Tag Archives: support

Support, training and therapy glossary

A few weeks ago, we brought you an Adoption Lingo Glossary which has been a really popular post. So moving on a little, but in the same vein, this week we’ve got another glossary, but also a bit of demystification on some support, parenting courses and therapeutic interventions that you might come across. Please note we are not advocating all of these as appropriate strategies, but merely explaining what they might involve, and it’s definitely not an exhaustive list.

Attachment Focussed Counselling/Therapy – Family counselling to help improve attachment issues between children and their carers. Helps bonding, and builds positive images between parent and child.

Attachment Parenting – a term to describe a parenting philosophy used in both birth and adoptive families, used to help promote positive attachments.

Child to parent violence (CPV) – a term to describe domestic violence directed at parent, by child.

Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP) – Developed by Dan Hughes, this is a continuation of PACE that is suitable for day to day parenting. This is a therapy that aims to help children who have suffered trauma, learn – amongst other things – to trust again.

Incredible Years/Webster-Stratton – a parenting program, occasionally offered by schools, developed by Carolyn Webster-Stratton. This behaviour modification technique uses time-outs and reward charts amongst other strategies.

Marschak Intervention Method (MIM) – an assessment, by way of a structured technique to help plan treatment and check suitability of therapies such as Theraplay. Usually videotaped, but not to be used alone in making assessments – best alongside other means of assessment.

Non violent resistance (NVR) – is a psychological approach for overcoming destructive, aggressive, controlling and risk-taking behaviour.

PLACE/PACE – Playfulness, (Love), Acceptance, Curiosity and Empathy. These are core parts of DDP, developed by Dan Hughes. Using these principles, children and parents can communicate more effectively.

Play therapy – a form of counselling or therapy that uses play to help patients communicate.

Self-care – a term to describe looking after oneself. A hot topic in adoption at the moment, self-care can include all manner of activities, all with the aim of caring for yourself.

Sensory Integration Therapy – a clinical approach to treating sensory issues. Usually an assessment is undertaken first, then a personalised programme of support is put in place to help overcome sensory issues.

Speech and language therapy (SALT) – Treatment to improve and treat speech and/or language delay, and can also include eating, drinking and swallowing issues.

Therapeutic Parenting – a term usually used to describe high structure, high nurture parenting.

Theraplay – a therapy to improve communication and attachment. Theraplay uses fun games and nurturing activities, where children and parents are led by the therapist. Such activities create an emotional connection between parent and child.

Triple P – The Positive Parenting Program is a parenting technique to help prevent and treat behavioural and emotional problems in children and teenagers.

User-led support – a term to describe support and help from other people who are using the same services as you, or in the same boat as you i.e The Adoption Social and The Open Nest.

What else have you come across? Other techniques or therapies?
Do please share in the comments below to help others understand what’s out there.

How do you find support?

Support.

Sometimes we need help and we don’t know where to get it from.
I suppose the main support sources are family and friends, but there’s also post adoption support, school, school nurses, therapists, counsellors and other health professionals.

These days, I find help from all those sources difficult though. We’ve gone too far along our journey to find many who’ve experienced what we have and as a result I find little comfort in speaking to those who understand the theory, but lack the real experiences, lack the raw emotion of parenting a traumatised child.

I have a few, very close, amazing friends and they are great for letting me sound off, whinge, cry, rant, celebrate and boast, but even with the amazing personal support they give me, they can’t empathise and truly understand what my family lives through. They are fantastic at letting my children just be children though, and I so appreciate that even with all they know (and they know A LOT), they don’t judge my children or pity them for their pasts.

My family simply don’t see much of the violence or challenges. My children are charm personified in front of their grandparents, and turn into gremlins the moment the front door closes. As much as they believe me, and do their best to support me, they simply cannot see the same children and as such don’t really know how to help.

IMG_20141127_153835I’m aware of this…isolation that I’m putting myself into. Don’t get me wrong – I have normal relationships with other mums, we go out for coffee, we talk about the day to day stuff about school uniforms, dieting, the weather, good books, homework and the star of the week. We have family friends that we occasionally manage a day trip with, but again, we talk about work, the car, what the kids watch on TV, how well they’re eating…normal parent stuff.

