Anna Writes: Endings

PhontoI’ve been thinking about endings a lot recently, I suppose following a bereavement that’s ‘normal’ but the other ending is one that I have chosen in the last couple of months- to remove myself from Facebook- what’s the big deal? you might think…well, Facebook is the only link I have with my birth family.

We used to write and speak on the phone in the early days but as contact has shifted and relationships have morphed into something much less definable, Facebook seems to be the way we do things now.

I can see why-it requires very little effort, people can see what other people are doing without actively engaging with them and contact can be considered a ‘like’ against a photo.

Except I’ve always struggled with it- historically I have been willing to accept the bare minimum in relationship because I thought it was better than nothing at all- offering a banquet in return for a crumb.
And my relationship with my birth mum (and extended family too) has followed this pattern: I write long messages, I send things in the post, I remember birthdays and I try to be the ‘good person’ and generally nothing comes back and I really don’t feel bitter about this, just sad.
Sad that I still sometimes feel that I’m not good enough as I am, particularly in relation to my birth family.

I suppose this all stems (like so many things) from being given away- learning strategies to ward off the threat of further abandonment- on some unconscious level believing that I need to give people things to get them to like me or not leave me. I remember at school I would never just give someone a card for their birthday, I would also feel I had to spend any money I had getting them a ridiculous present too- one that usually didn’t reflect the level or type of friendship we had- what may have appeared as generosity was actually a fairly desperate attempt to not be rejected.

So it’s pretty big deal for me to initiate an ending- there have been times in my life where I really should have ended friendships and relationships that were really unhealthy, but I stuck them out until things got really, really bad because the thought of pushing someone away was anathema to me. But things are different now.

My birth mum sent me a video via Facebook (of course) which was entitled ‘ Every kid should watch this’ I was intrigued, did this mean she was sending it to me as ‘her kid’? or did she intend for me to show it my kids because they ‘should’ watch it? I pressed play…

to summarise: the video showed a former American sports star talking about his career and his mother, how he had always found her a drag when he was successful and enjoying his fame around the world, she would be ringing him up to see how he was, caring about him, supporting him and loving him- he is giving this speech to an audience of rapt schoolchildren- then the bombshell, his mum died whilst he was away on tour (cut to scenes of the audience crying inconsolably) and he realises that he should have appreciated his mother when she was alive, he should have thanked her for all the things she did for him and all of her sacrifices, he should have been less ungrateful, he should have loved his mum better.

I was stunned. Not even upset, just staggered that she would send me this- what was she trying to tell me? I sat on my feelings for a day and then messaged her the following day- and I told her. I told her how confused I was and how hard it had been watching something sent from her that bore no resemblance to my experiences of being mothered, that I felt upset that she would send this to me. I let her know I was making an active choice to come off Facebook and that I would write to her soon.

She sent a brief apology and assured me she had not meant to hurt me, which I don’t doubt, but this felt like the last in a long line of insensitive moves on her part, so I stuck to my guns and deactivated.

This may seem a bit ‘all or nothing’ in response to a video but my relationship with my birth family via Facebook has been ambivalent at best, I feel like there’s too much scope for misunderstanding, passive aggressive communication and just plain old ignorance, so I chose to keep myself safe.

So far, its been a revelation, not only have I saved lots of time (!) but I also feel free of the worry of what is coming next, what post or photo or share is going to destabilise me and reactivate old feelings. I am living in the present and acknowledging the past, rather than the other way round.

I have chosen to end one type of connection and to maintain another that works for me and it hasn’t destroyed me…me saying ‘this isn’t ok’ is alright and the only changes that have happened have been positive…So this year instead of spending my birthday checking Facebook to see if my birth mum has sent me a message (which has never happened) I will be actually enjoying my day with the people I love, not feeling sad that I was given away, but happy that I ended up where I did.

Anna.W

Editor’s note: Anna’s taking a well-deserved break for a couple of weeks, so don’t worry if you don’t see a post from her. She’ll be back again soon.

