Reflections on post adoption support

Today’s post comes from Vicki, from The Boy’s Behaviour who shares her experiences of post adoption support.

When we were being approved, and even after Mini was placed, I don’t think we ever really thought much about support that we might need later on.

We were assured that as he was so young, he wasn’t likely to have any problems. The advice given to us was, be open and honest with him (age appropriately of course), but it’s unlikely there will be issues because he’s been with the same foster carer for the duration of his time in care.

Ha ha. Except, it’s no laughing matter is it?

We were naïve perhaps. We’d researched and read as much as we could, but all those years ago, there wasn’t as much information readily available. I used online forums, but my social worker was less than complimentary about them (although in hindsight, I think she just didn’t understand how support online could really be supportive). I read Caroline Archer, Louise Bomber and Nancy Verrier. After Mini was placed I started reading more Kim Golding and Dan Hughes too and continued using forums trying to soak up other experiences and save ideas in my mind.  

To begin with, we experienced a few niggles. He used to bite me, would often appear to dissociate, he preferred daddy, rejected me a lot, had sleep problems, refused food on and off, but everyone said he was just settling, and we expected him to grieve after leaving his foster carer. None of it felt difficult to handle and we thought we could see an end to it.

After several years it became apparent though that we hadn’t come to the end of it. Mini was especially affected by the birth of my daughter, but we were still fobbed off though by the health visiting team (the usual port of call for all things challenging in the under 5’s), told that sibling jealousy was normal and given various techniques to try – some of which worked, most eventually stopped being effective. (Although the baby massage I learnt for Dollop, has been very useful on Mini!).

We bit the bullet and turned to our GP when Mini turned 5 and was no longer under the jurisdiction of the health visiting team. We got an immediate referral to CAMHS and an appointment within a couple of weeks. At around the same time, my husband contacted Post Adoption Support (PAS) and we were allocated a social worker and had an initial chat, followed by an assessment.CYMERA_20140113_135341

I have been pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to access this support – but I had to get my head in the right place first. After being continually told to treat Mini like any other child, that he didn’t have any issues, that I was imagining things, it was a big step for me to speak to the GP, and for me to ‘allow’ my husband to ring PAS.

My views on the therapies/assessments/counselling offered vary. We’ve now been ‘with’ PAS for 2 years now and although I feel my husband and I are getting support, I do still feel that Mini needs some more direct work, and as yet this hasn’t been forthcoming (apart from a quite general theraplay course which focussed on improving our relationship with Mini). But I do feel grateful for what we have been able to access. Our social worker has a big caseload – he’s not the quickest to reply to emails (which is how we usually communicate as it suits us all), but I know that if I needed his support or help, I could call and he’d do what he can.

I hope now that the process is changing that there is more emphasis on the importance of post adoption support. I hope that more adoptive parents are encouraged to use it. I suspect though, that lack of funding may mean this doesn’t happen. I’d like to believe there is a unified approach to assessing what is needed for individual families – and that various resources are pulled on to provide what is identified as being needed, but I know that not every agency has access to the same variety or quality of resources.

If you’ve been, or are being approved under the newer system (with stages and workbooks?) how much are you told about post adoption support? And if you’ve accessed it, how easy has it been? Is it a postcode lottery as some experiences I know of might suggest? How useful have you found the support?

6 thoughts on “Reflections on post adoption support

  1. Anne

    I’m really pleased that your post adoption support has been available and good. Sadly not or experience, we are currently paying £65 per hour for therapy because the system let us down.

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  2. Sarah

    Thank you for this balanced view.
    I am very glad to hear that initial help was quick and easy to like up to. By sorry to hear that the next level if support isn’t there for you all.
    I could write and talk on this forever. But fear not : I won’t.
    Of course resources are scarce and there is a lot of excellent work and support out there. But there are huge gaps in the provision. And it is a post code lottery. With the new quicker system and rise in overall number of adoption surely the post adoption support is now in more demand than just a few years ago. That part of the system is ripe for a shake up.
    Good luck to you and mini.

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  3. Sezz

    Good to hear that your experience of PAS has been largely positive, aside from the need for more specific work with Mini.