 

But I don’t talk about the real things that affect me and my family.
That gets compartmentalised and discussed only with other adoptive parents that live the same kind of life that I do. After all, how many people really understand trauma? Or really get neglect? My normal mum friends don’t – one joked the other day about the circle of neglect she was buying for her baby (an inflatable baby nest), it took a lot for me to bite my tongue and not tell her about REAL neglect…the kind my daughter endured.

The Adoption Social provides the links I need. It’s even managed to find me a couple of people in my local area and we’ve connected via email, and hope to meet up. But I need more. I need more people to get in touch with, and I want better local support. All my local adopters groups have been running for years – the people that go have teenagers and know each other of old, and, I don’t fit. I’ve never been one for cliques. So where now? Where do you get your support from? Am I too needy? Am I expecting too much? I never meant to rant about my lack of support, but I’d love to know how others manage…

So where do you get support from? We hope that here on The Adoption Social we can put you in touch with other adopters, tweeters and bloggers who you can chat with but is that enough?
If you want to write about an issue that you feel strongly about, then please do send your posts into theadoptionsocial@gmail.com

Tips on applying for Disability Living Allowance

Top Tips for claiming Disability Living Allowance

Have you heard of Disability Living Allowance? Also known as DLA.
It’s a financial benefit that can be applied for to help with the extra costs of caring for children whose needs are above those of children of a similar age.

In brief, it comes in two parts – Mobility and Care. Care is divided into Lower, Middle and Higher rates. Mobility into Higher and Lower. The rate awarded is obviously dependent on the needs of the child, and mobility and care rates are not necessarily awarded at the same rate. The currents rates are between £21.55 and £138.05 per week. If awarded, you may also then be entitled to additional child tax credits, and you may also be eligible to apply for Carer’s Allowance.

Importantly, a child DOES NOT need a diagnosis of any kind to claim DLA. It is strictly about the child’s needs.

Much more information can be found on the Government website here: https://www.gov.uk/disability-living-allowance-children

Forms are downloadable, or can be sent to you to fill in. And to be honest, they can look pretty scary. They are comprehensive, enabling your child’s situation to be assessed. There are MANY questions, all focussing on the difficult and challenging parts of parenting a child with additional needs. But, help is at hand with those scary forms. I’m no expert, but I applied for DLA a few years ago and was successfully awarded it for my son for a period of 2 years, and I have also recently completed the renewal pack and am pleased that it’s been awarded for a further 2 years. I couldn’t have done this without some assistance from another adopter, and now I hope my tips might help you successfully apply.

Tips for applying for DLA

I cannot stress highly enough that a successful award is NOT based on diagnosis, but based on needs.

Throughout your application:

DO show how your child’s needs are over and above children of the same age.
DO use phrases such as ‘not meeting milestones’ as this is a recognised indicator of development.
DO refer to the guidance notes.
DO use the extra information opportunities.

What information to include:

DO fill in the form based on your worst day and night. The care component is in part based on night-time needs, so make sure you detail these fully.
DO be completely honest – if it takes an hour to settle your child in bed, then say so.
DO not worry about repeating yourself, just be consistent.
DO give examples of the additional support required – if night-time disturbances are toileting issues, then say so. If your child has no sense of danger and needs help staying safe whilst out walking, then say so.
DO be detailed.
DO ring your doctor/consultants to check dates if necessary.
DO include all illnesses and ailments – even if you think they’re irrelevant now.
DO include information about your child’s background and early life IF it is relevant to their needs and behaviours now.
DO include information about other professionals that you are working with.

What to send with your application:

DO send as much supporting evidence as possible – therapist reports, copy of your child’s IEP, educational psychologist reports, CAMHS recommendations, and anything else you have.
DO ask a professional to add a supporting statement – our Post Adoption Social Worker helped us in our original application, and we also sent a short email from our CAMHS therapist.

More tips:

DO keep a copy of your application so you can refer back to it at renewal time.
DO remember that you’re focussing on the negatives and that’s hard, but it’s only for a short time.
DO call the DLA helpline if you have specific questions – 0345 712 3456
DO remember that you don’t need to justify what you spend the money on – it’s your business.
DO get in touch if you need support with filling in the form – we’re happy to help.

Good luck!

The Adoption Social gatherings

Meeting other adoptive parents. It’s hard sometimes isn’t it?

