Adoption Support is not available!

 

I am writing about my experience with Eric, my adopted child who is now 16 and has many complex issues. I write because it helps me to process my thoughts and frustrations but also with the aim of making other parents/carers feel that they are not alone. Living with a child or young person with these issues is a lonely path t0 tread, few people get how soul destroying life can be when faced with ongoing challenges and stress.
The issue is that the ability to manage Eric’s life is not in my hands, if it ever was. But when our children are small we can keep them safe on the whole. We can choose their friends, we know where they are, clean their teeth and put them to bed. As they approach adulthood they stretch every boundary and seek to sever their ties to their parents. Some of this is obviously healthy and natural, but add on top of these normal teenage issues, the many layers of complex needs and life becomes one long battle where fear is the predominant emotion.
As I have written before, Eric makes appalling choices in friends and is all too easily influenced by the next best friend to appear on his horizon. With this unhealthy alliance, pandemonium and anarchy take hold. Currently he is refusing to come home, leaving college without permission, he morphs into the latest person who grabs his attention. So desperate to fit in, he tries to emulate them, become them. He is manipulated by some, extorted and encouraged to cross lines that he knows he should not. He is so painfully naive and could all too easily be the one left holding the bag of drugs as the Police swoop in. His nativity makes him a willing victim.
My job is to keep him safe against his will. My job is to give him a future even though he is the saboteur. He clashes with me and lashes out at me, blaming me for being too overprotective, ‘other 16 year olds can go out, hang around until 1am in the park, drinking. Why can’t you be more like their parents?’.
I have been asking for help in this current phase since August. We have been to HYM’s ( Healthy Young Minds) but were only offered limited sessions in a CBT ( Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) framework and past experience of HYM’s left me sceptical about the help they could offer. I had already reached out and engaged the help from the Educational Psychologist that we have been paying for privately, a financial outlay that we can ill afford. Even when he went missing, we had a phone call from someone from the missing team ( as you can see I am vague on the details because they never got back to me!) but no follow up.
The only contact I have had with the post adoption workers is when I have emailed. I am informed by the college and the social worker that there are no resources for this sort of situation. Services have been cut but if we as parents were less involved, then in all likelihood resources would freely come our way. If we were in crisis then resources would appear from the ether apparently.
How short sighted is this? Cuts have been made to front line services, to some of our most vulnerable members of society. This is no cost saving. Abandoning young people and families in their hour of need will just lead to more young people being discarded by society. Help is needed at the beginning of this sort of high risk behaviour because a prison cell, psychiatric facility or care home is far more costly.
Post adoption support was supposed to have been overhauled and service provision more innovative when the new Regional Adoption Agencies were developed. The overhaul has created some of the delay in accessing help. A cynic would say, “was this the intent?” A delay that sees families collapse or conquer, either way a cost saving perhaps??. No providers can deliver services until they are on the ‘Chest’. The Chest only opens 3 times a year and is unwieldy in the extreme, expecting Counsellors to have the same infrastructure as the largest organisations. The form is self defeating and squashes innovation. Many private therapists have given up applying to get approved providers for post adoption work because of this bureaucratic monolith.
Post Adoption support still only offers , in my area at least, the same courses as it ever did. Perhaps the odd coffee morning but no real support when I need it. No kindly chat, recognising the fear. No suggestions just a comment that they do not have any resources. Perhaps the least helpful quote:
“Hi Laura
I will definitely be there on the 14th, although I don’t know what else I could put in place to address the escalating concerns for Eric. Maybe we need to think about a re-referral to children’s services? “
This from an ‘expert’ in the adoption field! My heart just crashed into a new, ever lower reality! The providers of his 4 hours of 1:1 support stopped providing well before the summer. Where has all of that funding gone? We are told that the only options in the future are group activities, but these have still not started and are a nightmare for Eric because he cannot get on with his peers! Therefore, there is no respite. There are no mentors, there are no solutions apparently. There is no support.
I am not alone, many other adopted families and families with young people who challenge, experience the same frustrations. I feel that more should and could be done. Prevention being preferable every time.

