The Best Exotic Post-Adoption Support

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Our post-adoption support team changed recently. Three years after the adoption order, we switched from the placing LA – a lovely team who even responded to messages on their days off and in the evenings because they really cared – to our own LA, who are… different.

We’re having a really difficult time at the moment (see my post about our children’s violence) and have asked for some extra support. But they have taken exception to a couple of our requests, particularly the one where we asked for training in how to safely hold our children when they are attacking us or each other. We think the risks of not holding the children at these times – including injuries to us and each other from bites, kicks, scratches and the throwing of anything that comes to hand – outweigh the risks of holding them as safely as we can, which is basically a firm cuddle or the holding of their hands. They’re saying (having never met our children, of course) that we are Definitely Not Allowed to hold them at all. School staff are allowed, having been given training, but we’re not, because that is the policy. Those are the rules and they Must Be Obeyed and because we question these rules we are bad parents who are being referred to safeguarding. Yes, really. It’s horrendous. It has made me literally sick with worry. Thankfully our headteacher supports us completely and has argued our case, having been on the receiving end of Joanna’s violence and used safe restraint herself. Many others we have told – those who actually know our family, including Joanna’s therapist – have expressed their willingness to speak up in our defence if required. But still it drags on, hanging over us and reducing me to a sobbing mess several times a day.

We asked for help because we are getting bitten, kicked, scratched and hit by the children we love. We want to keep the children safe while they attack us and we defend ourselves. I still don’t understand why this is wrong.

After pondering my interactions with several members of the new team, I realised that their attitude reminded me of something. There are a couple of scenes in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel where Evelyn Greenslade (played by Judi Dench) deals with call centre staff who are only focused on their script, not on the human being they are speaking to. This short clip sums up the problem.

Evelyn: ‘A little while ago I talked to someone who was so constricted by the script… that she spoke without a trace of humanity, as if she hadn’t realised that I was going completely to pieces at the end of the phone.’

My calls with the new PAS people have made me cry, both during the conversation and afterwards, and I’m not generally a weepy person. But they didn’t stop to listen, or apologise for upsetting me, they just continued to recite jargon-filled management speak – repeatedly interrupting me while I was still trying to talk – as though they were reading from a script. (And not one written by Ol Parker.) There was no compassion for our situation when I patiently, if tearfully, tried to explain what would happen if we didn’t hold our children. No humanity. Just judgement.

So what do we do in the face of this? I’ve been considering this a lot lately (often when I’ve been awake in the small hours). Do we match their terse tone with an equally emotionless response, keeping everything merely businesslike? Or do we continue to show that we are human beings with feelings, which I seem to recall was considered an advantage when we were being assessed as prospective adopters?

We’ve chosen the latter. Or to be more accurate, it has chosen us, because no matter how articulate and professional a person can be at their best, if you cause them enough stress and that leads to enough sleep deprivation, they’re not going to be able to keep from displaying emotion if you keep on questioning their judgement and telling them they are terrible parents.

Our ability to empathise with our children’s feelings is a good thing, and our priority is always keeping them safe, so why are we not afforded the same courtesies of empathy and safety from those who are supposed to provide our support?

If you’ve had a similar response, especially if it’s been related to asking for help with CPV (child-to-parent violence), I’d really like to hear from you. Please leave a comment below or get in touch via  Twitter, Facebook, or email. If you’re one of the professionals of whom I am currently really quite frightened, please, please be kind. Thank you.

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14 Comments

  1. 8 October 2016 / 8:32 am

    Unfortunately it’s a well worn path. Like you I asked for support and training in safe restraint/holding and was met with a clear explanation that the LA could not condone such behaviour. So, what to do? We received excellent advice from The open nest and took matters into our own hands. Later we built a network around us that appreciated the challenge and approved of the measures we used. Surprisingly my local community police officer was amazingly supportive and made the law clear. Now we see few incidents after its peak, 18 months ago, I have to say we’ve learnt to avoid and dodge more than fix, but for now that is good enough.

  2. 8 October 2016 / 9:05 am

    Oh how my heart goes out to you and I wish I could send you more than a virtual hug.
    I have been where you are and all I can say is please don’t stop being you. Several professionals that I have met lack even the tiniest grain of empathy, however are the biggest critics/accusers of picking fault with adopters for being brave enough to ask for help. You are in an incredibly difficult position. You love your family but you also need to protect yourselves and others around you (more importantly you want to protect you child from themselves and falling into a pit of toxic shame). We also found out community officer very helpful.
    I am glad that your head teacher, therapist and others are there for you. I know it is so hard (I still struggle at times) but please take heart and allow them to help you through this painful time – they are the ones who truly know you and your family and believe in you.
    Oh, I nearly forgot. YOU ARE A GREAT MUM please remember this!

