In the next few weeks, I’ll be developing my resources page into a series of pages with content that’s wider-ranging and more useful to adoptive parents. I’ll be creating pages with free printable downloads to make them easier to share with those who support you (and those you would like to provide support). Here’s a taster of a work in progress: a quick guide to the resources that are available to support families experiencing child-to-parent violence (CPV). As always, your feedback (in the comments below) is really welcome.
Resources for managing child-to-parent violence (CPV)
Helen is a social worker and researcher/speaker on CPV. Her website contains numerous resources for families and professionals dealing with CPV, including details of training, a reading list, downloadable leaflets, and a blog.
This is a charity founded by adoptive parent Amanda Boorman. The Open Nest runs training and events, short breaks and retreats, including therapeutic work with families. Amanda has written powerfully about the need for adoptive parents facing violent behaviour to receive training in safe holding: Part 1 | Part 2.
Al is a social worker and adoptive parent involved in advocacy to government for adoptive families experiencing CPV. He has also been involved in CPV research projects, and runs The Adoption and Fostering Podcast with Adoption UK’s Scott Casson-Rennie.
Securicare’s therapeutic safe holding plans are designed for adoptive parents, kinship carers and other individuals with a responsibility for responding to children who present challenging behaviours that require safe intervention to prevent harm. The service aims to produce a child-centred safe holding plan, covering therapeutic safe holding skills as well as advice on calming and de-escalation. Securicare provide a bespoke training session in support of the plan designed to provide the knowledge and skills which will enable parents and/or carers to safely hold a child when they are engaging in physically harmful behaviours.
Able Training run courses in managing challenging behaviour, conflict and aggression, led by trainers who are highly experienced, particularly in social care settings, and understand your issues and can deal with them sensitively. Able Training operates throughout the UK with a network of trainers, providing on-site training for public sector and third sector organisations as well as private sector companies. They are happy to tailor and adapt any course to meet your needs.
You know an adoptive family. Maybe they’re a part of your extended family. Perhaps they’re your friends or neighbours. You want to help, but you’re worried about doing the wrong thing and putting your foot in it. But unless the adoptive family in question is quite unusual, they are likely to be delighted with any expression of desire to help out. So go for it. With just a few adoption-friendly tweaks you can make to make your efforts even more appropriate for them. Here’s how to help an adoptive family at Christmas.
Keep things as straightforward as possible so as not to overwhelm the children. One present, not five. One small family gathering, not a tour of the country. Predictability, not surprises. Many adoptive families have enough internal stress without adding any external pressures. Keep things relaxed and low-key. Think chilled-out gathering at home, not formal restaurant where impeccable table manners are required.
Many adopted children break things exceptionally quickly. Mine have been known to break Christmas presents before they were even out of the wrapping paper. They are just not very good at being careful with things. Sometimes they don’t feel worthy of nice things and so they break them to restore them to their idea of normal. Others (including our girls again) feel enormously overwhelmed by presents from all and sundry, and opening a huge pile of things sends them into a cycle of extreme highs and hyperactivity followed by a big crash into a meltdown. So it’s helpful to give them an experience instead: a homemade voucher for a trip to the cinema/theatre/zoo/planetarium provides an opportunity for you to give attention to the child and almost certainly helps out the adoptive parents at the same time. (Hint: all the adoptive parents I know would love this.) If you’re too far away to offer this, then you could get creative. Vouchers for things they can download to a tablet, perhaps, or cinema vouchers if you can’t take them yourself.
When thinking of gifts for adoptive parents, remember that they can probably buy their own alcohol and chocolates, welcome as these things are! It’s a cliché, but your time and friendship are priceless. Give them a list of dates when you’re free to take them out for coffee and listen to them/look after the kids so they can have some respite/be available to do DIY where the children have broken things. Or give vouchers for ironing/lawnmowing/dinner-delivery/whatever you can offer. You get the idea.
3. Lower your expectations of what they can manage
This is especially true in terms of gatherings and parties. The children may not be able to sit still for very long, regardless of their age (children don’t ‘grow out of’ being neglected and abused and may be emotionally and/or developmentally ‘stuck’ at a lower age). They may be extremely attention-seeking and oblivious to the usual rules of social interaction. The family may not be able to arrive on time (because of meltdowns when getting ready, and/or leaving the house, and/or during the journey). They may need to leave early because they can see before you can the signs that a child is heading for a meltdown, which could be due to a new environment/too many people/Uncle Mike’s aftershave/being asked questions/something being not as they expected. Understand this and don’t take it personally. Assume they are all doing their best and don’t pressure them.