Living with ‘Eric’: The Coal Face of Adoption

 

I have lived with ‘Eric’ ( the impetus for writing my first my ‘Loving Eric’), since he was 2.5. None of it has been easy. A history of adoption is a history of trauma, running deeply throughout his cells, predetermined before we even knew he existed.
Eric has an Attachment disorder, this means that as the primary carer I am the focus and indeed the locus of his anger. I create the chaos within him but equally I am the only solution.
Eric has Autism. His world is not our world. He treads a different path. He does not understand social cues, niceties, feelings he engender in others.He feels deeply but only from his frame of reference. He feels injustice and seeks slights where none are meant. He antagonises his peers but accepts no blame.
Eric has ADHD. His mind like a bubbling pot over which he has no control when feeling anxious. It is as if the firework display has been set off all at once, before everyone has arrived. Which firework to look at, oh too many choices!
Eric has Dyspraxia which effects his fine and gross motor skills. I believe, although our Health Authority does not recognise the condition, that he has Pathological Demand Avoidance, this means that any request such as, please turn your light off can set off a major, messy meltdown.
Eric & I have always battled. I have been convinced that my tenacity can keep him safe, help him value himself and make him achieve against all odds. I have shaped his world, swept up in front of him, behind him, to the side of him. I have fought tooth and nail, to the point where my nail beds are engorged with blood ( figuratively) to get him support that has been so sadly lacking. I never considered that I could not make my boy live a life he deserved.
Recently I have had to reevaluate. He is now 16years old. We have all of the above plus teenage hormones and the desire to be unfettered by parents. He wants, no demands that I treat him as if he is 16 ( or older) but acts like a toddler. I have been sworn at viciously and blamed for all that is wrong. I have been told that he hates me so many times but I am realising that my methods are not working.
This term has been a disaster. He has fallen out with everyone, been beaten up at least twice. He has been reported missing once to date. He left college without permission, refused my calls and returned home at 10;45pm on my Birthday, the night before 10;30pm. He mixes with appalling role models, the effect of hanging with these certain individuals is like watching an actor taking on a role. He morphs within an hour of meeting the person into a feral, unreachable street child.
Eric did not celebrate my Birthday, no card, no present, deliberately not coming home and joining in our family meal. I was hurt but made sure that I appreciated the effort that my husaband had gone to in order to make me feel special. I made sure I appreciated my girls and how they felt for me when Eric went MIA ( Missing In Action) for 9 hours. I refused to let him spoil my evening, pushing down the hurt and worry, realising that neither emotion was helpful or could change things.
Eric sees no risk. He believes that he is safe. He believes that he is streetwise, able to keep himself safe. None of this is true. He believes that these influencers are his friends. They are not, but he will only see this when they reject him or hurt him physically as well as emotionally. Then he will feel regret but will also fail to learn from the situation and the next unsavoury character he meets will sweep him up into a loop of self destructive behaviour.
I am now in the process of changing how I face these challenges:
Trying to be more relaxed around him. Not engage in squabbles.
Take time to meditate
Take time out with my 2 daughters.
Realise that this fear I carry is just that. I am sitting with it and trying to connect with other healthier tethers, such as family, friends, even the elements.I cannot make him be what he does not wish to be.
When talking with him, I am not allowing him to talk about my wrong doings but bring the focus back to him, his choices.
Pick my battles. I now just want to know he is safe, where he is and agree at time ti come home.
Accept his mistakes that he is making, are his. I do not need to vicariously suffer.
Never stop loving him
Never stop trying to do my best for him
Remain in the wings….one day he may realise that I have always been the one holding his head above water.

Anxiety Stops Us Enjoying Life..

The Human Face of new Disability Legislation

My son Eric is finishing Year 11, as I have already written about. I am saddened by his lack of academic achievement because he is intrinsically bright but missed too much education through behavioural issues to fully engage and uncap his potential. I hope that he wakes up soon and starts investing in himself or believing in himself, as he has written himself off because he attended a ‘special school’. He excuses his attitude because of the school he attended. His labels are heavy on his shoulders affecting his psyche.

