Waiting for help

We really value all of the guest posts we’ve had this week – all talking about a difficult subject, but one that needs bringing to the fore. This post is no exception…

I am writing this anonymously, not because I am ashamed but because I don’t want my daughter coming across this and identifying herself in years to come.  I also find it difficult to be open as I don’t want it to colour peoples views of my amazing, sparky little girl.  My apologies in advance if it is a bit disjointed…it was quite emotional to write.

My daughter is young – 6 years old and has been with us 4 years.  She is funny, clever, energetic, chatty, caring, beautiful, amazing….I could go on but you get the picture.  She is also very angry punchingand lashes out at my husband and I when she loses it.  This can take the form of kicking, punching, pinching and biting.  She knows it is wrong and she feels shame afterwards.   She wants help – we have been waiting over 7 months for help from our local post adoption support.  We are on a waiting list for sensory therapy with no indication of when this may happen.  I am hoping it is the right thing to help her.  I am on a waiting list for counselling – again with no indication of when this may happen.  My requests to date to be assessed to apply to ASF have been denied.  I am currently considering making this request again and more officially/forcefully but want to be more knowledgeable about the therapies available and what may be beneficial to strengthen my argument.  If anyone has any suggestions/advice as to alternative support therapy that may help then please let me know via Adoption Social.

I have tried what I can to help her.  A lot of it is instinctive.  We use some simple theraplay techniques.  We use meditation CDs particularly at night. We try to incorporate regulating activities and often do life story work with her. I have explained to her in simple terms why I think she has anger problems.  She gets it – and can now tell me when she gets “that feeling”.  But sometimes it comes on so quickly – like a light switch.  Last night I just hugged her whilst she was beside herself because she had “that feeling”.  I wanted to sob along with her.  My beautiful girl in so much pain.  We can only do so much – she (we) need professional help and soon before it escalates and becomes harder to address.  The longer it is left the harder it will be to address and potentially the more it will cost.  Simple economics should dictate that it is dealt with quickly, without even taking into account the cost implications if she enters adulthood without the support provided in a timely fashion.  I know we can’t make her past disappear but I do believe firmly that she can be given the support and tools to be able to cope and lead an independent and valuable life.

We are lucky – she is young so we can control the violence but I am filled with fear as to what will happen if we can’t bring it under control.  I am angry that the required support is so difficult to access.  I strongly suspect that the behaviour is related to the violence she experienced in utero and also the drug and alcohol she was exposed to.  She has been assessed as having regulation and sensory issues.  I am also looking to get her assessed for FASD…but one battle at a time.  It breaks my heart to see her hurting so much and to not be able to fix it for her.  She (and all other adopted children) deserve to be given the appropriate support/therapy when they need it.  It is inhumane to make them suffer longer.  They didn’t chose this life and if we want to truly break the cycle then the support needs to be there.

Sorry – I have gone off on a bit of a rant 😉 The prevalence of the violence varies depending on how stressed/unsettled she is.  It is often focussed around bedtime – she doesn’t like going to bed.  Why we don’t know but I suspect it is as simple as she thinks we are up to something really exciting.  I may let her stay up one night to see the reality and see if it helps.

School know but offer little help as she is fine at school.  However they successfully manage to contribute to the situation with the way they handle things….talking about transition to new school year as early as Easter, going off timetable in the run up to Christmas in October!!!!!!

A very select (2 I think) few friends know and no family know- and without exception they are fellow adopters.  To these two people I say a heartfelt thank you as they have kept me sane (relatively) and listen without judging.  I just don’t trust that others would understand.  They seem to generally understand so little of the other issues associated with adopting so why would they understand this.  This makes me question my first statement as to whether I am ashamed…..I genuinely think my abiding concern is how it would change others views of our daughter.  She has done so well given her start in life and I don’t want people to judge her unfairly.

It is so wearing and emotionally tiring – I can’t really describe it. I feel permanently drained and exhausted.  I am always trying to be two steps ahead in an attempt to avoid any triggers.  I am often analysing my parenting decisions – I am probably my harshest critic!

If I had known what lay ahead would I have still adopted her?  Without question- yes.  I will continue to fight to access the right support for her and to love her and more importantly make sure she knows I love her unconditionally.

