Do you want to understand adopted and fostered children? We know that sometimes, as an adopter, it is all too much and the overwhelm is unbearable.
Understanding your child, having a framework for thinking and access to material you can share with others will, we hope, be useful. We also know that sometimes, as an adopter, it is all too much and the overwhelm is unbearable.
As a current or prospective adopter, FAB Parents is a place for you to get honest answers. Your children may be small and/or new to you; or bigger than you, in their, teens, twenties or thirties. We understand the complexities, mixed emotions, stresses, disappointments, challenges and pain hence offer a safe place for you to learn and transform. No magic bullets. No glib falsehoods. No unrealistic expectations or empty promises. Just robust proven methodologies. Why? Because we’ve been there.
We know you were their first family and you grieve for them. We know you love your children, you care about them and they are frequently in your thoughts.
We believe you are entitled to help and support to deal with your grief, pain and the reasons your children were removed.
We hope you seek and find such support from appropriate places, we understand you are still screaming.
You may find some useful organisations and resources here.
If you are a birth parent whose children were removed by the courts, sadly we can't offer you any support or specific input.
We have one request. If you are trying to reconnect with your children, please approach an independent organisation or the adoptive/foster parents first. You do not know what is happening in your child's life. He may be very upset by bullying at school. She may have just split with a boyfriend and be very distressed. Their mental health may be fragile. They may have exams and course work deadlines which would be disrupted by your message, text or call, however well-intentioned.
Adoptive and foster parents want to protect their children from unexpected derailments in their life. They know the current circumstances: you don't. Please let them pick the reconnection timings.
We know of many adoptive families where children have missed exams, dropped out of school, college or university because they received a Facebook message from their birth family. Some have never fully recovered.
You always have an important place in your children's hearts and lives. Please help support them alongside the adoptive family.
As a foster carer, you may be the first person who hears grim details of a child’s life from their own lips.
A child might live with you, the foster carer, for a few days or a couple of decades. Sometimes you know in advance, sometimes not.
You often have complex contact arrangements with members of the birth family.
Sometimes you see changes in a child quickly, other times slowly. Sometimes the change feels good; other times its very painful.
You will always have support and supervision from professionals. Some will be useful, some inadequate.
You open your home to some of the most hurt children in our society.
You are a professional parent, working out how best to support, manage and care for a young frightened stranger.
You are a foster carer who does a remarkable job. FAB Parents will, we hope, give you extra resources and material to improve your skills, widen your thinking and deepen your knowledge.
The desire to be a parent for many is both a primitive urge and an instinctive feeling.
If you have spent years endeavouring to produce a baby but, for whatever reason, you are unable to bear your own children the “conventional way”, then adoption from the Care System is an option.
One of the cruellest by products of infertility is that someone else (social workers, adoption panel members, judges) will be the people deciding whether you are “suitable” to adopt.
You know you would make great “normal” parents and that is what you desire at a very core level. However, unlike most of your friends and family, your path to parenthood is the road less travelled. It seems so unfair.
The grief in not producing your “own genetic children”, will probably be with you for the rest of your life. Not as the searing agony it once was, but like a dull ache which can occasionally flair into a stabbing pain; especially when poked. Adoption will not remove it completely.
One of the tough realisations is that the children available for adoption are not nice healthy babies, but older children who have been removed from their birth families by the courts due to maltreatment or neglect. This is something you need to understand and fully accept if you are to progress successfully and get satisfaction from adoptive parenting. Your expectations must change.
Understanding the legacy of childhood trauma will allow you to make robust decisions for yourself and for the children you consider. For any prospective adopter, facing hard truths at this stage will help future proof you and your children.
If you are considering a sibling group, please watch this video. The dynamics and bonding (healthy or traumatic) of a previously maltreated sibling group is complex. You need to learn how to see beyond the presenting behaviour.
Frequently an adopted or foster child in your classroom will behave in a way that disrupts other pupils and destabilises the classroom.