I live in hope but at the same time I am faced with the necessity of emphasising his disabilities because he has turned 16years of age and now according to a Government Department he is ready to manage his own money!! We have been in receipt of Disability Living Allowance that now transitions into Personal Independent Payment ( PIP) because of his chronological age. We have already had to fill in new forms, a person from the Pensions & Wages Department came to make a home visit to see Eric, I have had a 20 minute phone conversation giving the department all of the information that I have already supplied many times before.

The next stage is that we have to fill in more forms and provide medical evidence outing the full extent of all of his disabilities. We then have to take him to a ‘medical professional’ who will assess his disability. This medical professional will no doubt not be qualified in assessing Autism & ADHD or indeed Pragmatic language Impairment.

Eric must be paraded in front of this individual and perform. He must concentrate on all that he cannot do, he must wear his issues proudly to inform of a complete stranger. They will then in their wisdom say Yes or No to PIP payments. They are apparently more able to assess than the Consulting Paediatrician, the Speech & Language expert, the ADHD nurse, the Educational Psychologist and the school. All of these experts have assessed Eric over the years, the main diagnosis took 13years of his life to conclude but they will miraculously be able to assess and judge in a short interview! They must be amazingly skilled!

Apparently most get turned down. It is a cost cutting exercise make no mistake. It effects those most in need, those with disabilities. It effects this with more ‘hidden’ disabilities even more so, because Autism & ADHD do not present in a quantifiable way. They are not the same for all, they are non tangible but nevertheless, effect lives deeply.

To meet Eric, you would see a personable young man but would remain completely unaware of the depths that lie underneath like unchartered waters. You need to know Eric to truly experience him and understand the barriers he faces on a daily basis.

In all honesty, I feel conflicted. I never wanted labels for Eric but have released that they are the only way to get any help. I do not want him to be seen as disabled, to see himself in this light. I want him to get a good education, work and be able to support himself. To live a life of which he is proud. He deserves all of that. I would love of him to have no need for benefits but the reality we face is that he may never achieve the success he deserves. This statement makes my heart break.

If he cannot achieve all that he should, through no fault of his own, then the very least he deserves is an allowance to live as well as he can. Of equal import is that he should be able to hang onto what he has got left of his dignity. He should not have to be paraded like a pantomime horse, in order to prove to some nameless wonder how disabled he is. The system is wrong, It strips dignity form people in need, It is designed to humiliate. The irony is that those who are benefit cheats will remain unaffected because they will still live off the State and find a way around the rules. The real drain on resources will continue as ever before.

People who make the policies should walk in the shoes of those most affected and see if it feels like a true and just system. I bet they would throw this policy out on first draft as it compromises human dignity. It is a bullying, belittling system with a built in negative bias, the outcome written before the dance begins.

In addition to this, what 16 year old do you know, is truly able to manage their own finance?

When Education Fails to Educate…

Yesterday I was struck with such sadness. I was talking about my son ‘Eric’ to a friend. We were discussing where he was up to. I was discussing that on the whole he is calmer at home, bar one incident the week before last when he blocked me in a room because I was saying that he wouldn’t be allowed on his phone because of the way he was talking to me. He became quite threatening but it did not last long. These incidents are rare these days.

Mainly he huffs and puffs but tends to, eventually make better choices. He still struggles with his peers, he targets the alpha male of any group and thinks the way of making friends is to wind them up to such a degree that they want to physically assault him. This is a pattern that has repeated itself throughout his life, one boy after another.

He cannot change his approach because in that moment, it is how he is wired to approach these young men ( as they are now) in this confrontational manner. He is fantastic at the throwing of insults that hit the mark every time, his aim is faultless. However, he is not a fighter, he hates violence and collapses onto the floor at the first sign of physical threat. Which is of course good in that he does not fight but equally he cannot defend himself.

With the right support at home, talking endlessly about how relationships work and communicating with school very frequently, these dangerous situations have so far been safely navigated without a visit to A&E. These issues are Eric.