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Set-ups within local authorities seem to vary and whilst some actively promote opportunities for adoptive parents to meet-up, others aren’t quite so pro-active in facilitating networking. The online community is great – that’s in part why The Adoption Social exists.

We hope to bring you both interesting and informative posts, but also create ways of connecting with other adoptive parents, and also adoptees, birth parents and professionals too. We do that through our linkys, and sharing posts, and hope that we’ve helped bring together Twitter users too.

But, there’s nowt like meeting other folk in real life. We know – we ‘met’ online, but are now friends who’ve met up in real life several times now. And meeting others like @sallydwrites and @boormanamanda at The Open Nest trustee meetings, @adoptingsezz at Britmums Live, and @jayandaitch, @thefamilyoffive and @lauralikestoread (amongst others) at the Adoption UK conference last year makes it all much more real – there really is nothing like a real life hug from someone who understands and knows what you’re going through, and being able to hug them play areaback too!

So with all that in mind, we’ve decided to start facilitating some meet-ups across the country. These will be informal gatherings – perhaps in a coffee shop (if without the kids) or a park/zoo/woods (with the kids), and hope that they could lead to regular meet-ups, which will provide more support, understanding and even friendship for you on a local level. Some of our children don’t know any other adopted children, so these meet-ups could be a great opportunity for them to meet others in the same boat, and hopefully they won’t feel so isolated either.

It won’t be easy to bring everyone together, we’re spaced far and wide all over the country, but to begin with, we’d like to compile a list of all those interested with their locations. We don’t want your full address, just your nearest town. We’ll then create lists of people in the same rough areas, and we’ll need your permission to email those lists of people so we can put you all in touch with each other. Exactly *how* local the meet-ups are will depend on demand in any area.

Although we can’t arrange the meet-ups for you (purely because we’re limited by our own locations and lack of local knowledge in your area), we hope that by letting you know who’s nearby you can meet up with people you’ve been chatting to on Twitter, or received lots of blog comments from. And if these informal sessions work out, then perhaps we can think about hosting some larger formal Adoption Social meet-ups, more like fun-days, camps or special events, which we would arrange for you.
In fact, we’re already arranging a proper formal meet up for adoptive parents – this will take place in York at The Open Nest conference in October. So make sure you come along.

We’d love to begin these meet-ups over the summer, and if you like, you could blog about it and share the post on our Summer Sandpit linky? Security and safety need to be considered of course, so at the moment, we’ll only circulate between people we’ve already had some contact with either by Twitter, in person, through the blog, or via email. Events will not be advertised outside of the area email group.

If you’re interested, just drop us a line
by email: theadoptionsocial@gmail.com
DM us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/theadoptionsocial or
DM us on Twitter: @adoptionsocial

 

Launching the Adoption Support Fund Prototype

Today Sally Donovan updates us on the new Adoption Support Funding and the structure for the prototype being rolled out. 

SallyDYesterday I travelled from where I live in the middle of provincial England, to the Coram Foundation in London to attend the launch of the prototype of the Adoption Support Fund, alongside representatives from the ten participating Local Authorities, civil servants from DfE and representatives from other adoption organisations and charities.

Edward Timpson MP, Minister for Children and Families gave a speech in which he said that adoption support is an essential part of adoption and he wanted it to become the norm rather than the exception.

There were presentations from one LA (Cornwall) about how they will operate their prototype and from East Sussex who have set up a joint social services and CAMHS team.  It was clear that a great amount of time, thought, team effort and pragmatism has been invested in both schemes.  At the end of the day I returned home to the adoption support desert in which I live and dreamt about re-locating to East Sussex.

I attended the launch because I sit on the Expert Advisory Group which was established by the Department for Education and which is responsible for steering the Adoption Support Fund in the right direction.  The group is jointly chaired by DfE and Adoption UK and includes representatives from charities, local authorities and mental health.

 For many, the Adoption Support Fund offers the first glimmer of hope that real improvements will be experienced by real adoptive families, no matter where they live in England (adoption is a devolved issue). 

In many ways, living in a metaphorical desert has helped inform my participation in the development of the fund.  It means I can test proposals against a current poverty of services, which is important, because we don’t all live in East Sussex and because it’s easy to get carried along on a happy wave of success stories assuming they represent situation normal.