Life on the Frontline – Week 40

lotf

A weekly blog from a family made by adoption, warmed by the laughter, broken by the sadness, held together by love with a big dollop of hope, oh, and often soaked in mummy tears.

We reached the end of term, over a week ago with a massive shunt. Tall was hardly in school, due to his inability to cope, whilst Small hurtled towards the end of year six. There were numerous assemblies, a prom and special year six activities in school for youngest, and he managed most of these things with great purpose and a desire to be included. How far we’ve come with him since the beginning of this school year. However, for me, managing these activities, whilst dealing with the whirling emotions of Tall, was full on. To add to the mayhem of finishing on the Friday, Saturday was Small’s birthday.

He wanted a party at home with games and a mad hatter’s tea party. Whilst I was, in the most, really pleased that he chose to honour his own emotional needs in a birthday party (no requests for paintballing to fall in line with his piers) it did leave me with a lot to organise and do.

Finding games that eleven year old boys and one eleven year old girl will be prepared to participate in, is not easy, even with the internet at your finger tips. But with a few toilet rolls at my disposal, a selection of silly dares and a large bag of sweets, we managed to have a lot of fun for over an hour. The weather was also kind so we could be in the garden.

They all then sat down to a tea party where lemonade was poured from tea pots and crisp sandwiches were on the menu. I think it all went well, but to be honest it’s all a little bit of a blur. Sunday I sat and stared, a lot, and cuddled children on the sofa whilst watching anything, even that American rubbish, without complaining.

So the holidays have begun and to be honest it’s not been that bad. There has been a noted alteration in Tall’s demeanour; he’s much more relaxed and happier (did you hear that school he IS more relaxed at home) and he even attended a full week of sports club at his own request. Small and I have chilled, watched films, been for a swim, been shopping and chilled some more. He then asked if he too could go to sports club on Thursday.

Now there are very obvious reasons for my separating the boys on some days in the holidays, it makes life easier.

“Please, please can Small come today” begged Tall, in a moment of brotherly love.

“Please, please” sang Small.

I went against my better judgement,agreed and off they went, almost arm in arm, to a day of multi sports.

By the end of the day they were still friends, had, according to the coach, been supportive of each other and got on well.  Phew a relief.

The next morning Small began again “please, please can I go, they’re playing dodge ball today and that’s my favourite”.

Again, with reservations, I said yes and off they went bickering all the way out the door. I knew then what the day would hold.

I cautiously called in before lunch, just to see how things were going. I was asked by the coach to “have a word” with them both.  I had that word but came away feeling anxious about the afternoon ahead.

I cancelled my afternoon shopping trip with my mum and sat at home crocheting. Partly because I wanted to be close in case of a phone call and partly because I knew I’d need to be in a good frame of mind later.

Both boys lasted the day, of which I am really proud of them for, but we then had to sit through the prize giving for the week. Neither Tall nor Small claimed a prize for their sportsmanship however Tall managed a prize for attending for a full week. Both came away deflated, tired and grumpy.

Thankfully I remembered on the way home, a moment of genius, that I had ordered them both some books from the local book shop. I quickly called in and picked them up and headed home. Both boys took their books and went off to find a corner to read in. I was astonished. No pleading for computers, no both boys buried their head in a book. This was a very welcomed first.

The evening ended calmly and with both boys happy to go to an early bed with a new book tucked under their arm.  For once we had achieved the almost impossible, a calm bedtime after a difficult day.

In Other News

Small’s favourite teddy bear went missing after his party. I searched for over twenty four hours without success and I was beginning to feel quite stressed until he was discovered in the bin. It seems, allegedly that Daddy, who tends to have a wombling style to his tidying, might be to blame.

Because our lives aren’t busy enough, we started doing some decorating this week too. Why do we do these things to ourselves?

I’ve just returned from a wonderful night away with a friend, it was so much fun and a much welcome break.  I was feeling rejuvenated for all of around an hour.