My sadness came when I thought about the fact that he would leave Year 11 without any qualifications to his name. His behaviour has meant that he has lost his opportunity to be educated. Throughout his school life he has been anxious, angry , non compliant, suicidal. This meant that the only school that could manage him was a special school for students with moderate learning difficulties.

I love the school. In so many ways it saved him. Certainly after receiving his autistic label over 2 years ago and he was taken into the Autistic Hub, the teachers have worked so well with my complex, challenging child. They like him, look at the behaviours he displays as a means of him communicating with the world. They try to understand his triggers. They talk to us as parents and work with us. They are never judgemental.

However, in many ways this support is too late. My son missed too many years of education. He has been let down by his primary school and the efforts High school, by health professionals and adoption workers. He ended up at a school surrounded by angry young men and women. His peers are not aspirational for him. His survival instinct has been at the forefront of his brain, not the need to learn. It was the only option for him but not the right option on so many levels.

Eric is bright, articulate, interesting. His memory is phenomenal, he has wit, empathy and energy. He has potential but it is locked within him, reinforcing the belief that he is different, not bright and too scared to try in case he fails.

Eric is not alone. How many young people who do not fit into education as we know it, get labelled as being ‘naughty’, or disruptive? How many young people get little or no education because they cannot conform to the rigid systems that we use in schools? One size does not fit all.

I hope Eric finds a goal that he wants to aim for. if he does this then there will be no stopping him. Lets hope it is an aspirational goal! Please do not write off the ‘naughty’ young people..find a way to see their potential.

My original post about Adoption Reform

Adoption Reform: An opportunity to innovate.

The new Regional Adoption Agencies (RAA) are being set up to increase the numbers of potential adopters and adoptions, Currently 180 agencies are involved in the recruitment and matching adopters with children, duplicating roles and thereby increasing costs. The system is inefficient meaning that children are left in care longer than needs be after the placement order is arranged. More time in limbo increases the complexity of the adoptees, making them harder to place, and this has financial implications, as intensive therapeutic interventions may be required to keep the placement going. Good therapy is not cheap.

The aim is to; “ speed up matching and markedly improve the life chances of neglected and damaged children; improve adopter recruitment and support: and reduce costs,” (1 ). The RAA’s will combine a number of Local Authorities and consortia, encouraging collaboration and maximising economies of scale.

The Government wants the 14 new RAA’s to address the current trend for a reduction in the numbers of adoptions in future years. Cost cutting here is also a driver because foster care is expensive, at approximately £700 per child, per week (2). A child who is not placed will cost the Local Authority somewhere in the region of £400,000. Adoption is cheaper, financially at least, as once the adoption order is finalised the adoptive parents carry the financial burden.

The RAA’s are supposedly going to seek new models of delivery, encourage ‘excellent practice’ as well as to increase the scale of adoptions (3). Currently the Local Authorities buy services as they need them. This actually discourages innovation because contracts for the independent sector are hard to come by and long term commitment absent, this makes the recruitment and retention of talented staff hard to achieve. However, although there is a recognition that the support market be developed, the RAA’s are expected to retain all of the responsibilities surrounding adoption unless there is a good reason for this to be otherwise.This appears to close the door for external providers and thus any true innovation, this will also keep costs high as Social Services are not ‘cheap’.

Post adoption support is mentioned in the changes, but perhaps their significance is not fully understood. As it stands, post adoption support is hard to find. Some Local Authority websites are hard to navigate and responses can at times feel unhelpful. Accessing the Post Adoption Fund is a gargantuan task in itself, with built in delays starting with getting a Social Worker to complete an assessment. They then decide if the family need help and if so, the help they can receive.

One family started this process over 18months ago. Their child has been scanned, assessed, analysed over and over again. No therapy can be offered until a ‘diagnosis’ is found. Meanwhile, the child is still struggling and the parents are on their knees. This story is not unique.

Hopefully the new RAA’s will be positive for all involved in adoption. But there are some pitfalls and opportunities evident that need to be navigated.