The ins and outs of the fund such as how to apply to it and the sorts of therapeutic support it will cover are addressed on the newly created website http://www.adoptionsupportfund.co.uk/   It’s important to stress that what was launched yesterday is a prototype, which means there will be glitches.

If you live in one of the ten prototype local authorities (Manchester, Newcastle, North Yorkshire, Solihull, Leicester, Hampshire, Gloucestershire, Cornwall, East Sussex and Lewisham) then you can now approach your LA for an assessment.  (Annoyingly the three year rule still applies.)

If you think your family has a therapeutic need then I urge you to contact your LA and ask for an assessment. 

Those who are responsible for managing the prototypes might not thank me for encouraging applications but to my mind we need to demonstrate a demand for the scheme and the prototype must be stretched and tugged at a bit to ensure it is fit for national roll out in May of next year.

If you approach your LA to access money from the fund you will, as part of the prototype, be asked for your feedback.  If there is anything you think should be fed back directly to the Expert Advisory Group then please tweet me @sallydwrites or send me a message on Facebook (Sally Donovan).  My participation in the EAG is entirely voluntary and takes place around other commitments so please forgive me if I don’t always reply very efficiently, but I will do my best.  The Department for Education is keen to hear about the good and the bad experiences, so if there’s something you think could inform and improve the scheme, don’t hold back.

This could well be the best chance there has ever been to make wholesale improvement to support for adoptive families in England.  In Scotland and Wales the campaigns must continue.

New therapeutic service in East Anglia

Today we’re introducing a new service – PACTS Outreach to you. Currently, PACTS works within Essex and Suffolk, but could this be a model that could work across the country? PACTS is not specifically for adoptive families, but can provide support in a variety of family circumstances.

pacts outreach

‘Supporting Parents, Enabling Children’

If you are a parent, carer or family member struggling with managing a child or young person with additional/special needs, disability or behavioural difficulties, then Parent And Child Therapeutic Services are available to support you.

PACTS Outreach uses a variety of therapeutic approaches with effective interventions to enhance the social/emotional development of children, alongside providing families with high levels of intensive support. We work with children aged between 5 and 18 years old with a variety of additional needs. PACTS Outreach work with and help families to develop problem solving skills as they are often experiencing extremely challenging circumstances. These circumstances may lead to feelings of frustration, isolation and hopelessness as they struggle to see a way forward.  At PACTS Outreach we focus on whole family engagement, assessment and intervention for children and young people. We work to promote collaboration with families and a range of partners to give support when it can make the most difference.

It is our aim at PACTS Outreach Limited to offer a professional, caring service to families and children/young people as early as possible, to afford the greatest chance of a long lasting positive outcome for both the family as a whole and the individual child/young person.

Covering Essex and Suffolk, PACTS Outreach focuses highly on the support network of a child. We encourage and help their school and family to work together to create a constantly stable system. To achieve this, we ensure that the right service is put into place as soon as possible. PACTS Outreach collates information by working alongside the family, the school, outside agencies and of course, directly with the child. It is through an understanding of the difficulties experienced, the completion of various assessments to identify needs, outlining difficulties and subsequent solutions that we aim to ensure every intervention is successful.

PACTS Outreach offer families hope where perhaps they feel they have none. We listen to, care for and understand the difficulties encountered by children and families and most importantly, without judgement.  Finally, we provide solutions for families who have become overwhelmed, by empowering parents and their children to face the future with strength and confidence.

Please feel free to contact us for an informal chat and find out more about how we can help you.

Mob: 07758115945 / 07758115759
support@pactsoutreachuk.com
www.pactsoutreachuk.com

‘Supporting Parents, Enabling Children’

How can we support our children and their children?

Carol’s daughter and son in law decided to adopt, but Carol needs your advice…

I didn’t know how difficult things would be when my daughter told me she and her husband were going to adopt a child. It was about 5 years ago, that their now 6 year old son moved in. I don’t know all the details about why he was removed, but I know it wasn’t the best start for him, despite a great foster carer.