 

 

 

 

Weekly Adoption Shout Out #WASO Week 128

On the beach enjoying the sun? Stuck at home whilst it pours down outside? Whatever the weather, check out the Weekly Adoption Shout Out for some interesting reads…

waso128And so we’re back for another week of adoption blogging linky love. Show us what you’ve been up to, share your best bits, worst bits or thoughts on live, love and the universe.

Actually, we do have a theme this week, so if you need a bit of inspiration or just want a different place to start your blog post it’s ‘In The Car’. Interpret that as you will.

So for now, here’s the linky, add your blog post and your email address (that bits important so we can get in touch if there is a problem with your link) and you’re done!


Adoption Support Fund feedback chat

Have you accessed the Adoption Support Fund yet? How easy have you found it? Have your social workers been knowledgeable? How long has it taken?

This is the kind of feedback that is needed to improve the way the adoption support fund works, and so next week on Thursday August 6th, 9-10pm, we’ll be hosting a Twitter chat where you’ll be able to share your experiences with Jenny Jones, and hopefully Al Coates and Sally Donovan, all adoptive parents who sit on the expert advisory group that steers the adoption support fund.

We’ll be using our usual #taschat hashtag AND #asffb (Adoption Social Fund Feedback). We need both hashtags used in order to create a round-up of all the chatter and tweets that can be used by Jenny, Al and Sally. Any tweets that don’t include those hashtags, sadly won’t be included as it’s the only way we have of picking out those specific tweets.

We’ll be posing certain questions throughout the hour and we’re looking forward to hearing what you have to say. If you want a reminder of how to take part in a Twitter chat, then check out our tips here.

Otherwise, we look forward to chatting with you next Thursday 9-10pm on Twitter. Don’t forget those hashtags…

Review of One Day NVR Workshop

Sarah from The Puffin Diaries shares her thought on an None Violent Resistance course she attended.

Recently my husband and I attended a course based on the practice of NVR, None Violent Resistance. This course was hosted by PAC and delivered by Rachael Alymer of Partnership Projects.

The first thing that struck myself, my husband and indeed many others, was that we were a room, full with over thirty people and everyone of us had experienced violence from their child. This in its self had a huge impact on many of us; there was an instant feeling of not being alone.

Rachael introduced the course and explained that this one day of training was really only a taster day for NVR. The application of NVR is actually a very intense process of therapy, where a family work on a one to one bases with a therapist. This would be my first and only real criticism of the course, in that I didn’t feel the way that PAC advertise the course makes this very clear. Also, those qualified in implementing this therapy are relatively thin on the ground especially in the north of the country.

Rachael suggested that she would like us to leave with two or three strategies that we could start to use at home.

We first talked about “de-escalation , the idea that conflict and violence can be avoided if we  approach trigger situations differently. It was easy to recognise myself and my husband in the styles of escalation we discussed. My husband can’t let go of it once he’s in a battle and the battle goes back and forth between him and our son, this is known as symmetrical escalation.

We did a number of exercises her, with our partners, to demonstrate how hard it can be to not get involved with someone who is taunting you and pushing your buttons. We were advised to “ignore the behaviour with silence, not sarcasm”. I think for myself and my husband and I this was a useful section because we can both become too involved at this early stage of a fall out. It reminded us that our calm and resistance to the child’s need to escalate things put us in a much greater position of control. However this is often more difficult that it seems in the moment.

The next exercise I found the most useful part of the day. We were asked to list all the behaviours of our child, which we don’t like. Our list went from punching holes in his bedroom wall to not flushing the toilet.

We were then asked to imagine we had three baskets a small, medium and large. In the small we were to place the behaviour we really wouldn’t tolerate, in the medium behaviour that we could negotiate on, and in the large, behaviours we are prepared to let go, not even mention.  In the small basket there were to be only two behaviours, in the middle a few behaviours and in the large basket the majority of behaviours. The idea being that you concentrate on the two behaviours you find it most difficult to live with first, you are not letting everything else go forever, but making life more simple for you and your child. I know in our house it does sometimes feel like we are constantly on my oldest son’s back about everything.