This makes your life as a teacher difficult, and it is often tough to deal with the fallout.
It can be tricky to be sympathetic and supportive to the child and their permanent parent when other parents complain about TIM (Traumatised Infant Maltreated) hitting, swearing or disrupting their own child’s learning. It’s a professional challenge that’s complex to understand, navigate and manage. It’s also exhausting having TIM’s in your classroom.
Currently there is nothing in teacher training about the impact of maltreatment, neglect and trauma on children. Hence, you may not have the knowledge or understanding to see TIM through the lens of trauma. Thank you for reading this far.
Classroom strategies for traumatised and attachment disordered children do map across to “normal” children. They add more tools to your child management processes. A classroom which feels safe to a traumatised child will benefit everyone.
Although adoptive and foster parents may both be dealing with ‘similar’ children, there are some differences which are worth noting.
Foster parents are supported and supervised by a Fostering Agency (Independent or the Local Authority). Foster carers may have a child placed for days, weeks, months or years. Often they don’t know the duration. There will be social workers actively involved in the life of the foster child. They often need to approve school trips or activities, because the Local Authority has “parental responsibility” which they may share with birth parents, which makes the situation even more complex. Consequently, foster parents would appreciate a ‘heads up’ for trips etc from you.
Adoptive parents are much less likely to get support from their Local Authority. They often have to fight for adoption support and although the Adoption Support Fund (England) offers some therapeutic input, it is capped and requires matched funding. Adopters often ask the Local Authority for help but don’t get what they want or need. This is deeply frustrating (particularly as they were told during preparation that support is there). You may find adopters angry, exhausted, depressed and desperate. Please remember they were not like this before their children arrived. (They would not have been approved as adopters otherwise). The behaviour you are seeing in them, and from them, is the result of living with a traumatised child and dealing with “the system”. And yes … you are part of that system.
The child’s birth family will always be significant to a child, whatever the circumstances that caused their removal. This is private information which needs to remain private. Support from you in keeping those boundaries will benefit the child long term. The child needs to know their life story (100% truth in an age appropriate way), yet it should not be playground or staff room gossip. Knowing their detailed personal history is irrelevant. Of course you are curious, but as a professional, you know the importance of maintaining boundaries. Please be assured, adoptive and foster parents will tell you what you need to know.
Sometimes it can be really tough stuff. Maybe the child learns a birth parent has died/ been imprisoned/ had a baby/ had a child removed/ had a child returned to their care/ is the victim or perpetrator of a high profile crime. The list is long and frequently ugly. Even though informing the child (age appropriately) is correct for their long term understanding, there is likely to be short term behavioural and emotional outbursts. As a teacher you simply need to know “he had some distressing news which will take some time to process and integrate”. Sometimes parents are restricted by legal and court decisions. So please have some sympathy. This is difficult for everyone.
Certain part of the curriculum will ‘press buttons’ for the child. Sex education, genetics, families, relationships amongst others. Again, a ‘heads up’ to adoptive and foster parents so they can prepare the child, will benefit everyone. Asking for family photos or a baby photo for a display board could be a source of great pain for a child. The child will not be able to tell you, or anyone else, the feelings of anger, sadness, shame or guilt such a request creates. However their behaviour will send a signal but generally not in a way that allows you to make the connection. (What you could do, is ask everyone in the class for a photo or drawing of their younger self).
Throughout FAB Parents you will find information to help you understand traumatised children.
You are a social worker who often sees things that most of society walks past.
If you are a social worker in child protection, adoption or fostering, you know some children have suffered horribly, while with others, you suspect but can’t evidence the maltreatment. In addition, you are dealing with dysfunctional adults who seldom welcome your involvement.
Frequently you are unable to access pioneering research and methodologies.
You may have more cases than you feel competent to deal with and you may also feel your superiors are unable to support you.
