Actions Speak Louder Than Words

imageOn my Twitter feed every week I see adopted people and adoptive parents talking about ways to face the challenges modern adoption brings. A wealth of experience that is both challenging and supportive. Many seasoned adopters could write a book or training course about how to help children facing the loss and trauma bought about by not being able to live with their family. Some adopters have. Certainly adult adopted people could teach us a thing or two, if only they were invited more often.

Without getting into the rights and wrongs of modern adoption, and there are many, I keep coming back to a frustration that we feel on a regular basis.

I started being assessed as an adopter in 1998. My daughter was placed in 1999. After a fairly short amount of time we were struggling. Struggling with school, with gaining advice and of course with getting family, friends and wider society to understand our needs. It was really hard to access any learning tools or information that reflected what we were experiencing. It was really very scary and extremely unfair on my daughter.

After much complaining and blaming I was eventually offered a course called ‘It’s A Piece Of Cake’ It was a parenting programme from Adoption UK which was quite expensive and involved several out of town sessions. As a struggling single adopter without the ability to work anymore and little childcare support it was going to be difficult for me to attend. I decided I would make it happen by hook or by crook. The reason I wanted it so much was that it’s promotional leaflet published in 1999 acknowledged that much more was now known about adopted childrens experiences of trauma and that they have specific support needs based upon that. It was such a massive relief to see our experience reflected back, that’s how desperate I was.

In the end my daughters LA adoption manager decided not to fund it or find a solution to my difficulty in accessing childcare. Instead I went on a short After Adoption course with Nancy Thomas and attended a local day conference with Dan Hughes.

Hearing charismatic people speaking in a way that matches your experience is intoxicating, reassuring and uplifting. From that point on I bought books about attachment, changed my parenting style to the best of my ability and pressed hard for appropriate therapeutic support for my daughter. Some of the initial support was way off the mark and sadly made things a lot worse. At times, in fact most of the time, the spotlight seemed to be firmly pointed on me as the problem. The more I read Dan Hughes, Caroline Archer etc the more I turned down advice to do behavioural charts, send her away from me on respite and all the other inappropriate responses to grief, displacement and trauma. The more I turned this ‘support’ down the more hostile those attempting to help us became. It really was a very difficult situation for us both to be in psychologically and especially against a backdrop of school exclusion and regular violence in the home.

Eventually, and purely down to postcode luck, we got some DDP therapy which was amazing. It was very limited due to funding but I was, sadly, as overly grateful as a down trodden person would be. What we were taught in those sessions was not reflected outside that room, not even by adoption professionals.

Fast forward 17 years since I was being assessed and adoption talk is everywhere. It’s a political hot potato, frequently featured in the popular press and the recruitment of more adopters is clearly king within policy. Alongside this the number of courses and conferences on adoption has multiplied. It’s a big money gig. The amount spent on talking about adoption and trauma in all it’s forms, research, specialist boards, groups, conferences, training etc etc must be immense. There cannot be a seasoned politician who doesn’t know the complexity of the issues faced by adoptees and their adoptive families. There are an awful lot of people benefiting in one form or another, personally and politically, from talking about what adopters and children need.

With all this in mind it is almost beyond belief that more progress has not been made during this period of time. It cannot be beyond any government to make sure social workers and teachers are given the right funding and training to fully understand and address the issues. If parents can be advised to buy expensive training and places at conference from organisations headed by adoption expert advisory board members, why can’t government just put the funding in? The extensive knowledge base on trauma and loss is there so why is it not being accessed in the best interest of not only adopted children but all children who need specific support.
They make other far less important things happen.

We feel it has been irresponsible to set about making adoption the ’cause’ of this current government without full consideration of the longterm impact of this on children and families.
Support it seems is just not top of the adoption numbers agenda.

This year alone I have seen Edward Timpson several times, via video, tell an audience that adoptive families need support. It’s as if he feels some organisation from another planet is responsible for the lack of it. I have not yet been able, as a registered charity trustee, to get a straight answer from any member of any adoption reform group on where the next Adoption Support Fund money is coming from and it’s about to run out. Those adopted in the last wave of recruitment may need support for many many years to come, as will teachers and social workers expected to help them. Why was no longterm support strategy decided upon as part of an aggressive and costly adoption reform?

In a time when charities are under immense pressure to provide social care services to children and families and to fully justify all spending outcomes, when social workers are overworked and under funded, where is the justification for the massive spending (it is several hundred million) on adoption above other forms of permanence?

No matter which way I go around looking at it and researching it, I cannot make sense of the current focus on adoption, where the hundreds of millions has gone and what justifies it all.

We really hope as time goes on that those profiting from this current wave of adoption in any shape or form, will be able to openly fight for the rights of adopted children and adults without fear of their funding being cut. That not all adoption support organisations or individuals with any professional power are linked in some way to the government.

We also hope that support for trauma and loss is considered important for all children who cannot remain with their parents and not just for a chosen few.