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I read this today 'How adopting an angelic five-year-old blew our family apart', it's in the daily mail but I felt it was interesting to ask what could have been done differently and by whom?

(111 Posts)
Italiangreyhound Wed 01-Jan-14 22:18:38

I read this today 'How adopting an angelic five-year-old blew our family apart', it's in the daily mail but I felt it was interesting to ask what could have been done differently and by whom?

Sorry if this article is upsetting for anyone, it is not posted for that reason. Just looking for comments and ideas on how things could be done differently, and hopefully are done differently in some places.

roadwalker Mon 06-Jan-14 08:37:51

Sorry my post seems quite abrupt, seriously sleep deprived
Parenting my DD is the biggest challenge I have ever faced but she still deserves, and needs, love and understanding
A therapist once told me that an attachment disordered child is like a sieve, all the love seeps out of them and it can feel like you are giving and giving with nothing in return
There needs to be a lot of work done around appropriate intervention and more resources for support
Our CAMHS are rubbish and, so far, have caused more harm than good
IMO the government is misguided in their speeding up of the approval process and will lead to more disruption
They should have focused on post adoption support

Buster51 Mon 06-Jan-14 11:40:35

wow thank you Lilka and all, those threads have really opened my eyes! We are still very much in the early stages!

From reading the old threads a lot of it rings home to me, the feeling the need to tell other mothers in the school yard that he is adopted as a feel like 'fake' is very much still where I am at! Especially when they start talking birthing stories, I find this quite uncomfortable.

My DH is certain that if DS was 'how is is with him' i.e. the cuddles, affection and love I would bond with him, he is certain that I am holding back because he is resisting/rejecting me, and doesn't particularly like my cuddles, often moving away/even crying, he won't sit with me or anything like DH. I feel to an extent he is probably right - I am almost scared in case he never feels that way about me so it is holding me back.

After our most recent 'behavioral manipulation' issues etc I feel that definitely made me 'shut down' - any empathy, acceptance etc just disappeared (I have recently read parenting through PACE, have any of you read this? I have found it most useful). However, I have started to just force it again, play/paint with him try to be back to how we were in the 'honeymoon phase' - as a result I have relaxed a little, I am still not 100% but I have improved. It seems DS has stopped trying, especially vocally to hurt me (for now?) but at least this may be a good start.

I feel bad that all of those feelings shut down for me, it seems my own personal anxiety took over and I just couldn't cope with it. I have even struggled making eye contact! But in recognizing so I hope is good progress?

I am just trying to learn not to dwell on the differences between me and DH, and not react to any of DS attempts to get a reaction out of me. Accept that he is comfortable with DH and realise that is a very good thing, it is going to take a long time I feel/if ever for DS to be like that with me.

He is extremely comfortable (perhaps too much in certain situations) with all men, he is only reserved with woman in general.

I realise I just seem to put all of my thoughts and feelings into this without any logic, but it helps to just talk, and see that I am not alone in this.

Thank you all again for your comments smile

MyFeetAreCold Mon 06-Jan-14 13:11:30

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ghostinthecanvas Mon 06-Jan-14 13:52:14

Must be the day for it today. <sighs> Got a triumphant wee smile from my youngest today when I rose to his behaviour before school. No gold stars for me today.

MyFeetAreCold Mon 06-Jan-14 14:28:50

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

NanaNina Mon 06-Jan-14 14:29:06

Sorry I haven't read all the posts but the wise Lilka has as usual written some very enlightening posts. Some of you will know I am a retired sw and tm mgr for a Fostering & Adoption team and we were including attachment issues in all our prep courses for foster carers and adopters in the mid 90s. I still think it's one of the most important issues in fostering and adoption.

I wonder how much spin the DM put on the article about the "angelic" child. I too winced at the Adopter saying that she had always wanted to adopt an "unwanted" child, or maybe she said rescue - even worse! As others have said it doesn't seem like these adopters were properly prepared (if you ever can be) for adopting a child who has been seriously abused/neglected and they were blown away by the blonde hair and angelic smile.

Some of the comments in the article made me think that the adopters were unable to cope with fairly minor things e.g. being "furious" because of the spilling water out of the bath. There were so many different ways to cope with this - maybe put a washing up bowl by the bath so she could ladle the water into there - oh I know it's easy to say stuff like this when you are not in the thick of it. I thought the incident with the spud gun was given far more importance than it should have been and seemed to be the final "nail in the coffin" (no pun intended)

I think the thing that was most strange was the fact that the adopters wanted the adoption "annulled" and the child placed elsewhere but at the same time wanted her back at some point in the future. I just could not understand this at all and once a child has been removed from adopters (for whatever reason) and placed with foster carers then that is end of matter for the adopters. It has to be. The child can't think she is going to return to them some point, and I would be amazed if the LA agreed such a plan. The adopter were visiting her every 12 weeks and seemed to think that was ok and that one day she would return to them.