As Rachael said “If leaving the toilet seat up really bothers you that much, why don’t you do something about it, it’s obviously not that important to your child”. I know this is hard for lots of people, the letting go but for me I can see the sense in it all, you are helping your child to focus on the behaviours that really do affect you all, once you’ve cracked these, you can move other behaviours into the small basket.

We were also told that “NVR does not do rewards or sanctions”. The idea here is that you talk to your child once a situation is over, using a “sandwich” of positive, negative, and positive.

For example “I want you to know how impressed I was with you clearing the table for me tonight, thank you. However, when you swore at me this morning, that behaviour is not acceptable, it upsets me and I don’t want it to happen again. Now I’m really looking forward to watching a DVD with you let’s go and chose one”

In theory I really like this approach but in practice I know I will find it hard to not provide sanctions for violent, destructive behaviour.

At the end of the day we prepare our announcement, this is a statement of your intention on how you are going to behave going forward. We were encouraged to write this in a letter format which you can physically give to your child. In the announcement you list the behaviours which you will no longer tolerate and make a commitment to altering your own behaviour when responding to the behaviour. It was suggested that you could laminate the letter if you fear your child may try to destroy it. Also included in the letter should be positive aspects of the child’s personality as with the sandwich example given above.

In all, the course was a useful day and I could see how the intense version of this therapy could be very successful. Whilst I came away feeling I’d discovered a couple of new tools to use with my children, without the intense support of the full therapy I envisage it will not be easy to always implement these methods. I wish I’d known more about NVR before applying for our Adoption Support Funding and also that more therapist were available in my part of the country.

Summer #Memorybox

MBbadgeSummer holidays in full swing? No time to blog? Then we have just the thing for you!

 

We know that during the holidays when you have the children to entertain, holidays to plan and pack for, uniform shopping to contend with, and activity days & playdates to chauffeur your children to, blogging isn’t the top of your to-do list, so we fully understand if you don’t get around to linking up to the Weekly Adoption Shout Out over the next few weeks.

So we’ve decided to bring back #Memorybox for the duration of the holidays so even if you can’t write a whole blog post, perhaps you can link up a photo or short post, or share a memory with us. You don’t even have to have a blog to join in this one – you can link up tweets or Instagram photos. Show us your summer memories and positive moments. The linky is open now, and will remain open until the end of 11 September.

Sharing your positive moments might encourage others who having a more challenging time, and they’re a lovely way to remember the best bits of your summer. So come on, get sharing.



New single adopters network launched

We’re pleased today, to bring you news of a new network that has recently launched, especially for single adoptive parents…logo FINAL

Hello!  I’m Sarah a single adopter to a gorgeous 8 year old.  When I started my adoption journey 3 ½ years ago I didn’t really think about how much support I would need.  I made the decision to adopt and assumed I would get the support I needed when I needed it.  As we all know though, the reality is often very different.

Throughout the approval process all the training I received was aimed at couples, which is understandable.  I don’t have anyone to takeover when he’s having a meltdown and I feel like I want to join in.  Since my son moved in 16 months ago it has been a rollercoaster ride, with some amazing highs, and a lot of difficult lows.  Throughout that time I’ve been lucky that my social worker has been good, but my son is from a different LA and they are not quite so good.  To start with there were no support groups near me and I couldn’t have gone to an evening meeting anyway.

All of this got me thinking about the type of support I wanted and needed.  I spoke to a number of other single adopters to see how they felt and a clear message came out – they wanted a support group specifically for single adopters to focus on their issues.  In some cases they didn’t know any other single adopters, had very little support from their LA’s and felt isolated.  That’s not right and needs to change.  Whilst there are many similarities between the experiences of couples and singles adopting there are of course differences, and recognising and supporting those differences doesn’t always happen.