9 thoughts on “Waiting for help

  1. michelle swann

    My heart goes out to you. You could be describing my adopted daughter at that age. Sometimes it took me 3 hours to get her to sleep. She was also sparky, engaging, sociable and utterly exhausting. My daughter was exposed to heroin in the womb then had an emotionally absent crap foster mum for the first year of her life. Attachment is the issue. Hold on to your hat. You are right to seek out the support of fellow adopters who get it. Fight for some quality play therapy. Insist on assessment for FAS. Shout loudly at school. Make them use their pupil premium plus money to get attachment training for staff. Make sure you have regular breaks. Go out weekly with your partner. Learn safe holding techniques. And don’t be hard on yourself. You are doing your best with a traumatized child. We all are. Children should not be placed without a package of support and we should all challenge this. I wish you well in your journey with her.

  2. Adoptive mum

    I read your post and wanted to share what we have done with our son, who has very similar issues to your daughter. His aggression was such that I couldn’t be alone with him, couldn’t take him anywhere and he was at risk of exclusion at school and very socially isolated. He hated it too and was always very sorry after hitting us. We had the works – hitting, punching, biting, spitting, swearing, things thrown and broken, etc. It was just unmanageable. We then decided to try a medication, Resperidone (respridal) in a tiny dose and that has completely changed our lives. The medication stabilises mood and stops mood swings. It is also a tranquilliser. We can now see his loving and fun side. And now we can access play therapy and other things that he simply couldn’t handle before. He is a different child and we are a different family since. We all love our children and want the best for them, and sometimes medication – although it sounds scary – is the right thing. We were at breaking point and would not have been able to look after him for much longer. So we decided to try the medication and it’s turned our lives around.

    It sounds to me like your support is lacking. Can you ask for a CAMHS assessment? And also a referral to the FASD clinic in Surrey, where they can give a diagnosis and treatment plan. I don’t think you should put up with the lack of support and the professional services that are meant to help should all be working together to support you and your daughter. From my experience, writing strong letters, and being persistent and firm as well as finding out about all the possible sources of support, is one way to progress… But I know it is very, very hard. I wish you all the best of luck.

  3. Dave

    Firstly, you’re doing a great job. Don’t beat yourself up. Secondly, you’re not alone. I recently went to a meeting of local adopters and most were having difficulty of some sort.

    The fact that the behaviour is at home could be a blessing as issues at school can be far worse. Speak to the school nurse who can refer you to a paediatrician who may decide to refer you to child psychology. They may not just assume it is attachment and be able to diagnose a condition. A diagnosis will open avenues of support and hopefully speed up the process.

    In the meantime, you need to widen your support network with people who understand your child and your situation.

  4. kim undy

    The FASD referral will take a very long time – I have been advised that the best way is to ask your GP for a referral to Community Paediatrics then ask them for a referral to a geneticist – who will then refer to Dr Raja Mukherjee FASD specialist in Surrey – doesn’t seem to work unless you go via this route. In the meantime I would demand NVR (Non Violent Resistance Training) – it’s highly effective, helps you as a parent to stop feeling like a failure, and is empowering. Of course Adoption Support Fund is intended for exactly this purpose – don’t understand why your Post Adopt. SW isn’t assessing you. At this point in your shoes I would consider consulting with an SEN specialist solicitor – hugely helpful for my family – they can write some stiff letters to your social services who will hopefully pull their finger out rather than risk going to court. Obviously that costs but I would expect a deal for a finite piece of work could be done for about £500 & then if no joy your solicitor could probably put your child on to a Legal Aid certificate so that further costs aren’t met by you. I would also recommend contacting your local Parent Partnership who can advise on education issues &come with you to school meetings – this is a free and independent service. A helpful, calming activity to go some way towards helping your child with self-esteem and learning to stay calm would be equine therapy – you could try SIH (strength in horses) or Stable Relationships. I would echo other parents saying you have to also nurture yourself – I know that when something nice is going on just for me (lunch with a friend, yoga, etc), I can hold on just that little bit longer – it also models excellent self-respect & self-care for your child. Good luck X

  5. plumstickle

    In great haste but with huge empathy for all you are going through – write an official letter of complaint to your local authority, write to your MP and to Edward Timpson. To be refused an ASF application seems completely wrong (maybe I’ve read this too quickly?).

    NVR has helped us too but tbh the only real support came after our child’s behaviour upset the neighbours.

    Keep on keeping on. With you all the way.

