I can’t say that I’m happy to be there, but I was able to tell what happened to me even though I didn’t spoke to no one except my wife,” he confides. What did he like most? The group session, offered in addition to three individual interviews, during which the facilitators discuss the rights and duties of parents. “There, we can say what we are because we are all the same,” he adds.
A mixed audience
This day in November, another collective session brings together a group of eight people from diverse ethnic and social origins. Among them, five are visibly of immigrant origin and three of French origin, including a “diplomat’s daughter” and a senior executive. Many parents say they are there for “spanking” their child. Some people mention cellphone problems. Everyone is invited to think about what it means to be a parent.
After talking about duties (obligation of education, protection and maintenance), the two facilitators remind us that parents also have rights. A mother is surprised. And most are unable to say which ones. “You have the right to punish your children when they do something stupid,” explain the two women. And there, a hubbub arises. We can see the incomprehension on certain faces. “Oh well, do we have the right to punish? However, we were punished because we did it. » To punish, we don’t need to hit, they answer. “But we are human beings, it can happen that we lose control,” said a man of African origin. Another recalls that, in his culture, “spanking is not something serious”.
Those responsible for the association recognize that a certain number of files reflect a “cultural gap with French education as we envisage it today”. “There are also many situations linked to separations and divorces,” notes Diana Franchequez. And a certain number of reports also come from the school. » If all walks of life are represented, this association, approved by the Paris Court of Appeal and the judicial courts of Paris and Créteil, welcomes a majority of single-parent or blended families, more men than women and more people in situations of great precariousness and/or from immigration backgrounds.
Everyone is warmly received by a team of volunteers, which the association would like to strengthen. That day, there were only women. Most of them retired, they listen to parents and encourage them to restore their confidence in their parenting skills. One of them, Douce Cazemajour, receives Mr. T. for a second interview. The man in his forties arrived late and did not come to the group session. The facilitator reminds him of the constrained context of the internship but does not try to make him feel guilty. He is also there for having hit his daughter during an argument with her mother-in-law.
Douce Cazemajour tries to understand what has changed about him since the events. “How do you react today when the situation is difficult? » “I talk to her in the car,” replies Mr. T. “The car is a very good idea. We don’t look at each other, it’s easier to talk to each other,” emphasizes the host. Referring to his attitude when his daughter had an abortion, she reminds him that he was “in dialogue and welcome. It’s good,” she insists. Mr. T. will have to come back for the group session and a final interview. “List me your questions and your difficulties in being a dad and I can direct you to a discussion group between parents. »