From these discussions the idea for the Single Adopters Network was born.  I decided to create a support network just for single adopters and I wanted it to be one everyone could access.  My intention is for the group to be a supportive, friendly and non-judgemental community purely for single adopters, or those thinking about adopting by themselves.  It is an online network, so it doesn’t matter where in the country you are, you can join and get the support you need when you need it.  There is a secure forum where you can ask for advice and support each other, as well as a resources area with useful information that is only accessible to members.  There will also be a monthly call, via a teleconference system for anonymity, which will give you the opportunity to talk to other single adopters from across the country from the comfort of your sofa, so no worries about babysitters!  All of this is designed to support us in building a strong, supportive community where we can help each other through the difficult times, but also celebrate the good times together.

I’m so pleased that the network launched on Saturday and if you’d like more details about the group and how to join the website is www.singleadoptersnetwork.com

I can be contacted via email sarah@sarahpfisher.com or mobile 07817 544707 if you’d like further information or to have a chat.  I’m also on twitter @fishercoaching

I’m passionate about building a supportive, friendly and non-judgemental community to help single adopters like me so, if that’s what you would like, come and join us.

Finally, I want to thank www.theadoptionsocial.com for their support I really appreciate it.

Sarah

www.singleadoptersnetwork.com
@fishercoaching
sarah@sarahpfisher.com

Anna Writes: Trauma

PhontoThe separation of a child from their biological parents is a trauma.

Fact.

 

 

 

Removal, relinquishment, via bereavement or forced separation across geographical boundariesregardless of the circumstances surrounding the event, it is always going to be traumatic.

For those children who have not only experienced a primary severance of connection, but multiple placements (and losses) since, their grief must increase incrementally, becoming further compounded by each new start.

Trauma has a multi faceted impact on people, from the physical to the psychological and relational and everywhere in-between. We know a lot about trauma from eminent scholars and scientists in the field like Bessel Van Der Kolk, Daniel Hughes, Babette Rothschild and Antonio Damassio, to name a few, we know because of people like Allen Schore and Sue Gerhardt who have written more recently and so accessibly about pre and peri natal brain development and the effects of cortisol on the brain.

We know because it’s there. It can be seen in the eyes that bear an ever present layer of sadness.

I have a really terrible memory, not just in a ‘where did I put the remote- oh, it’s in the fridge’ sort of bad memory but a full on wipeout. Before the age of 10, I have a handful of memories, if I were to draw a timeline, there would be a big blank space and then later on some more smaller, less profound ones.
I sometimes wonder if it’s a result of something like cortisol that could have caused this- was there something in the separation that caused my amygdala and hippocampus to go offline? did something in my brain short circuit, when as a baby, I cried and cried and the right person wasn’t there?

When I met my birth mum she told me that when her own mother found out that she was five months pregnant, she beat her with a wooden coat hanger all over her body- what does that do to a person stress-wise? What happens in other cases where a child isn’t immediately removed from that environment but left to suffer until agencies intervene? Layer upon layer of trauma. More obvious trauma.

And I get that we need to focus on that, and there is so much more understanding about the effects of trauma on the brain and how to parent therapeutically and empathetically to support positive connection and develop healthy new neural pathways, it’s wonderful that science and reality are starting to level with one another.

But what of children that are ‘just’ given away? There are loads of us- not as common these days of course, but from when records began thousands upon thousands of babies have been relinquished and adopted. I’m not entirely sure that we are included in the trauma informed rhetoric because ‘we would have never known any different’ but my experience tells me that being separated from my birth mum is probably one of the most traumatic things that has happened to me. I was 10 days old, so how can that be?

How can it be that I grew up with a pathological fear of rejection, abandonment issues, nightmares, bed wetting, low self esteem, destructive coping strategies, poor concentration, an innate disrespect for authority, identity issues,a wonky moral compass, eating problems and a need to always be doing 10 things at once?

