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.

The Anxiety Compass

I am going to share how I developed this model of working. I would sit in the counselling session, some clients talk a lot, some not so much! I have worked in schools and a college for 5 years and you can imagine that some teenagers can be even more extreme at times. I found that a good way of entering the clients world was to plot out their life on a large piece of paper.
As time went on, the themes we covered became more clear, commonalities were everywhere. I then decided to consolidate my approach into a model that can work for anyone.
“The compass
Life is an intricate web of many interrelated parts that make the whole, the you. If one or more of these parts is out of balance or neglected completely then more often than not we feel unhappy, dissatisfied, out of kilter.
We know things feel wrong but are unsure why or how to make it better. This imbalance means that we use all sorts of coping mechanisms to self soothe. These are wide ranging and varied but here are a few examples:
• Avoid all social occasions
• Stay in your room/home
• Make your life shrink
• Self medicate with drink/drugs • Stop doing things
• Self harm • Give up
If we are able to identify which part is out of balance, then we can adjust it, a bit like balancing a wheel on a car. I have drawn up a ‘Compass’, with you at the centre and all your life parts on the circumference.
I have identified 8 parts that make up a balanced life, each one represents the most important components of a persons life. One part or many may be out of alignment.
The parts are:
1. Home life
2. Educational or work life
3. Exercise
4. Diet
5. Sleep
6. Digital life
7. Creativity
8. Socialisation
The aim is to look at each ‘part’ in depth, see how you now feed it or starve it.
The next stage is to collect ideas about how that part of you could be nurtured and then you plan for how to address the missing elements.
Each part is taken in turn and can be worked on over the course of a week or a number of sessions. It is up to you!”
Taken from my Anxiety Workbook available on Amazon or copy link one my shop.
Photo: Photo Aron on Unsplash

Anxiety Stops Us Enjoying Life..

Parenting Teens……

 

Photo by Ruslan Valeev on Unsplash

I have three teenagers in the house aged 19, 18 & 16. Although this blog is not going to offer any great new insights , I thought I would write about the challenges as I am experiencing them!

When our children are young,the worries about them are within our scope of influence . The sleepless nights, the endless questioning. Are they ill? Do I need to seek medical help? Am I a good parent? Are they happy? We can by enlarge keep them safe, love them and enjoy them.

Then with their maturity, the rollercoaster of parenthood really takes hold. They grow and become more independent, turning away from parents towards their peers. This is all part of growing up.

As a parent you become less important in your teens world. They become secretive and share all of their angst on line with any one who will ‘friend’ them, but they will not share with you, the person still responsible for keeping them safe. You become a house sitter as they become older, they need you around but do not wish to be around you. They migrate to their rooms, devices clutched in their sweaty hands, tapping away, sharing or sometimes over -sharing with a world that does not really care. You are a glorified boarding house with food in the fridge, meals cooked if they want to eat at home, heating and all other needs still on tap.

At this stage in teenage development it is like steering a car without brakes or steering wheel. You feel that you are the parent and should be in some degree of control. You want to help, to guide, to avoid them plummeting off the cliff edge of a bad relationship or decision. You, with your years of hard earned wisdom, see the chicanes and the sharp bends that life throws up. You see that the road in front seems to launch itself over a cliff. But, as in a car without a steering wheel or brakes, all you can do is hang on, take a breath, cross your fingers and be there when the crash has happened, hoping that the injuries sustained are minor, a graze or a heart ache that will mend, given time.

One of the main lessons in surviving teenage years as a parent, is to stop believing that you are still in total control. You have to release the reigns in order that they can grow. I have been told to “pick my fights, accept that they are becoming independent adults and please just stop giving advice! Stop being too involved, too concerned.” My role now is to sit back, ready to engage if asked, but don’t meddle.

Surviving this stage is about being loving, from an acceptable distance. I think my only option is to focus on my own life and stop obsessing about things outside of my control. Hearts will break but they will mend. Be there, laugh & have fun whenever the opportunity arises! I will do my best to heed these gems of advice………but it won’t be easy. It’s just not me.

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.

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