I recently attended a training day run by my local social services. They are quite active in terms of training events and workshops, but this one was bound to be popular – Margot Sunderland was coming to town.
I booked early and got myself a place, but within weeks it became clear that demand was high, and after a few more emails and uncertainty over whether a place would be available, I was lucky enough to be one of the selected few (and so was our social worker!).
Margot Sunderland is well known in the ‘parenting an adoptive child’ world, as well as many other worlds too, and indeed some years ago I’d read her book The Science of Parenting, now known as What Every Parent Needs to Know as part of my research when becoming approved. She is also Director of Education and Training at The Centre for Child Mental Health, London, child psychotherapist, author of many many books and holds many other positions.
This particular workshop was entitled ‘Helping Children Make Up Lost Ground’, and was a 9.30 – 3.30 session.
Aimed at adoptive parents, foster carers, as well as managers and staff working across adoption, fostering, independent review and LAC, this was a broad cross section of people to talk to and I was worried that much of her presentation would go over my head. But I needn’t worry.
Her use of language and handouts was suitable for those with no experience or understanding of brain development – and armed with a little understanding and knowledge already, I found that I easily understood.
Margot also constantly referred to a visual presentation, which included some video clips to demonstrate her work, this was a great aid too, and has since been emailed to all participants for future reference.
The workshop covered 3 main topics –
~ The impact of relational stress and poverty on the child’s developing brain;
~ The neuroscience/psychology of attachment problems and disorders;
~ The neuroscience/psychology of childhood trauma and loss.
And in all of these, we also looked at the difference we can make.
I didn’t meet a single other adoptive parent on the day, although I know there were a few there – I’d hoped to improve my local network. But I did come away some other things instead: a better understanding of the neuroscience behind attachment and trauma, a better understanding of how my child’s brain works (and where it’s faults are and why), a desire to re-read The Science of Parenting, a catalogue of courses at The Centre for Child Mental Health (and I intend to go to at least one and send my husband on another…Bessel Van Der Kolk hopefully!) and much admiration for Margot Sunderland.
Throughout her presentation she gave examples of things that adoptive parents might see in their children, and reiterated what a difficult job that adoptive parents do.
The only other professional I’ve ever seen, heard or spoken to (including those I’ve worked directly with) that has even the slightest bit of empathy for adoptive parents is Dr Dan Hughes, and that acknowledgement means a huge amount to me.
If you get the chance to see Margot Sunderland speak. Go. And I hope if you do, you feel as inspired and hopeful as I do now.
If you’ve attended a useful workshop or course but are worried about your location and identity being exposed, then please do let us know and, as we have with this post, we can feature your review anonymously.