When I think back now on those early years, I feel like I was a stone knocked down a narrow alley, scratched and bowled, over and over, submerged in a shame, so quiet and pervasive…was a
chemical to blame? Is this the pickling in cortisol that the clever folk talk about? Because my birth mum didn’t use drugs and she didn’t drink, she did sport and ate well – so I cant help but come back to the separation, was that the bit that broke part of me?

I think the adoption world is much more trauma informed now, and it gives me a lot of hope that children who have been adopted in more recent times will have the benefit of parents who are willing to learn and understand their experiences from their perspective, and potentially be able to access external support when needed rather than keep things under wraps or try and cope alone.

I would like to think that any child who is relinquished (at any age) or placed in care or removed or abandoned or has survived the many ways that attachment can fail is afforded the understanding that what they have experienced is a trauma and is supported by the system accordingly.

Trauma defined-
1.
a. Serious injury to the body, as from physical violence or an accident
b. Severe emotional or mental distress caused by an experience
2.
a. An experience that causes severe anxiety or emotional distress
b. An event or situation that causes great disruption or suffering

The separation of a child from their biological parents is a trauma.

Fact.

My fact, at least.

Anna.W

Weekly Adoption Shout Out #WASO Week 127

Hello and welcome to the one and only Weekly Adoption Shout Out.

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For many of you the summer holidays have begun, and we know that means you’ll probably have your hands full. So don’t worry if you don’t get time to #WASO every week, next week we’ll be bringing you a linky that’ll be open for the whole summer so you can dip in and out if you want.

As the last Weekly Adoption Shout Out was themed (on contact for Adoption Sore Points week), this week is theme-free and ready for you to link up to. It’ll close late Sunday evening so make sure you add your links before then…



Book review: Keeping Your Adoptive Family Strong: Strategies for Success

Today we have two reviews of the same title – so very many thanks to @onroadtoadopt and our anonymous reviewer for your posts on  Keeping Your Adoptive Family Strong: Strategies for Success by Gregory C. Keck and L. GianforteKeck-Soronen-Gi_Keeping-Your-Ad_978-1-84905-784-4_colourjpg-print

It is obvious when you start reading this book that the authors are American. However it is aimed at families who adopt children from foster care so has a lot of relevance to adoption in the UK where the vast majority of our children have experienced some level of trauma whether it be in-utero or while living with birth family in their early life. I found it a fascinating read and would recommend the book as a good introduction to adoption both in its joys and its difficulties. Both the authors are adopters themselves of children from the foster care system in the US. I am going to apologise now in that this review may seem impersonal at times – penalty of being an academic is that I am so ingrained to write reviews in one way it is difficult to adjust to a more personal way.

The authors talk from the Preface about the effect of trauma and how even moving in with their new family can be a traumatic experience for adopted children. One line that really struck me as such truth is:

“The bottom line is this: when parents and children approach adoption from opposite directions – when one sees salvation where the other sees disconnection – the already challenging journey becomes fraught with unnecessary twists and turns.”

The Preface does very much highlight the need for parents to look at the real picture and not to romanticise the concept of adoption as them saving the child. This book is honest about the level of challenges adoptive parents may face – giving examples of what children may have experienced before they came into foster care. The authors talk about facing up to reality without fear and give a set of what they call ‘keys to a healthy and functional adoptive family’:

  • Accessibility to honest, accurate information about the child’s background;
  • Willingness to recognise and accept things for what they are;
  • Support, compassion, and understanding from family, friends and mental health professionals;
  • The comfort that stems from knowing that other families face similar difficulties;
  • Confidence in the ability to succeed.

 

The first chapter covers the familiar (to anyone who has read much about adoption) ground of the effect of trauma on human development. In this chapter, the authors talk about the common diagnoses (in the USA) particularly concentrating on complex trauma and also the emerging greater knowledge about the effect trauma has on the developing brains of infants. They look at how adopters can be properly prepared for what they might face and how expectations can so much differ from reality. Throughout the book, real case examples are used to highlight what the authors are talking about which helps the reader understand what they are saying. In this first chapter the importance of attachment in helping with trauma is discussed as well as how critical it is that professionals help keep families strong after adoption.