1.Social Services are in charge of driving the change, whilst having a vested interest in safeguarding the status quo. Being innovative is not a natural way for bureaucratic organisations to operate. They are hamstrung by the target driven culture and the need to manage ever decreasing budgets. There is a danger of the system that currently exists being replicated, but on a larger scale. The difficult decisions will be shelved. The funding will remain where it has always rested and support will not meet the needs of the family or the child.

2. The aim is to increase the numbers of adoptions, incorporating many harder to place children, aiming to drive down costs. The larger issue will be post adoption support, this service will need to become more sleek and responsive as the numbers of hard to place adoptees are set to rise. The pressure on adopters will increase. Placements are just the beginning of a very long road that can take years to travel. Adopters in these circumstances deserve meaningful support throughout this sometimes rocky journey..

3. Currently this support is offered in a ‘one size fits all’ approach, provide by expensive staff in generic models, such as parenting courses. Growth here needs to meet the increased demand for this support, and in this area, innovation is a very real opportunity. More individual approaches are a real possibility now, if things are honestly reviewed. Adopters often need immediate low level support in a way that helps them, a phone call, a visit, consistency that is not necessarily time limited but is driven by the challenges as they present themselves.

4. There needs to be recognition of the fact that no one professional can solve the sometimes difficult issues adoption can present. The adopters need to be resilient, resourceful. They need specific, tailored help to become: parents, carers, Speech & Language specialists, educationalists, psychologists and advocates. They have to learn about behavioural management, challenging behaviour, loss, abandonment, trauma. They need help to become an expert, a ‘therapist’.

5. Adopters need to acquire a Zen like calmness when facing anger that is often the behaviour seen in a child with an attachment disorder. To meet anger with anger at times like this, fans the flames. The help needed is often low key, a non-judgemental listener, who has the time to come and be with them when they require it the most. An adoption ‘Buddy’ to travel alongside them.

Adoption is rewarding but can devastate families. Adopters are resilient. Generally, they adopt for the right reasons. They want a family, a child to love. There is no financial reward for this act of kindness and generosity of spirit. But sadly, love is not always enough. That is when they need to be held, figuratively, to enable them to cope when others would give up.

To have a successful placement means that the child can actualise their potential. Support after adoption is an investment in their future, therapy begins at home. Adopters need to be shown the way, to be told that they are coping well in difficult circumstances. I hope that innovation will look outside the pool of qualified Social Workers, and radically alter the landscape of adoption, but it must first address the current limitations and failings openly and honestly.

This adoption reform is a massive opportunity to improve the lives of 1000s of children in care and to give adopters the opportunity to have a family with correct, meaningful support. It is an opportunity to enrich lives. This should not be wasted, it is time to embrace innovation.

References

1 https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/437128/Regionalising_adoption.pdf
2 Selwyn, J.; Wijedasa, D.; Meakings, S. (2004) Beyond the Adoption Order: challenges, interventions and adoption disruptions https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/301889/Final_Report_- _3rd_April_2014v2.pdf
3 Selwyn, J.; Wijedasa, D.; Meakings, S. (2004) Beyond the Adoption Order: challenges, interventions and adoption disruptions https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/301889/Final_Report_- _3rd_April_2014v2.pdf

Useful Links

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) – NHS.UK
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/attention-deficit-hyperactivity-disorder-adhd/

Adoption Matters
www.adoptionmatters.org/

Adoption Support Fund UK
http://www.adoptionsupportfund.co.uk

Attachment Aware Schools
attachmentawareschools.com

Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) – NHS.UK
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/autism/

Coram
www.coram.org.uk/

IPSEA ( Independent Parental Special Education Support)
www.ipsea.org.uk/

PAC-UK:
www.pac-uk.org/

SEND Code of Practice- British Dyslexia Association
www.bdadyslexia.org.uk

SEND Code of Practice: a summary | The Key for School Leaders
https://schoolleaders.thekeysupport.com › … › Managing SEN provision

The Attachment & Trauma Network – ATN
https://www.attachmenttraumanetwork.org/

The National Autistic Society | – NAS
www.autism.org.uk/

Young Minds
https://youngminds.org.uk

 

 

 

 

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