Useful for foster carers, adopters and professionals as the themes relate to parenting and living with children who experienced maltreatment, neglect or frequent changes of carers. Multiple concepts, metaphors, examples and diagrams help you understand the legacy of trauma and offer tools to future-proof children.

Below the books are downloadable articles, roughly grouped by content. Scroll through, something will grab you. 

A Wish List (for adoption support) by Helen Oakwater.

First published in 2003 as Chapter Two in "Models of Adoption Support: What works and what doesn't."

Sadly it's still very, very valid in 2022.


Social media threat to adopted children grows in the UK

Helen Oakwater’s book, Bubble Wrapped Children, published on 5th January 2012, generated a worldwide storm, lifting the lid on a major crisis within adoption.

Reuters, The Times (in a front page article), The Sun, The Australian, The Daily Mail were among dozens of major print media outlets that carried features. Helen was interviewed on multiple national and radio programmes including ITV, Sky, Radio4.

British youngsters adopted after abusive childhoods are at risk of fresh emotional turmoil as some birth parents turn to Facebook and other social networking sites to track them down, adoption agencies said on Thursday. The ease with which birth parents can use technology to get in touch with their children without warning and without following established safeguards has alarmed adoption agencies.

Families who have been contacted have described the experience as like being in a “slow-motion car crash” leaving them “battered and bruised.”  Reuters

Please note: Bubble Wrapped Children was published in 2012. The issue has not gone away, despite recent media stories suggesting it's a new problem.

Helen is currently updating/rewriting Bubble Wrapped Children for publication in 2022. Buckle up.

Buy here Chapter Zero Audio Chapter Zero Download

Original title: "Want to adopt, foster or be a special guardian?

Need to parent a birth child who has experienced neglect, abuse, maltreatment, trauma or domestic violence? 

Discover how to prepare yourself now and continue that growth for decades. Develop skills, understanding and tools for transformation for yourself and the child. You'll have Helen beside you offering theories, models, route maps and tool kits whilst being an honest mentor and kick ass friend." 

Sadly the front cover was too small for those 71 words so this 30,000 word book, with 16 diagrams, published in 2019 is simply called "Want To Adopt?"

Buy here


Measuring Trauma

Trauma comes in different sizes and intensities. This article offers both a metaphor and formula for measuring trauma. Quantifying damage can help explain why children behave how they do and why early intervention, truth telling and understanding is vital.

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The Cost of Trauma (Helen's most downloaded article)

Early intervention is cost-effective and morally right. First published in April 2008, this article demonstrates the cost-benefit of early intervention. Although the actual costs have changed the principles are equally valid today. A decade later the child in this case study did not have a good outcome. 

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Child abuse victims need more than just our shock and horror

Newspaper articles brings child abuse into “normal peoples” lives. Sympathy is not enough. Repair, healing and truth telling is needed to future proof children.

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Invisible Wounds Don’t Stop Hurting

By comparing and contrasting two different parents (including “a mother like Alex”) the challenges of parenting attachment disordered children become clear. Both the financial costs and emotional costs are compared.

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Facebook: direct contact with no safeguards (Part 1)

First of two articles published in 2010 exploring the threat of Facebook, what’s happening plus the link to identity, teenage angst and loss of control when birth family enter adopters homes via the internet.

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Facebook: The Shame and the Shadow (Part 2)

Adopted children need an enduring safe place to grow, create a solid sense of self and to melt the pervasive shame their early maltreatment created. The need for therapeutic reparenting and truth telling is explored.

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The Impact of Toxic Parenting

Based on Susan Foreward’s 6 categories of toxic parents (inadequate, controlling, alcoholic, physical, sexual & verbal abusers,) this article steps into the childs shoes and highlights the distortions it creates plus tools for healing.

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Toxic Shame: how trauma contaminates the ‘wonderful’ inner child

John Bradshaws model explains how the “wonder” child can be contaminated by trauma and toxic parenting. The different developmental stages of children (based on Erik Erikson’s model) is explained with impact of deficiencies.

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Edinburgh Festival for a week?

Helen reflects on the different interactions between “normal” and “traumatised” children with their families at a festival. Trust, responsibility, therapeutic reparenting and prioritising the need of children.

Read more Audio

Nothing But the Truth

Neglect as a traumatic experience. Sensory triggers, metaphorical shrapnel, trauma triggered behaviour, bubble wrap and need for coherent narrative.

Read more Audio

Mind Your Language!

Words have a big effect. Examples of how to be clearer with your communication to assist your child achieve better outcomes and reframe events.

Read more Audio

What do you and they REALLY NEED for Christmas?

Christmas brings heightened expectations, so focus on children's enduring needs not short term wants . and yes that may disappoint some adults – including your family. Plus glorious ‘gifts’ others can give you and the family.

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Jigsaw of truth: why, what and how?

Children need to know their history, it shapes how they see themselves, hence key to their identity. Life story ‘work’ must honour the child’s somatic (body) experiences and memory.

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Valuing Our Needs

Our needs and values affect our motivation and behaviour. Children whose early developmental needs were not met have an emptiness inside. Often their ‘nonsensical’ behaviour is a window into their inner turmoil and deficits, if we can read the cues. Maslow and Barrets models illustrate the concepts.

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Increase the flow with a SUD

Being in the flow is a useful state. Reduction of anxiety by increasing skills and a method of measuring “Subjective Units of Distress” which can help children calibrate hurt, pain and trauma. (Part 1 of flow articles).

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Are you a boiled frog?

Maintaining one’s identity is vital to keep self-concept strong. Boredom stems from the repetition of events, even being stolen from. With sufficient skill; flow is possible. (Part 2 of flow articles).

Read more Audio


Robust matching for permanence

Criteria for matching a child to a new set of parents is often vague and subjective. We need robust measurement and techniques that will enable placements to last.

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Why are these children any different?

Written primarily for teachers this article explains why and how children who have experienced maltreatment and neglect have a legacy of trauma which impacts their ongoing life.

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What the **** was that about?

ONE of the many challenges adopters face is not understanding the reason their child suddenly ‘goes off on one’, i.e. flips for no apparent reason.

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Logical Levels

As adopters we hear enlightened therapists say “their behaviour is not the problem – it’s the answer to the problem”.

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Is this what I expected?

During the drafting of this article, I had an ‘interesting Sunday’, which for me illustrated how the complexities of adoptive parenting change as our children grow older.

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Expectation, reality and time travel

When my children were placed in the early 1990s I had a view of how my life would be as a mother. I anticipated some things; however….

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The legacy of childhood trauma is huge and complex. The more you understand, the more you can do in your field to either prevent or heal childhood trauma. These links and resources will aid your learning.

How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime - Nadine Burke Harris (Paediatrician)

A call to connection: Making Child trauma Personal - Dr Allison Jackson

Drowning in Empathy: The cost of vicarious trauma - Amy Cunningham (Heads up, she does not mention being the parent of a traumatised child, but that hat fits.)

The Paradox of Trauma Informed care - Dr Vicky Kelly

How do we stop childhood Adversity from becoming a Life experience - Benjamin Perks

5 years (or more) ago, Lucas Derks helped to record and edit these two videos about Frank Puceliks work. The first is about his work in Ukraine with addicted youths and the second on his work with war veterans.


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