He obviously has some difficulties, and understandably so, but I thought that after so long he’d feel settled. My daughter recalls awful events to me – when her son is violent, having meltdowns, refusing to do things, generally being naughty…but I can’t reconcile this with the child I see.
I don’t see him that often because of the physical distance between us, but when I do see him he’s mostly polite, well behaved – a little contrary on occasions, but pretty much like a typical child of his age.
In fact, sometimes I feel they don’t give him enough freedom, and keep him too close, but she tells me it’s important to help make him feel secure, the boundaries are there for a reason.

grandmotherBut I know she’s telling me the truth – I’ve seen how depressed and down my daughter is, I’ve seen the bruises she bears, I’ve heard the weariness in her voice, and I’ve seen the damage in the house.

I really want to support them all, but how can I have empathy for my daughter when I don’t see the behaviour she tells me of? Can I support my grandson in anyway to help him with coping with the issues? Should I consider some training so I can better understand? Is there anything out there for adoptive grandparents?”

What is ‘it’?

 

ProverbialOnion

I Recently fell out with someone close to me, family close to me.

It started over me forgetting a child’s birthday, (this happened some months ago the card and money were 2-3 days late) and for which I had already apologised and kicked myself, dutifully many times, for forgetting.  Reminded of the incident and how unhappy said person was about it I felt cornered and judged and the discussion then escalated into a row about how little interest or time that person had shown in my children. I might have had a glass of wine, which might not have helped but said person’s reply was that “Well that’s what you chose”. I reeled from this fallout for days because it just identified fully to me that this person, family close to me person “didn’t get it”.

During my post row melancholy state I realised that this saying “getting it” is bandied about a lot when we talk amongst adopters, it’s why we congregate on twitter and mooch around each other’s blogs. Here we don’t have to explain “it” to anyone, everyone knows what “it” is and everyone just “gets it”.

So what exactly is “it that makes our lives as parents so difficult or just different compared to other parents. I must admit that at times I have wondered if I’m just being a bit dramatic, if I imagine some of these hardships. My two boys, to the untrained eye, appear well adjusted little boys, not unlike their peers and yes, I know, lots of children can be difficult. So post my fallout with the close person, I have been pondering what exactly “it” is that I would like them to get. Without having to give details that may seem like a lecture in child psychology, how could I, or you, or others put it so that people, non-adopters may also get “it”.

I’ve come to the conclusion that although there is an intense physical aspect to parenting my children, it’s the emotional strain that really cuts deep. That doesn’t mean that all the physical abuse you take from your lovelies, here in the last twenty for hours I’ve experienced biting, hitting, kicking and having things thrown at me, doesn’t take its toll, it does. Restraining your child whilst they attempt to escape from your home, damaging the home or much worse themselves, requires a lot of strength and the right kind of strength too; you really do not want to hurt them. But somehow that affects me less than the emotional mental drain that creates a fuzzy haze around you for, hours, days sometimes weeks or should that be years.

Presently, from my first waking moment until their last waking moment, I feel like I’m in battle mode. Not every day, but lots of days, it is just one constant need to head off possible confrontations, negotiate positive outcomes or at the very least, create the path of least resistance. And that’s just it;

“there is always resistance, resistance to everything”

No-one ever wants to do as they are told, not right away, and if they do you know that you’ll pay for it later.

 If I’m being fair, it’s not both of my boys which require this level of surveillance and a watchful eye on their every action. We’ve already been there with the older one, he started from the day he arrived, but he’s now in a reasonably good place. He throws the odd almighty wobbly but on the whole he requires much less guidance, now it’s his brother’s turn. So with no break in-between, we have made the smooth transition from one child’s need for constant attention to other, and there is my first part of “it”. For us “it” is the now long term, ongoing need to be on guard, all day every day, no holidays given. To be honest you kind of get used to this part of “it” it’s just our family life.

But “it” is multilayered, and just like the proverbial onion, it will create salty droplets in your eyes, the more you strip it back the more emotional “it” becomes. So whilst battling through the day to day onslaught of demanding and controlling behaviour, there is the next bit of “it”. The child’s own emotional make up, how and why they roll the way they do, all of which is created by their totally inadequate, totally damaging and totally unthinkable start in life.

 One of my most disliked questions, and I know it is just a general enquiry and innocent remark, is “do you really think that their start in life still affects them now?” Yes that’s me standing on the roof tops, jumping up and down, waving my arms and shouting “YYYEEESSS”. “Yes I do think that”, “No, I KNOW that”.

