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.
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?