PUBLISHED ARTICLES & BOOKS
Useful for foster carers, adopters and professionals as the themes relate to parenting and living with children who experienced: maltreatment and/or neglect and/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.Get it here
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.
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?"
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.
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.
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
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, truth telling is needed to future proof children.
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.
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.
TOXIC PARENTING & TOXIC SHAME
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.
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.
FUTURE-PROOFING: WHERE HINDSIGHT MEETS FORETHOUGHT
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.
What do you and they REALLY NEED for Christmas?
Christmas brings heightened expectations, so focus on childrens 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.
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.
FRESH PERSPECTIVES, TOOLS, FLOWS, VALUES
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.
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 callibrate hurt, pain and trauma. (Part 1 of flow articles).
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.
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
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.
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.
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.