  6. Sarah

    Hello, I just had to write. I find myself in a similar boat at the moment. 8 months after approaching Post Adoption for support – they are only JUST doing a ‘new’ MIM Assessment where they ‘anticipate’ the outcome will necessitate Theraplay or some other intervention. In our situation the acting out started turning to self harming and it’s HEART WRENCHING to watch.

    You should absolutely make a formal complaint about the lack of support you’re receiving. You’re totally correct in what you say about the system causing more trauma. Sometimes I despair at the system – these children were neglected, in some cases abused, they are traumatised and they are handed off to us with a few courses to ‘help’ us deal with the behaviour. It is quite literally the ONLY abusive relationship anyone would tell you to stick with. But stay strong you’re doing a brilliant job in a terrible situation (lack of support from the system!).

    If your local authority is refusing to go to the ASF – speak directly to @TalkAdoptSupp (Hugh Thornberry) he’s on Twitter and is very good about pointing you in the right direction.

    Also – go to your local doctors, get them to write you a referral to CAHMS or even (as was the case in our situation) they may push you through to a Paediatrician clinic where they can do an overall physical assessment (as some of the potential FASD symptoms may fall into this side) – review. From there they may also be able to help you access the sensory therapies.

    I feel your pain and fatigue – trying to contain a traumatised little person, trying to reach them, help them etc when you’re on your knees is so frustrating, but you’re not alone. I too have lost friends as I’m not able to share with them in any meaningful way my experiences of parenting. So hopefully between your adoptive friends and these forums you’ll feel the support!

    One last thought – I went on a course with John Baylin (co-Author of Brain Based Parenting) and he said something that really resonated with me. The latest thinking in dealing with traumatised children is that it’s almost/similar to a type of PTSD – they have EXTREME reactions to sensations, smells etc that they just CAN’T control. Thinking about this helps me sometimes to ground myself – I remind myself that I’m not the cause and I’m not necessarily going to be able to ‘fix’ it.

    Stay Strong and good luck with everything.

  7. Ju

    We had a very similar situation and were lucky to get CAMHS Theraplay. It was extremely traumatic for us and LO but had fantastic results. LO can manage her anxiety now by walking away rather than fighting. At home she goes to her bedroom, even if just for a few seconds, or as long as she needs, not as punishment but to calm herself and regroup. I really feel for you. x Best of luck and I hope you get support very soon.

  8. Cocktail Mama

    I just had to write as per all the other adopters, and agree with all they have said re suggestions, try them all! We have been in very simular situation and I feel your pain, frustration and utter disbelief in the system. I too stopped talking to others about it but that way lies depression in my opinion. You have to be brave and say it out loud CPV, but pick the right people to listen. Had our boy just over 2 yrs, I’ve been dealing with his “rages” for over half that time. He hit 5 YRS and started to attack me, worst was deep bites into arms, being hit about head, headbutting…. We are lucky as swapped to a great school in yr 1 (first school was utterly useless, a hard change for Boy but luckily worked for us in end) but without them I think i was heading for a breakdown. I have to safe hold Boy to stop the rages if he gets really worked up, like he has to “blow” for it to start to subside. I would also add look into secondary trauma, it’s a bit of a cow and you could be suffering from it, it helped me to find a reason for why I was/wasn’t functioning! Also you HAVE to complain, I have spent over 2 yrs petitioning for therapy money, and literally this month this culminated in a full holistic assessment of needs £5.5k for 1 day, how can pros ask this much???!!!. Our child is from a disrupted adoption, so they feel responsible, so perhapa our ace card to play but i believe every child should have this so therapy money can then be spent in correct area for child, and in long run will be more cost effective for LA. But from reading tweets/posts it seems like the LA have a legal requirement to assess your needs? Threaten to go to the press, solicitors or anything to get an assessment, you need help and so does your child, you need the help to be fab parent to you child. You deserve better from LA. I didn’t mean to be so long but I wanted to say I’m glad you now know you are not the only one, I thought I was for a while and it drove me crazy with doubt in my parent skills but we’re not the problem and neither are our kids please hold onto that but I know how tiring it is being the buffer in between. You are doing a brilliant job and give yourself a break. To finish to say my Boy is adorable when on form, and all who meet him seem to love him and although this is hardest thing I’ve ever done I will not give up on him and tell him so always and that seems to help him. Please hang in there, from 1 stranger to another I want to send huge virtual hug! Be strong and thankyou so much for sharing it gives me strength to keep fighting for justice. I hope you find family peace soon and until then a respite so you can regroup emotionally.


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