MY 8 year old child does not call me a “f*****g useless “b***h of a mother” during a complete meltdown because this is the language he hears used all the time to his mother and in his home. We are not the family from hell, and although I’m sure the school playground provides a lot of his colourful vocabulary, this is not learnt behaviour.  It stems from his total lack of comprehension of boundaries, empathy, appropriate conduct for an 8 year old, because he’s trying so hard to not let another adult, hurt, damage or reject him. He’s protecting the deepest darkest corner of his steely little heart that might still be able to love, love himself because if that’s gone he will just give up. He’s repelling me, pushing me away telling me to back off, he’s venomous and determined, no holds barred.

So whilst my child is calling me a “f*****g useless B***h of a mother” I have to dig deep and not feel hurt or upset by this abusive behaviour I have to find my therapeutic mummy head that says ”you poor soul look how angry your life is making you” or “well this is positive, great he’s starting to reveal his emotions after 6 and a half years, he must be starting to trust me”. You see whilst trying to strategise over how best to deal with the situation you are in, you are also have to try and understand the situation you are in, read between the lines and understand why. The understanding why is the second part of my “it”. And to think all I did was say “no” to watching The Simpsons.

Next, here’s where the emotional heart break starts, because if you do understand “it”, understand the reasons why your child, that you love deeply, is behaving in such a horrendous way, then you can’t help but feel utter, desperate, sadness for them. Not just sadness but complete anger at the world for letting a child you love be treated the way they have been treated, but knowing also that if they hadn’t have been treated that way then they wouldn’t be yours, oh yes the churning turmoil of “it”. With every moment of recognising “it”, there is a reminder of why “it” is here in your life, a reminder of your child’s nightmares.  This is the heavy emotional burden of “it”, that because you care you can never put down. You carry this heavy sack of nightmares across your broad shoulders and it bends your back and your heart into pain you could never have imagined. “It” literally weighs you down.

And so to the final part of “it”, for me anyway, and this is how “it” then impacts on all the other relationships you have in your life; your friends, your family, the school teacher, the other school parents but most of all your significant others. It’s another blog post again containing details of relationship breakdown, loneliness, misunderstandings and angry words. It’s about pushing the boundaries of your love for others and their love for you to the farthest corners of the world, hoping and praying that it will bounce back, mis-shaped and bent but with the bond still intact.

In summary “it” is daily battles, strategising, understanding, carrying your child’s pain, emotional turmoil, taking abuse and smiling, peeling onions whilst carrying a sack of nightmare on your back and hoping those you love don’t leave. I hope said family close person is now no longer in the dark about “it”.

Oh and just for the record if someone had fully explained “it” to me before I got to choose “it”, I’m not sure I would have been brave enough to take “it” on.

 This post is written by someone who wishes to be anonymous. If you would like to submit a post anonymously too, then use this form to contact us…

That Question

Today’s Blogless post comes from Kat, who tweets as @on_the_edge.

One of the questions I get asked (frequently) when I choose to tell people my children are adopted is, “What made you decide to adopt?”

Rhino hideIt used to be one of those questions I dreaded, but having developed more of a rhino hide, been to Bolshie Mum School and having discovered a confidence and assertiveness I never knew existed, I don’t mind so much now. I give the stock reply of, “We wanted to be parents and make a difference and it wasn’t happening for us in the usual way and nor was ivf successful,”

 


It sounds so simple doesn’t it? Almost like following a flow chart and ending up at ADOPTION.

Many people’s thoughts (including mine and my husband’s) turn to adoption after many years of trying to conceive either with or without medical intervention and the route that leads many to adoption is far from straight-forward.

I often read tweets from people agonising over whether or not to have ‘one last cycle of IVF’; fretting that they accidentally ate some of the ‘wrong’ foods; in deep despair in case the elusive two lines on the test stick never appear and then if they do appear then it’s a whole new cycle (pun intended) of fear in case it all goes wrong.

I have been there myself. Two weeks of every month eating only chicken, eggs, pineapple, raspberries and drinking whole milk and protein shakes.

It was miserable.Forbidden foods

The last two weeks of the month after I knew it wasn’t happening again, being reckless – caffeine and alcohol a-go-go, soft cheese, processed food and chocolate.