FAB Parents offers you the opportunity to step back from the day to day, get fresh perspectives on trauma and the long term impact of childhood trauma. There are resources, ideas and a framework for thinking put and pointers to other sources.
Hopefully, it will make you smile too.
This can be a brother, sister, grandparents or any other family member.
You are probably caring for the child born to a member of your family with a blood tie to the child and maybe have an close relationship to one of their parents.
For a range of reasons, it is not possible or safe for the child to remain with their birth parents and you have stepped in to provide day to day loving care for the child within a legal framework (ie not temporary care during a family crisis).
Complications can occur for you because you have a relationship and/or much knowledge of the child’s mother or father. This may cause complexities for contact and hearing about events in which your loved one behaved in a way that does not make you proud.
You may feel unsupported by there Local Authority who promised support, but you are having difficulties accessing what you need.
Much of the material on FAB Parents is relevant for you because the children you are caring for experienced a level of maltreatment or neglect. Their legal status is not the biggest issue.
You can hold peoples life trajectory in your hands. Yes or No to a child staying with or going to a specific family.
You can hold peoples life trajectory in your hands. Yes or No to a child staying with or going to a specific family.
Emotions are heightened. Your role is objectivity and trying to predict the future. Weighing up the options.
The material throughout FAB Parents will inform and deepen your knowledge.
This slide presentation might help.
You may be highly or newly qualified, with little or much experience.
Do you operate from the client’s map of the world or from your methodology?
The dynamics of foster, adoptive and SG families are highly complex and must be viewed through a different lens. These adults are not responsible for the hurt and maltreatment their children experienced BUT they chose to live with its consequences. Please don’t put the blame on them.
The deeply challenging behaviour hurled at these permanent parents by the child is tough to live with. Sometimes impossible. Sometimes these adults are justifiably angry. Please; dig deep into your own empathy to understand their tears, exhaustion, frustration and sense of helplessness.
Can you see that these parents need to be fully involved in all the therapeutic interventions and disclosures? Can you see they are part of the solution not part of the problem? Can you work with them in 100% collaboration and honesty?
If you can’t, please don’t work with adoptive families.
Are you trauma-informed? Do you know how to work with traumatised children in a way that allows trauma to melt? Do you understand “the body keeps the score” (to quote Bessel Van Der Kolk) and trauma is a body-based experience, not directly accessible with words? Do you know about neuroception? Can you recognise the small subtle changes in an individual that show their state and level of arousal? Do you know what you need to do to help a client feel safe?
Do you understand that an adopted child needs their attachment behaviour to adopters reinforced, not their connection to you?
Can you work with the underlying root cause rather than the superficial behaviour?
These questions are deliberately challenging.
Adopters have much experience of being blamed for their child’s behaviour by people (including therapists) who don’t understand the legacy of trauma: of being excluded from weekly one hour therapy sessions but living with its consequences all week. Please think; what is the purpose of therapy room confidentiality? Does it serve this client? Maybe rethink. What should I not share with the permanent parent?
Does the child/family have to fit with your methodology or do you have a therapeutic tool kit so vast that each session is unique to the individuals?
Are you a Formula1 garage or slack harry autos with just a spanner, hammer and rusty screwdriver?
Honestly. What’s in your toolkit?
Do you have the courage, compassion and creativity to work with these complex families?
The first rule in medicine is “first do no harm”. Please be aware that sometimes unenlightened therapists have done harm, through ignorance, arrogance and not knowing their own boundaries and scope of practice.
There are some therapists and therapy models which have provided families with transformational experiences. Some stopped families disintegrating. Others allowed adults to parent from a distance. Some interventions transformed a serial self harmer to a functioning adult. Others a violent teen to a calmer adult. Others forced families to face some bitter truths about their expectations.
The interventions that work are always trauma informed with effective trauma tools and approaches. They also involve the parents, because ultimately it's the parents who provide the support and safe place for a child to process.