    Our experience has also been very good. Everything that was outlined in our PAS when we were being matched has, so far, been available. Our PAS social worker is coming tomorrow for a catch up and she is always asking if there is anything else we require. I asked them if they would pay for me to attend a couple of workshops and they have agreed. We’ve had theraplay and whilst we don’t attend sessions at the mo, the direct contact with the therapist is available by text and email. We haven’t had the AO yet but I am very confident this support will continue.

    I am extremely grateful for this support and know that this is not the case for many adopters. Indeed it’s not just the difference between LAs and agencies, it also seems to depend on your own SW as some local adopters I know are not getting the support they need and we feel this is as much down to their particular SW.

    I hope with the change afoot in PAS that every adopter gets the support for them and their child that they need and deserve.

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  4. Al Coates

    The whole system is haphazard, with adoptive families having the right to an assessment of their needs inshrined in legislation but no duty to meet the identified needs.
    When crisis hit us we were genuinely gobsmacked at the lack of knowledge that the worker had. With us giving her a briefing on attachment. The contract for support had gone to the lowest bidder and the requirement that the worker was “suitable qualified”. (This was all found out in a FOA request that the adopter led support group we co ran put in). The authority had not even consulted adopters on the nature of the service and how it would be provided.
    Support through GP’s, Paediatricians, CAHMs and Therapists has been excellent, but this has been instigated by us, asking, pushing and nagging. Other adopters have provided invaluable support, knowledge about good and empathic professionals, reading materials, free seminars and training and all the while “adoption support services” have passed us by, perhaps threatened by our forthright opinions and questions.
    I apologise if this all sounds bad or negative but we’re all at the mercy of geography, personality and availability.With no consistency of either financial, therapeutic or an other type of support then the drive to place more children, and more challenging children for adoption seems a little scary.
    With hindsight we’d have asked the right questions, chosen the authority or agency understanding the implications of these decisions.

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  5. Suddenly Mummy

    One of the difficulties around post-adoption support as I see it is that at the time when you’re agreeing what that might look like and they’re writing it into some document or other and getting you to sign it, you really have no idea what you’re talking about. Like you, Vicki, I adopted my son when he was quite young and no apparent problems. And he too had been with the same FC since being brought into care – me! So when we were applying for the final order towards the end of 2012, I literally had no idea whatsoever what might be facing me, or what types of support might be available. I think my agreement says something incredibly vague and non-committal. Thankfully, we are getting on ok so far, but I have my eye on a few things which, if they don’t fade as he grows, will become major issues later. All I know about support is that I phone my placing authority for the first three years and my own LA (the same as it happens) after that . . . beyond that I know nothing. I hope that if I have to make the call, I have a better experience than some I have read about.

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  6. Sarah - The Puffin Diaries

    We too had no real understanding, or were not given a realistic understanding, when being approved and then matched of just how tough things might get. Like yourself, there were niggling on going issues from the start, which through books and online research we tried hard to address ourselves, often very successfully. We accessed some of the training that or own authority offered and kindly continue to offer us. We however moved within the first three years and are now under another authority. Whilst this authority were quick to send a SW to see us when we asked for support what they were then able to offer us, and we accessed briefly has alarmed me. The worker we were allocated from another family support team had no understanding of attachment and the possible issues adopted children might face. I was told in the early meetings that one of my parenting problems was that I focus too much on the fact that my children are adopted and now they had been with us seven years they were mine and I needed to just get on with it. This has lead to her making suggestions to us on parenting which I frankly feel could be very damaging to our children if we complied. I have come to understand that during meetings I am often the person in the room with the greater knowledge of the challenges my children face and the best way in which to approach these. CAMHS have also, like you say, been very reluctant to work directly with the children, although have maintained an open door policy for us to contact/ make appointments with them to discuss issues. We have also recently been offered some play based therapy for my oldest boy. I think one of my major concerns with PAS is that we often make contact when our situation has become extremely desperate and in our case the worker had no real understanding of our family and our capabilities as parents. How much easier it would be if PAS had some sort of an on going relationship with families so they could better understand their strengths and evaluate their needs. I know this is a pie in the sky type of request and I know budgets and resources do not allow this. It’s frustrating to know that in other areas up and down the country families do have a different level/type of support and that therefore what we can access is often down to our postcode. I would like to see a more consistent level of support for all children and more training for workers to improve their understanding of the children they are working with.

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