IT WAS MISERABLE.

After treatment started, the control intensified, as did the paranoia. So afraid to take even the mildest pain relief, I’d sit at work with killer migraines and drive home in a daze, not remembering how I’d got there; waking in the night worried in case I’d ruined it again because in desperation I’d downed a cup of tea. Notice the recurring theme of self-blame and guilt.

I’d log on to internet ‘support’ forums (long before the days of Twitter) starting at the top of the boards; blind optimism and excitement at a fever pitch ‘Starting Treatment’, ‘BFP at Last’ and slowly making my way down the boards, the fervour notably lessening the further down you get as the bitterness and anger builds, ‘Miscarriage Advice and Support’, ‘Second and Subsequent Cycles’, ‘When Should I Give Up?’ everyone seemingly feeding off everyone else’s disappointment, resentment and heartache so in the end you crash too, to a lonely place seeing only hopelessness.

And there, stuck at the bottom of the forum, the board nobody wants to join, the members of which everyone else on the top boards call ‘inspirational’ and ‘wonderful’  and ‘amazing’ but of whom they are all secretly afraid, lest they end up in a similar position: the members of the ‘What’s Next?’ community.

It takes a lot of strength to even make the first move to log on to that board (literally and metaphorically) and even more to decide that enough is enough and decide to either adopt or foster or to live child-free.

Whichever option is right for you, none of them are easy but with support, perseverance and strength you can make it work. There is hope. Deciding to move on isn’t an ending; it’s a different way of living. And do you know what? Being on that board, being a member of that community is a breath of fresh air. Even when times are hard there is laughter, support and safety. It really isn’t so bad.

Plus, we drink alcohol, caffeine-laden drinks and rubbish food all month long. Because we can.

 

“Sometimes on the way to a dream, you get lost and find a better one” – Lisa Hammond

Did you come to adoption via infertility too? Or are you considering adoption as a route to fulfilling your family at the moment? Have you ever been asked *that question*? Welcome to a friendly bunch of people who’ve been there….

Teaching the Teachers…

Today’s handy tips post comes from Jennifer Jones who runs Inspired Foundations, a West Midlands based organisation that provides support services and training for parents and organisations, on a range of subjects related to children who are adopted, fostered or at-risk. Jennifer shares some strategies that could be implemented in schools to provide further support.logo-with-slogan

It is no secret that children who are, or have been in the care system often struggle within educational settings. In fact if we look closely at some of the statistics, it doesn’t make for pleasant reading, with this group of children being nine times more likely to be excluded from school. Later in life they are also 55% more likely to suffer from depression and also make up 23% of the prison population. But before you stop reading this article, let me explain why I am giving you this information.

I started working with children 13 years ago. Throughout this time I have worked mainly with children who have additional needs, completed a degree in special education and became trained in many types of therapy. However, eight years ago I became a mum – but not just any old mum – an adoptive mum! I adopted two children who were both described as ‘healthy’, ‘meeting their developmental milestones’ and ‘well attached to their foster carers’ – in other words they were perfect. None of this ‘attachment issues’ stuff or being behind in their learning, so it was full steam ahead with being their mummy.

It would probably take me to write a book to explain the years that followed, but in a nutshell it was a slow drip-drip process of learning, understanding and making changes. Most of my knowledge of child development and behaviour strategies had to be thrown out in favour of a therapeutic parenting style. The fact was that my children did have attachment issues and had experienced developmental trauma.

Looking back I feel quite silly and think “how could they NOT have” given their experiences before they were taken into care.

Along the way we met lots of professionals who just didn’t get it. We have had to fight for every ounce of support we have ever got. It is for this reason that I set up a company 3 years ago – pulling together both my personal and professional experiences with an aim to educate people about the issues faced by this group of children. I am pleased to say that things have taken off and we have been able to expand and increase our services to reach even more people and in many different ways.

Okay, so back to the subject area! The statistics are one way for me to gain people’s attention. It often makes teachers sit up and listen. Do they really want little Johnny to end up in prison? Do they know Chloe is more likely to be homeless or self harm than other children? Did they know Karen has a 20% chance of becoming a teenage mother? This gives me a good starting point for encouraging teachers to make changes in the way they work with children.