Adoptive parents are pretty much all constantly exhausted. (Here’s why.) Be gentle. Don’t ask them to bring anything that requires hours of baking to the bring-and-share lunch. Do ask if there are things that will make it easier for the children to manage, such as specific foods they will eat happily, somewhere quiet for them to decompress, someone they feel safe with who can take them to the park for half an hour to burn off some nervous energy, etc.
4. Think laterally.
Give books about adoption and/or the child’s specific needs to other family members or mutual friends you know to be supportive. Ask the family for recommendations, or try some of my favourites:
5. Remember that Christmas may well not be downtime for adoptive families.
When children thrive on the regular routines of school and predictable daily life, they can find school holidays hard to cope with. When you add it all the extra expectations and emotions that surround Christmas, it’s no surprise that they find themselves confused, overwhelmed, and stressed. Therapeutically parenting children in this state of dysregulation is very hard work, even if adoptive parents sometimes manage to make it look easy.
Gone are the days of lying of the sofa for a week with a stack of all the books we got for Christmas, only moving to replenish our plates of mince pies. Downtime only comes when the children are asleep, by which time we can barely keep our eyes open enough to watch the Doctor Who special. When you see an adoptive parent in January, better to ask ‘And how was your Christmas?’ in a cautious tone of voice than to launch in to ‘I bet you had a wonderful time with your children’ and make presumptions of yuletide jollity which may not be accurate. I believe it is possible to have an enjoyable Christmas with adopted children, it’s just that we are still waiting for it to happen here.
Share for a happier Christmas…
If you’re an adoptive parent and think your family and friends could use a few pointers along these lines, keep reading! You can get a handy summary in printable PDF form by clicking below.
Gratitude is officially good for your mental health. (Harvard says so, so it must be true.) As a self-care practice, it’s great to record things you’re grateful for – big and small. So here’s Thankful Thursday – my list of things I’m grateful for this week.
It was great to meet some of my Twitter friends at the Adoption UK conference. Hello! Also, I had a flaming zombie cocktail (think rum on fire) at the networking evening. That was rather excellent.
My December Daily planner (pictured above) arrived this week. I love a bit of scrapbooking geekery. This is command central for all my Christmas planning – presents, food, Christmas card lists, self care, all the things – and memory-keeping: daft things the children say, what we’ll do during the holidays, that kind of stuff. All in one lovely notebook. My life is complete.
I bought this jumper (from Selfish Mother) for wearing to TAC meetings. It amuses me. You know when they insist on going around the room so everyone can introduce themselves? Sorted.
Parents’ evening happened last night. We all survived. Joanna is having a much better term than the second half of last year and seems to be really engaging with everything much more. Charlotte’s sensory issues are becoming more pronounced as she is less able to keep up with her peers and tries to self-soothe with whatever sensory inputs she can get her hands/teeth on. She is still so creative and imaginative and when she is able to express herself with stories and drawings it is a complete joy to see.
I gave the SENCo a folder full of handouts, book catalogues and leaflets I’d collected for her at the conference. I was particularly pleased to be able to point her in the direction of Stuart Guest’s presentation (lots of other resources on this link too) and give her and Charlotte’s teacher copies of NOFAS UK‘s booklet Teaching an Child with FASD (this link takes you to a free downloadable PDF of the booklet).
I’ve been having a good week behind the scenes blog-wise, and have sorted out some technical things (behold – new sharing buttons below!) and social media stuff (especially Tailwind tribes for Pinterest). I love having a bit of time to do this stuff, so that has made me happy.
What are you grateful for this week? Share the Thankful Thursday joy and let me know in the comments – it’s good for you! 😉
Let’s face it, for most of us, self-care is a struggle. It’s so tempting to think of it as an optional extra that it can be hard to prioritise it and make it happen. We sometimes wonder why we should bother with self-care. And when we do it, we wonder if we’re doing it right! We all have self-care questions, challenges and obstacles. So let’s discuss them and work out some solutions.