    Bumble and I

  3. 8 October 2016 / 10:09 am

    I too have been there -.training was refused but fortunately by sympathetic professionals who tried to find ways round the rules (though failed) and clearly understood my need though they couldn’t help. In the end I ordered the training book from Team Teach – the one they use to train the professionals. Touch wood I haven’t had to use it since.

  4. 8 October 2016 / 4:38 pm

    I’m so sorry your adoption support team have left you feeling unsupported and bad parents. Have you heard of the NVR training program (non violent resistance) its extremely effective in helping parents to deal with violence and aggression from their children. I’m an adoption social worker and in our LA you would be offered this training asap.

    • 8 October 2016 / 4:45 pm

      We went on the one-day NVR ‘workshop’ by Peter Jakob provided by our LA. To be honest it was a waste of time. The LA couldn’t confirm that they would support or fund it if people wanted to use the techniques, and there was not enough information about the techniques to be able to implement them without much more training… which the LA aren’t providing. We left feeling quite grumpy about the whole business and thinking it would’ve been better to use a day’s leave on something pleasant and respite-y.

  5. junejellies
    8 October 2016 / 5:59 pm

    Hmmm. If in England you should be able to access a post adoption assessment of need. Then pasw ‘should’ be able to put in an application to the adoption support fund to fund full training for nvr.
    But in the meantime, team teach training is a good way forward.
    Does the school use team teach? If so, can the therapist and ht between them organise for you guys to go on a course?
    We did team teach when our eldest was about 5 yrs old. The de escalation aspects were the most useful tbh.
    Zoom forward 8 yrs and we were lucky enough to have a pasw that worked with Peter Jakob to look at nvr for traumatised adopted C&Yp. Again, the de escalation stuff/ reconciliation gestures were really helpful. Forward another 4 yrs and our much loved traumatised adopted teen is now accomodated by the LA due to CpV 🙁

  6. Anna
    8 October 2016 / 10:30 pm

    This is so aggravating. I also cannot see any reason at all why this isn’t ‘allowed’. It sounds like they’re not offering any alternative ideas either. Your blog has only underlined to me how shockingly bad post adoption support is. How are they to recruit adopters when everyone has heard stories like this and fear that if they take the plunge and occasionally can’t cope then no one will help. Lots and lots of sympathy. I wish I could offer more.

    • 10 October 2016 / 8:27 am

      Thank you. We are also baffled about how their approach fits in to the bigger picture. Nothing about it makes much sense to us, and we are really trying to listen and do as we’re told as much as is practical.

  7. 9 October 2016 / 11:04 pm

    My heart goes out to you on this. We have asked for practical strategies to keep us all safe and have nothing. We have found NVR helped a bit, we did a one day course and came away feeling like you, but a longer 10 week course was much better, mainly due to the other families support. But we find the theory gets stuck when there is more than one child in the family using violence. I have no idea what to do to keep everyone safe and without any training or advice, have to make up my own strategies. This does need to change.

    • 10 October 2016 / 8:21 am

      That’s a really interesting point about more than one child being violent. How *is* it supposed to work in that situation?

  8. 17 October 2016 / 8:39 pm

    So far no ideas from anyone. Hoping can get to a point were they feel safe and trusting enough before they are both bigger than me… the race is on!

  9. Keith Clark
    15 November 2016 / 3:30 pm

    Three years ago I had to restrain my 15 year old foster girl who had often broken many things around the house and would throw things around the house, I held her wrists and sat her down on the sofa, I held her for around 20 minutes until she stopped trying to scratch and bite me she spat in my face several times (my Wife and 21 year old Son witnessed the whole thing.
    I believe that if we hold our young people safely and tell them that we love them but they are not allowed to hurt others. When the crisis is over we tell them that we forgive them and then later we talk with them and ask them how they can do things differently in the future then over a period of time their behaviour improves.
    My supervising social worker and everyone above him to up to the service manager all told me I had done the right thing but they would be happier if I had been trained in restraint.
    At all times I feel supported by my LA.
    I work with teens with high emotional needs who have been rejected by many other foster carers and are normally not attending school.
    I don’t understand why it should be any different in adoption, we all have a legal right to defend ourselves with reasonable force.
    FosterDadKeith.

    • 15 November 2016 / 6:26 pm

      Thanks for your comment. Yes, we’d love to have proper training and don’t understand why others can have it and we can’t when we are often being physically abused. The policy seems far removed from any practical experience.

  10. Ani
    13 September 2017 / 8:32 pm

    It’s just so bad and puts so many at risk of unintentionally hurting their children. We had to ask many times but have had safeholding training from our LA which has been very helpful especially in terms of what not to do. Avoid holding by hands and wrists.

    IMO NVR a waste of time for ppl with young kids. Our kids aren’t lashing out at us to get things or control us. They just can’t control their emotions.

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