When my daughter was really quite young and struggling a lot, she used to say to me “there’s something wrong with my brain….if you opened up my head and looked inside at it you would believe me “.
I knew there was something wrong but all medical checks showed no brain damage as such and no physical reasons for her lack of impulse control and rage.
I was happy, at first, to see her behaviour as an expected, perhaps reasonable response to the lack of control and choice she had endured and resulting in her becoming adopted by me wether she liked it or not.
After researching about attachment and trauma I was lucky (and it was luck) to find a brilliant therapist through the NHS. Geraldine was a practitioner of Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy. Part of a fairly elite institute headed by Dan Hughes, she worked together with my daughter and I on strengthening our attachment and problem solving.
I was cynical at first as previous therapies such as art therapy and cognitive behavioural therapy as well as reward systems had made the situation worse.
We had the therapy with Geraldine over eight years, it then had to stop as Jazz reached adult age. I believe it was our only professional guiding light. We miss it and need it to this day. Our sessions were sometimes filmed and sent to Dan Hughes for feedback. It made us proud to be told we worked well together as a team and although I find it a little bit embarrassing we gave our permission for some of our film to be used to train others in positive attachment based parenting.
I am now convinced that if children experience constant chaos, fear, violence and uncertainty it does affect the brain development.
Once Jazz was old enough to understand the concept we went to see Camila
Batmanghelidgh http://www.kidsco.org.uk speaking about brain development and trauma. It really helped Jazz to have an explanation for why she found things difficult. It meant she wasn’t “bad” or “naughty” as she had often previously felt. She met Camilla who has since been a great icon and support to her personally and our also to our charity.
The cure for this “brain damage”? The only cure it seems is consistent therapeutic loving care. The research shows that the brain can change and wired in, trauma based emotional responses, can be rewired, given the right therapeutic support. It is believed the brain is more flexible to change up until a person is in their mid twenties. This knowledge gave me hope and kept me going through some dark times when I felt I wasn’t capable of helping my daughter at all.
The difficulty is in getting this specialist support as an adoptive parent. Some big adoption charities bring Dan Hughes over to train and speak to us at a price, but mention him to your local CAMHS service and they may not have even heard of him. To get training in a group is costly, to get an assessment and intensive support for your child from a specialist agency can cost up to £30,000 per year.
Trying to explain trauma based behaviour to friends, family or school teachers without professional agency backup can bring about the glazed look that tells you they are not convinced or willing to commit to “your” strange ideas.
Not all adopted children have faced traumatic experiences alongside the obvious one of losing your family, but as society changes the chances of substance abuse, alcoholism and resultant child neglect leading to adoption is increasing. Professionals at http://www.familyfutures.co.uk , report this as an adoption support agency who also bring Dan Hughes in on courses to train professionals and parents.
I’ve said it before, many times, and I’ll say it again. If attachment theory, developmental trauma and therapeutic parenting are concepts that are supported by government funded charities, and organisations working with these concepts are praised by the adoption tsar, when are us on the ground going to be graced wholeheartedly with this support on behalf of our children?
Why are we still having to ask for post adoption support around trauma and treated as if we are being unreasonable, as if it were a new fangled concept we had come up with from an obscure specialist book in a tiny specialist library.
I know of parents of autistic children who have fought over many years to be supported and their children understood. Autism is now, after much campaigning, an understood condition that at least people have heard of if nothing else. That alone can help in getting empathy and understanding in everyday life.
Us adopters talking about trauma and violence, and difficulties and fear, does not match well with government funded agencies such as http://www.first4adoption.org.uk the current government funded advertising campaign to recruit more adopters. The general brief seems to be to promote positive stories of happy families and new opportunities.
As an adoption community who parent children with emotional difficulties we must be allowed to keep talking and not be told we are the unfortunate few. At best we are seen in the media as “charitable” long suffering martyrdom people and at worst hysterical and incapable middle class parents.
If we truly are in a minority of incapable naive carers, then why is funding services for us to be better for our children’s sake so scary? Surely a small amount would fix the problem…a drop in the ocean to keep traumatised children safe.
If the majority of adoptees reach adopters well adjusted and happy, why does Dan Hughes keep being expensively wheeled out, and flown across continents, year upon year to teach us…. the ignorant minority?