We know that some of our readers are already members of PAFCA – Dr Amber Elliott, creator of the organisation shares more about how PAFCA came to be.
In the space of a couple of weeks in April 2010 I journeyed from disheartened overwhelmed and unmotivated to passionate, inspired and some may well say hyperactive. This was my transition from a Local Authority and NHS Looked After and Adopted Children’s CAMH service to setting up The Child Psychology Service. I didn’t know whether I could make a living but I did believe I could make a difference.
I should first make it clear, though I won’t go on as much as I could, that my heart, passion and politics still lie idealistically within the NHS. Quality services for looked after and adopted children should be available to all, free at the point of access and provided at the moment they are needed. However this was not where I found myself and I needed to do better for looked after and adopted children and their families.
The problem, as I saw it, was that the right therapeutic messages were not getting “out there”.
The developmental trauma of looked after and adopted children was treated with the same models of therapy that had been researched and developed on entirely different children and the emotional and behavioural consequences of trauma were being simplistically seen through the lens of behaviour modification i.e. “we can shape this undesirable behaviour using rewards and punishments” (regardless of its underlying psychological causes). The staggering fact is that 60% of children in the care system have severe and enduring emotional and mental health problems, that’s compared to 10% of all children and you don’t resolve those kinds of problems with tighter rules and boundaries.
In my career as a Clinical Psychologist my passion has always been to help looked after and adopted children to develop beyond their early trauma to happier, healthier lives via supportive and therapeutic work with their primary carers. My work is about enabling healing from the effects of traumatic early relationships via new therapeutic parenting relationships.
In the brave new world of independent practice, free from all the constraints and securities of employment I was faced with the dilemma of how I was going to achieve this. Armed with my grandiose aspirations and my new-found energy I knew I wanted to set up a high quality therapeutic and consultation service. Within six months I was meeting with families, foster carers and Social Workers and getting the therapeutic parenting message out there.
I was also constantly thinking about how I could reach and support more people. The cost of direct work with a private psychologist will be a barrier in some cases, when Local Authorities cannot be persuaded of the importance of targeted, quality and comprehensive therapeutic support and sometimes when families are, broadly speaking, doing ok. So, I got thinking about how I could offer different levels of support and help to foster and adoptive families.
When I was writing my first book, Why Can’t My Child Behave? Empathic Parenting Strategies that Work for Adoptive and Foster Families. I became aware of just how limitless the need for this support is. So, I started work on developing a more dynamic, interactive service. Parenting Advice for Foster Carers and Adopters (www.pafca.co.uk) is a web resource that joins together the expertise of foster carers and adopters with that of professionals to improve the emotional well-being, behaviour and mental health of adopted and fostered children.
The world of caring for traumatised children can sometimes be so hostile, scary and punitive that I wanted to create a safe place for foster carers and adopters to relax, learn and thrive.
We regularly upload new articles, information and advice written by foster carers, adopters and professionals in related disciplines. The site works best when we get feedback from our users about what they would like to see, so please get in touch if you have any ideas for what you’d like to see and what you think you could contribute yourself. Mail us on firstname.lastname@example.org if you’d like to.
We pride ourselves on having a very practical focus so every article, profile and feature on PAFCA contains a Top 5 Tips Section. These are practical ways of using the information included on each page.
At the moment the site is completely free to join but from 11th November 2013 membership will cost £36 per year. For that you’ll get access to all of the expert articles, problem page, adopters’ and foster carers’ experiences and a forum to chat with other members We’re also developing a free-access resource to which members can direct people who don’t “get it”.
I’m proud to say that PAFCA has indeed become the useful, supportive environment that I so desperately wanted to provide for foster carers and adopters but as time goes on I hope that it will take on a life and momentum of it’s own and become more and more the resource that you need.
Dr Amber Elliott is a Clinical Psychologist with a specialism in working with looked after and adopted children and their carers. You can reach her either via email (as above) or through the PAFCA website. PAFCA is also on Twitter @PAFCA2013.