Before any strategies are put in place by teaching staff it is important that they understand why they are doing them. They need to understand that many children who have been in care will have experienced abuse and neglect, often along with many moves and lots of uncertainty. These events all lead to the child having a very different view of the world compared to other children of the same age.

For a child who has experienced trauma, school may mean;

  • Being separated from their carer
  • Having contact with a range of different people with varying roles (Lunchtime supervisors, Teaching Assistants, Teachers, caretaker etc..)
  • Being expected to know who these people are and how you should act around them
  • Always having to be on the look-out for danger
  • Trying to understand and manage friendships
  • Constantly worrying about food (“will there be enough lunch left for me at dinner time”)
  • Trying to do work which may be too difficult
  • Receiving praise and rewards when inside they feel worthless

Responses to these fears can provoke a range of behaviours which may include:

  • Appearing charming and superficial
  • Being indiscriminately affectionate with visitors
  • Being overly demanding or clingy to staff
  • Asking persistent nonsense questions
  • Poor cause/effect thinking
  • Struggling to make friends
  • Poor impulse control
  • Avoiding eye contact (except when lying)
  • Lying and/or stealing
  • Low self esteem
  • Increased shame levels
  • Difficulties with organisation

For teachers trying to deal with such behaviours in the classroom this can be draining and frustrating. It is important that the teacher, or any professional working with the child tries to understand why and how this behaviour would have developed. Without this any strategies lack the required foundations and will have a limited affect.

Below are some strategies which could be suggested as a way to support looked-after or adopted children with school.

Good communication
Regular meeting and discussions are important so everyone involved has a clear idea of current issues or progress made. Make use of a home-school diary when possible.

Thinking out loud
Children often struggle with recognising their own feelings, so ‘commenting’ or ‘wondering’ out loud about the child’s behaviour can help e.g.: “I can see that you get very upset before we leave for school. I wonder if that is because you think I will forget about you when you are at school”. It should be remembered that these are comments, and not questions, so a response should not be expected from the child as that can add lots of pressure to their already anxious state.

Re-thinking rewards and sanctions
Ask the teacher to use low key praise and rewards. Also to avoid ‘time out’ consequences which compound their sense of wrongness and shame. The use of ‘time in’ (where a child is brought towards the adult) is a better option.

Difficulties with change
Ask that the school develop consistent routines to help build a strong sense of security and familiarity. Also request that whenever possible you are told of changes, such as a supply teacher or a change in lessons in advance so you can support your child in advance.

Curriculum topics
There are certain curriculum topics that you should ask teachers to be mindful of such as family trees, those that require baby photos, and subjects such as evacuation and rationing.  There are often many ways to cover topics such as this without excluding the child so ask the teacher to seek further advice from you about this.

Key worker
A highly recommended approach is the use of a key worker. The role of this person is to be an ‘attachment figure’ within school and someone whom the child may grow to trust in time. They may have tasks such as meeting and greeting the child in the morning, checking-in with the child after break times and lunch times, and generally being someone who the child feels able to go to if there is a problem.

Visual support
Request that the school use a visual timetable and visual prompts for areas of difficulty with organisation skills (eg: packing school bag)

Transitional objects
Try sending in an object from home which will remind your child of you (photograph, handkerchief etc..) which will ease the anxiety of being separated from you.

Training and advice
Strongly encourage school staff to attend training in the subject of attachment and trauma where they can gain a much deeper understanding of the child’s needs and learn strategies to support these. You could also recommend that they read some of the books/ leaflets listed below:

Supporting looked-after and adopted children in school http://www.hertsdirect.org/infobase/docs/pdfstore/csf0046.pdf

Inside i’m Hurting, by Louise Bomber (ISBN-13: 978-1903269114)

The boy who was raised as a dog, by Bruce Perry (ISBN-13: 978-0465056538)

It is also important to remember that the intentions of different professionals are often good. They will want children to learn, to explore and to develop. The difficulty arises because learning is not a priority for these children – staying safe and getting their needs met is. As parents or carers we learn this, or instinctively know this. Therefore it is often left to us to try to teach the teachers…

You can find out more about Inspired Foundations here, or email Jennifer at jenny@inspiredfoundations.co.uk