The other thing I wanted to say (and forgive me if anyone else has said it) but I did wonder about whether this child had Foetal Alcohol Syndrome as her birthmother abused alcohol. This condition is largely undiagnosed in this country (and diagnosed routinely in USA) and it does manifest itself in some very bizarre behaviours that seem to be like learning difficulties, but somehow they aren't - somehow it seems the child is deliberately misbehaving and they are much understood and sometimes punished for their behaviour.

The thing is that alcohol can enter the placenta and damage the cells of the foetus in utero and there is no way that this can be reversed or remedied. It is far worse than babies who are born drug addicted because they can be withdrawn from drugs with careful nursing care. Some FAS babies have facial features that can aid diagnosis but others don't and as it's a syndrome there is no way that it can be known just how affected the child will be.

Clearly we only have the "bones" of what happened here and I feel sad for the child and the adopters. I have seen marriages break up when adoptions break down and adopters who suffer mental health problems as a result of trying to care for very damaged children.

There are no easy answers are there - I just take my hat off to all you adopters and foster carers out there who are caring for the most vulnerable children in our society. I usually recommend a book called "Why Love Matters" by Sue Gerhardt (a paperback) and it is important because she evidences how the pathways in the brain of a baby change in relation to the quality of the care given in those earl days, weeks and months. I think so many adopters think that if you love a child, all will be well, but that's not the case as many of you know and learning about attachment theory does give the best chance of helping a child to learn to trust adults after being so let down in their earliest years.

Italiangreyhound Mon 06-Jan-14 18:05:06

It is so wonderful and helpful to read wise words from Roadwalker, * NanaNina* and all.

I know the article is rather controversial and somethings, like the title of the book (I agree with Roadwalker) are things that are difficult to discuss and consider. I am aware lots of people are dealing with behaviours which are really hard and I am just very grateful (as a prospective adopter) to see the wise words of advice and empathy from others.

Buster I sincerely hope you will find things get better. A while ago I watched a documentary called The Dark Matter of Love. There was a thread on here at about it. What was very interesting was that an 11 year old girl was adopted (along with twin boys aged 5 who were not related to her). What was interesting was that she seemed to bond first with the dad and then with the mum later. This is probably an utterly different situation to your situation Buster but I wanted to mention it because for the first half of the documentary it looked so much like the girl liked the dad and was not interested in the mum but towards the end, the mum became much more important to her. So maybe for you you are in the very early part of your adoption story.

All best wishes Buster and otherbs.

Buster51 Mon 06-Jan-14 21:13:39

Thank you Italiangreyhound, this sounds quite like our situation it's great to hear it got better! I will try to watch it smile

We've had feedback from SW & an attatchnent specialist she works work advising it sounds a lot like a disorganised-controlling attatchnent pattern DS has. If any of you have came across this / information on it that would be super.

I must say today was a much better day, DS was back to wanting to be on my back & was quite evenly mixed between mummy & daddy. We still see a lot of his need to control things coming out, but this seems direct at DH as well as me more recently (since I have been completely ignoring the behaviour which was creating a reaction). I can honestly say that a lot of what he does doesn't bother me now either, which is a HUGE step for me, as I'm able to still engage with him like I should be!

I do feel rather to blame for giving him the reactions he was craving but I has no idea what was the cause/thing he was seeking! You live & learn I suppose & thankfully I've recognised my behaviour early into his placement & we can hopefully start to accept & build towards his future smile

Buster51 Mon 06-Jan-14 21:15:26

Again apologies for the spelling etc - one tired mummy! :D

Italiangreyhound Tue 07-Jan-14 02:02:28

Buster you sound like one switched on person who is doing a great job. Don't ever doubt that.

NanaNina Tue 07-Jan-14 16:21:10

I've now gone back and read some of the posts. I feel so much for all your adopters out there Buster ItalianGreyhound Lilka Roadwalker missPolly and others - sorry if I've missed anyone out. I know Lilka that most of your problems are over and your DD is growing closer and closer to you. It's great that you can reach out to others who are doubting that this will ever happen for them.

I'm a bit puzzled though by this distinction that seems to be made between RAD and other Attachment problems. Surely all attachment difficulties are reactive, as they are a reaction to not having their needs met in their earliest days, weeks, months and for some being abused/neglected and moved from carer to carer in their formative years.

Isn't the distinction between a secure attachment and an insecure attachment the important one to make. Needless to say, by definition adopted children are almost always going to have an insecure attachment and this will manifest itself in a variety of ways, as so many of you know and are coping with these manifestations on a daily basis.

Attachment theory is just that a theory isn't it, and there are differing views and explanations amongst the experts. As far as I can see, a secure attachment is made when the baby's needs in all respects are met from his first breath, and he is loved unconditionally right from the beginning of his life. This secure attachment with his parents/carers will be a protective factor for him throughout the life span. Conversely babies whose needs are not met, and are abused or neglected will have an insecure attachment pattern. I believe that children will always try to organise themselves so that they can survive in whatever situation they are in, and I don't mean of course that this is done at a conscious level, far from it, as this type of behaviour can be seen in a young baby.