I’d like to write a post answering your self-care questions and talking about potential solutions. So if there’s something you’d like me to address, please leave your question in the comments below.
What are your biggest self-care challenges?
What’s one thing you’d like to change right now to give yourself a break?
What resource would really help you this week?
I’d love to hear your ideas, questions, and comments. Thanks in advance for your contributions!
I’m an adoptive parent who is quite vocal on the subject. So every now and then I’m approached by friends, or friends of friends, asking about my advice for prospective adopters as they are starting the process. I’m always happy to talk adoption, don’t claim to have all the answers, but do have a few pieces of advice. I wish I’d had this stuff drummed into me when we started the process seven years ago. What follows is an adaptation of an email I sent to a friend recently.
In answer to the main question – should I/we do it? – my answer is yes. Yes, it is often incredibly hard and I regularly question my sanity. But I am still very much in favour of adoption. If reading about child-on-parent violence and the questionable delights of post-adoption support haven’t put you off, then here’s what I think you need to know.
Prospective adopters, start here!
Gather information. Lots of it.
I recommend prospective adopters take these six steps during your decision-making process, so that you have as much information about the reality of adoption as you possibly can. You’re not adopting a child who is a bit sad but can be cheered up with a cuddle and a multipack of Freddos. You’re inviting a small person who has been neglected and abused into your home. They will be processing all that stuff for years to come and often be difficult to help. Regardless of what they tell you at this stage, your agency’s post-adoption support may or may not step up to help you as your child destroys your home/marriage/sanity. You need to be prepared for this.
I’ve included a couple of books about FASD (Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders) on my list. A huge proportion of children in care (some estimate 80%) have been affected by alcohol exposure to some degree. You can find out more from the FASD Trust, the FASD Network and NOFAS-UK.
There are a lot of adoption Facebook groups, many of them secret and reliant on meeting members offline. (I find all the drama and cliques there a bit exhausting and generally stick to Twitter instead.) This Facebook group for prospective adopters is good, though.
You could come to the Adoption UK conference in Birmingham in November to hear what’s going on for adopters nationally. It tends to be a mixture of discussion of government policy and AUK campaigns, discussion of child psychology and how to parent children with a history of trauma, and stuff that is helpful to adoptive parents. Pete and I will be there, and you don’t need to be a member to attend. (Everyone will look exhausted. This is the default setting.)
If you decide to go ahead…
Having made the decision to start the process, my main piece of advice is not to be in such a hurry to get through the assessment that you make decisions that set yourself up for problems later. Take your time in making these choices, because you’ll be living with them for a long time. The core of my advice for prospective adopters? Talk to lots of people. Ask lots of questions. Don’t be afraid of being a nuisance in your pursuit of honest answers.
1. Investigate voluntary agencies as well as the local authority
PACT have a great reputation for support, but there are also Coram, Barnardo’s, Family Futures and others (First4Adoption has a full list). I’d suggest having conversations with several and getting a good sense of what post-adoption support they offer. Also be aware that all the adoption agencies are in the process of being regionalised – joining together to combine resources. This may be a bit of a shambolic business for a while but should ultimately be an improvement.
2. Think very carefully before adopting siblings
We thought we’d save the hassle of going through the process twice and be doing something helpful as siblings are harder to place, but it has been very hard dealing with that dynamic. Ours have different issues and drive each other crazy and fight All. Day. Long.
3. Don’t sign on the dotted line until you have a support package in place
We raced through the process in order for Joanna to have our surname before she started school and didn’t do this. As a result, some of our concerns were put aside and it was then a fight to have them taken seriously. To be honest, we’d probably still do the same thing. But if you have the option of waiting and getting everything ironed out while they are still the local authority’s responsibility, then that’s probably better in the long run.
4. Get your church involved with Home for Good if it isn’t already
Adoption and fostering charity Home for Good runs training for churches in how to support adoptive and foster families appropriately. Their booklet on support is also excellent – I give these out by the armful at every opportunity because it provides a helpful ‘beginner’s guide’ to adoptive families’ needs. Try to take people from your church to the Home for Good summit (annually in the autumn) in order to help them ‘get it’. Don’t do what we did and change churches during the process so no-one knows you and getting support is much harder.
5. Ask questions
No question is too big/small/silly when you’re making a life-changing decision. I promise. So I’m happy to answer anything – leave your questions below or find me on social media.