The second chapter is entitled ‘An adoption checklist’ and discusses the things prospective adopters need to think about before adopting a child with potential trauma. It gives a series of questions that prospective adopters should think about and uses real life examples of adopted children’s behaviour to illustrate why the questions are being asked. To me this chapter is a good way to make anyone think about adoption and understand the potential issues.

In the third chapter, the authors discuss how you should prepare for an adopted child arriving in your home. This includes the importance of getting as complete a medical history as you can as well as the need for as much training as possible. They discuss the home study (which is part of foster care adoption in the US as well as UK) as well as the need to not be rigid in your thinking and be prepared to adapt to your child’s needs.

The fourth chapter is all about the potential for secondary trauma or in the authors words ‘trauma is a potentially transferable condition’. The authors discuss how existing relationships between parents, or with other children (birth or adopted) can be strained by the arrival of a traumatised child. They also discuss the need for the ‘right’ therapist who understands adoption and the issues it brings, and also what to do if it really does all go wrong (from an American perspective). This was an interesting chapter for me as I would love to adopt again but my husband is wary having seen the issues it can bring.

In chapter 5, the authors discuss what might happen after placement – how life can change and how to use your knowledge of what your child has been through to understand why they are behaving as they are. They look at how being truthful and honest with your child can be a powerful tool in the parental toolbox.

Chapter 6 addresses the question of blame and highlights the importance of not blaming the child, but remembering the (past) source of the problem and addressing the current situation in light of that knowledge. They also may the interesting point that life books tend to present the birth family with a very positive spin which can make a child wonder why they were ever removed in the first place. This raises the question of how we approach lifestory work and the need to be truthful within the child’s ability to understand.

Chapter 7 is very much addressed at the situation in the USA where even adolescents can and are adopted – but it still have some useful anecdotes and ideas on how to deal with situations that could be relevant to adopted teenagers in the UK. Chapter 8 is entitled ‘The Power of Optimism and Love’ and very much gives balance to what has gone before – it presents a series of stories from adopters and adoptees about what has worked for them as a family. They are a great read and give a very balanced view of adoption which does counteract the view readers may have got from this book up to this point which has much more seemed focussed on the negative/difficult side of adoption.

Chapter 9 again is very much about how adoption is worth it – how much it generally benefits the child. Yes struggles exist but there are many positives from adoption and even if the end result is maybe not what you expected going into the process it can still be a happy positive one. The final chapter is one where adult adoptees talk about how they feel about adoption. It is a real view onto the viewpoint of adoptees and how they see their life.

All in all I found this book a fascinating read and the use throughout of real case histories helps bring home the points the authors are making. It gives a real insight into what it is like to parent a traumatised child and indeed to be that traumatised child. Although the book is written from the American perspective it is one I would recommend to UK adopters and prospective adopters as giving a good viewpoint into adoption. You do need to persevere to get to the positive viewpoint – or do as I did and skip to the last 3 chapters first and then go back and read the book as a whole. There are useful tips and hints scattered throughout some of which I knew already from my reading and others I shall no doubt find myself using with our little boy.

Our second review is from an adoptive parent who wishes to remain anonymous…

When I was asked to review this book and was given the title, I expected it to be focused on post placement strategies for managing challenging behaviour and techniques for keeping parents mentally strong. However, the first half of the book is very much about preparing for adoption and it covers the impact of developmental trauma, questions about whether adoption is right for you, the information you will need to make matching decisions and much more. It gives a very honest view of what to expect when adopting a traumatised child. We are several years post placement and I found the preparation part a really good reminder of where my children have come from and why they were the right match for us.

