Rage and me, the human sponge

Adoptive parenting: sometimes it feels as though you live in a parallel universe. I don’t think most people realise that this is our reality: frequently dysregulated and violent children; a lack of support; and after having tried everything you can possibly think of, still feeling helpless to make anything change for the better. And still they rage.


‘Beware children’ by David Howard on Flickr. Creative Commons licence.

The door

This was our bedroom door at 9.45 this morning (Saturday). We were locked inside. Charlotte (age 7) was on the other side.

The trigger

We’d just told her (after the usual five-minute warning) that her TV programme was over and she needed to get dressed. She went from calm to this in about 20 seconds, and none of the recommended calming strategies made the slightest difference. We’d tried kneeling down on her level, using very calm and quiet voices, offering cuddles and labelling her frustration, rocking her like a baby as she was obviously regressing… but she wasn’t having any of it. After receiving a particularly painful pinch in the chestal area (yes, OW), I gave up on the therapeutic approach for a bit and just locked the door, because I was very much on the verge of becoming dysregulated myself.

I only filmed one minute, but this lasted 40 minutes. It then took another 20 to get her from curled in the corner of her room, nonverbal, to calm enough to dress her (while she stayed under a blanket).

The aftermath

And then, slowly, gradually, we started to get on with our day. But although I felt some relief in my having remained regulated (just), prevented any breakages, and come out the other side, there was – is – still a deep dissatisfaction with the situation in general and how we are equipped to handle this.

The analysis

Is this really the best we can do for her? Is this really the best PAS can do for us as a family? Just telling us to walk away while she rages? It doesn’t sit comfortably with me that there isn’t anything else we can do to help her. No therapy. Not even a diagnosis yet, despite my firm belief that this is ARND we’re dealing with and there ought to be some professional help available.

The effect

I feel like a human sponge. All jaunty and squishy when looked at from afar, capable of absorbing all the rage the children throw at me, soaking up Pete’s grief and frustration at not having the family he envisioned because this is not something he can fix with firm boundaries and refusing to give in. But I am at capacity. I can feel it leaking out. I do a lot of crying when I have the house to myself. Or in the shower. Or wherever else I feel I have ‘permission’ to show it. I can’t keep on mopping up everyone else’s stuff unsupported.

‘See it as a game’

I have a counsellor. I’ve had five sessions with her now. She’s very friendly and everything but I can see that what I tell her about our reality shocks her. I was hoping she’d be more robust. I don’t really feel I can fully offload there, either. So it’s stuck. Is the solution another counsellor? Perhaps. But is the energy I’d expend on the search likely to be worthwhile? I’m hoping, as she gets the measure of it all, she’ll move on from saying ‘Try seeing it as a mental challenge to get what you need from post-adoption support – a sort of game you can enjoy’ to ‘Let’s look at ways you can avoid having to deal with them at all and get your family the help you need within the next six months rather than the ridiculous cycle of requests, funding applications, waiting lists and rejections.’

It’s not a game, though. This is our life.

To be fair, I did start to have this conversation with her this week. I said it would be easier to swap my freelance work (which I love but isn’t especially regular or well-paid) for a part-time job with a regular salary in order to reliably fund the therapies our family needs and avoid the need to engage with the LA’s gatekeeping of the ASF cash (and, ideally, avoid our hopeless PAS full stop). I hate the fact that I have to choose between going private (which as a lefty, I have fundamental objections to) or sacrificing my family’s wellbeing and waiting for the state services to kick in – if they ever do. That’s a whole other blog post. But for now, I am job-hunting. I’m hoping that this way lies sanity.

Note: if you found this interesting, or have your own CPV experience to share, you might like to visit my new CPV stories page.

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  1. Thegiftofyou
    25 February 2017 / 8:06 pm

    Makes me so angry that PAS is not fit for purpose. I really hope you all get the support you need very soon

    • 25 February 2017 / 8:14 pm

      Thanks. Yes, we really get the impression we don’t fit into PAS’s boxes so they don’t have anything appropriate to offer us. The battle continues… Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  2. Karen Fallon
    26 February 2017 / 4:14 pm

    Wow – You are doing an amazing thing! Parenting this little person through her traumas and showing her there is hope.

    • 26 February 2017 / 4:16 pm

      Thanks. 🙂 Such hard, exhausting, demoralising work sometimes (most of the time). Hoping to see the fruits of our labours one day.

    • Karen Fallon
      26 February 2017 / 5:14 pm

      Yes, it must be very tough sometimes – slow and steady wins the race 💗

  3. 26 February 2017 / 10:36 pm

    I don’t have any wisdom for you, I cry with you, for you, for your family & pray for a miracle (in the form of a robust therapist or a lottery win or better pas) whichever comes faster!

  4. 2 March 2017 / 7:45 pm

    I totally understand the sponge analogy. My son went through a time of terrible meltdowns and it would upset me for the whole day! I did used to lock him in his room and walk away in the end. All I can say is that it did pass. Good luck and strength 🌟 Thank you for linking up to #ablogginggoodtime 🎉

  5. 30 March 2017 / 8:49 am

    We are in the same situation, PAS want to make this a safeguarding issue so they don’t have to fund, or s17. We are applying for DLA too. We do have therapy, but that has recommended parallel parenting and full time one to one for one child. There is no respite. The ASF could be fit for purpose, but the gatekeepers are not. I wonder about the ethics of placing children for adoption without the understanding or resources to support this as an option that can work.

    • Hannah Meadows
      30 March 2017 / 8:52 am

      ‘The ASF could be fit for purpose, but the gatekeepers are not.’ Nailed it. This is it exactly.

    • Hannah Meadows
      30 March 2017 / 8:55 am

      And we were discussing the ethical question ourselves this morning. Our LA has an adoption recruitment event near us and I was (am) tempted to go and ask difficult questions. Possibly quite loudly.

  6. Christine
    19 April 2017 / 10:43 pm

    This is my little one to a tee. She has had exposure to alcohol and drugs in utero and is ike this regularly. Tonight was a special little slice of hell.

    • Hannah Meadows
      20 April 2017 / 6:19 am

      Hi Christine. I’m so sorry your family experiences this too.

  7. Em
    23 October 2017 / 1:51 pm

    Thank you for sharing this. I can relate completely to your situation. I often feel at a complete loss of what to do when we have a meltdown. Waiting hopefully for more support.

  8. Pickles
    17 January 2018 / 9:43 pm

    I feel for you. That clip could have been my daughter. She’s 13 now & still occasionally at it despite 4 years of therapy with CAMHS, though we can now go a few months between incidents. She tried to stab me with a screw driver when she was 10 & yet it still took PAS 2 years to organise safe handling training. But, with the right therapy there is hope – we’ve gone from screaming violent moods that could last up to 10 days every 3-4 weeks, to 10 days in the last whole year. It took a huge amount of persistence to get open ended CAMHS therapy, and she still resists going, but it was worth it.

    • 18 January 2018 / 8:41 am

      I’m so glad you’ve seen some progress – that gives me hope! What a fantastic job of advocating for your family’s needs you must have done. I know how much work it takes to be listened to like that. SO pleased to hear that it was worth it.

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