The book goes on to look at post placement from the view of the child, the difficulty that parents may face with blame, the power of honesty and other challenges like parenting adopted teens. It has a huge number of real examples of challenging behaviours and tricky situations and full explanations of how these were dealt with effectively by real families. The key message is about optimism, whilst acknowledging that not all the struggles will pay off, they are a part of life and its how you face them that makes you stronger. At the end of the book there are a number of stories from adult adoptees about what it feels like to be adopted, their views on their birth family and adoptive parents and how they feel about their lives. They are a powerful insight.

The authors are American and therefore details about the adoption process and the foster care system differ from my experience but are none the less interesting and did not detract from the usefulness of the book in general.

Something I found very refreshing was the frequent references to sexual abuse. As the parent of a sexually abused child I have found it incredibly difficult to find any resources and was pleased for once to have my child’s trauma addressed equally alongside domestic violence and neglect.

Whilst writing this review and looking back at my sticky notes, I have noticed a whole lot more that I overlooked in the first reading and I can see myself returning to this book many times in the future.

Bits I found a bit tricky or challenged my beliefs:

In the section on developmental trauma it suggests that children relinquished by their parents with thoughtful planning and who haven’t suffered in utero or early days conflict or misery have no trauma, ‘we’ll call them the lucky ones’ it says.

The authors disagree with parents apologising for their own behaviour. This is something I’ve seen suggested in other books, where you might say sorry for losing your cool. The book suggests parents are admitting guilt, that they are in the wrong and states that ‘this is definitely not the message you want to give’. I am currently undecided on that one, I have apologised to my children in the past with the intention of repairing and modelling, but I’ve no idea what the impact was.

They also mention another technique I’ve used, ‘I love you but I don’t like your behaviour’. The writer challenges whether your child will understand this concept. If we are what we do then what message does that give?

Bits that made me laugh:

Technique for dealing with personal questions about you or your children ‘It’s none of your ******* business’.

Bits that helped me reflect:

After reading the section on the child’s point of view I thought about how I would feel if the doorbell rang now and a policeman took me to a car and drove me away to a new home, the first of several over several years, never to return or see my family, friends or possessions ever again. Does it make any difference that I am 40 and my child was 5? Do I have more to lose because I’ve known it all for longer? Would I suffer more? Would I have better capacity to deal with it?

Life story work is usually respectful of the birth family. Why is there a need to avoid appearing judgemental? For example a photo of my child and his birth father at his fifth birthday party (fictitious). A lovely family memory? My child’s memory might be more about how he came into the bedroom later that evening and abused him. How confusing would that be for my son that his life story book only referred to his father positively?

View regression with optimism. It’s the process of moving forward for my children. Remember that periods of plain sailing are temporary, acknowledge this to minimise your disappointment later.

Realistic expectations = balanced optimism = ability to provide consistent nurture.

New things I learnt:

A technique called prescribing the symptom, it’s about interrupting your child’s automatic thought and behavioural processes, so if your child likes to have a tantrum every time you need to go out, you would start with ‘I know you always like to have a tantrum before we go anywhere, so please start now so you can get it over with’. The theory is that they won’t want to do what you say and will respond with ‘well I don’t want to have a tantrum today’. You can then go on with ‘ok we are about to get into the car, are you sure you don’t want to have just a little tantrum’. I can see how well this would work with my daughter and how hard she would fight my suggestion whilst I smile and say ‘ok but you just let me know later if you change your mind’.

Derailing conflict by creating a shift in focus. I’ve already used this one, not so much with a conflict but with a situation that I had been trying to manage for several days and was escalating at an alarming rate. Earlier this week tensions were rising about school transitions. Lots of worries were surfacing and conversation was becoming a bit of a feeding frenzy about who had the biggest worry about next year. So I announced a surprise trip to a pizza restaurant, where, between mouthfuls of pizza, we calmly made our way through all 37 transitions worries (hugely helped by a large glass of wine for me). It was as much an effective technique for derailing my thought process as it was for theirs.

Many thanks to both reviewers who received no payment for this review, other than the copies of the book itself. Keeping Your Adoptive Family Strong is available here from Jessica Kingsley Publishers.