I am thinking of the "frozen watchfulness" of a baby who is abused, who lies still in the pram and doesn't move or make any sound (like a rabbit caught in the headlights) so as not to bring himself to the attention of the abuser. I had learned about this in theory but to actually see it in a 4 months baby was chilling indeed. His 2 year old brother who was also being abused hid behind his bed to keep out of the way of the abuser. In this way children are organising themselves in order to try to survive.

Coming back to insecure attachments, I think they will vary dependent upon the parent/carer. The child who has experienced rejected, interfering and controlling parents will show an avoidant attachment pattern. If these children show distress it annoys the parent and any crying, clinging, following, demanding does not bring the reaction needed - in fact it brings the opposite, Hence these children will minimise that behaviour and will not show their distress. Emotional self containment is established.

Children whose parents are insensitive, unreliable and inconsistently responsive show an ambivalent attachment style and try to maximise their behaviour (whine, cling, fret, shout and threaten in order to break through the parent's emotional neglect, unavailability and lack of response. To the child the parent is emotionally desired but emotionally unavailable and naturally this causes great frustration in the child, and they will tend to have ambivalent feelings towards other people and relationships.

Children who cannot *organise their behaviour or develop a strategy to achieve security in any way whatsoever with their parents are usually the children of parents who are severely mentally ill, heavy drug or alcohol users and there is domestic violence. However the child behaves it brings no comfort and so their attachment pattern is seen as incoherent and disorganised and they freeze (as the baby I described above did) - I wonder if these children are being diagnosed with RAD.

Having said all that does it really matter what diagnosis is attached to these children. They have all been neglected/ill treated in some way and you wonderful adopters are caring for them. I know you won't see yourselves as "wonderful" but that's as maybe. I am allowed to say it!!

AS for help and support - I'm sure that is very patchy. In the LA that I worked in we had a brilliant clinical psychologist who worked exclusively with foster carers and adopters who were parenting children with attachment difficulties. She always pointed out that there is a big gap between the chronological and emotional age of these children and recommended regressing from time to time, playing games meant for younger children, singing nursery rhymes etc obviously not all the time, but for specific periods in the day in possible.

A story that has stuck in my mind is that of an experienced foster carer (a single woman) who long term fostered an 8 year old boy whose parents both had moderate LDs and he was delayed in all respects and should have been moved much earlier. However she regressed sometimes with him (he loved Bob the Builder) at age 8 and she played games with him suitable for 3/4 years etc, She said that one day he was lying on the sofa drinking water out of a sports type bottle, and he clambered onto her lap and cuddled up in the crook of her arm and sucked the bottle, and eventually he handed her the bottle and she found herself giving him the water from the bottle as you would a baby.
She phoned me as she was a bit worried but I thought that was a brilliant way this child felt secure enough to get what he needed/wanted.,

Sorry I've said too much I'm sure.

NanaNina Tue 07-Jan-14 16:29:48

Me again - just meant to say that the most valuable support for a child with attachment difficulties is play therapy but this is expensive. I think though that you should request LAs fund this therapy. You will find lists of Approved Play Therapists if you google. This therapy is non directed and the children are allowed to play with whatever they like, and the therapist will only intervene if the child is becoming destructive. There is usually a sand tray, play figures, dolls, houses, cars, trains etc. Children will often "play out" their fears in this way as they are far too young to be able to make any use of "talking therapies."

I have a close friend who is a play therapist and she says the thing that comes out most in the children is anger, sometimes throwing soft toys on the floor, mixing sand and water into mud and smothering it over the face of the doll. One child repeatedly bashed the doll's head against the wall, (it was a soft doll) shouting "bastard" several times and then lay on the floor and sobbed.

This isn't a cure of course as there isn't one, but it does allow children to express through play some of their innermost emotions. She also teaches adoptive parents how to spend an hour or so each day just letting the child play with the toys and be "with him" in the sense of sitting near, but not interfering, and after a while the child can in some cases start to show his emotions through play.

Oblomov Tue 07-Jan-14 16:51:42

I have not adopted. I have ASD ds1, whom it was once suggested might have RAD. The tiredness it brings. The lack of support. The fatc that no one believes you and most people think I am a nutter (munchausens) - the cutlery and the constant water out of the bath - some posters were very flippant and dismissive about he clothes back to front and the bath water - that just goes to show that you have NO IDEA - god it IS those bits that are the absolute killer. I hope you never live to find out.

Italiangreyhound Tue 07-Jan-14 22:56:52

Oblomov I am so sorry if my post about not thinking the bath water was a big deal. I have no idea, you are right. My dd is a quite difficult but not very difficult and I have no idea what the problems are. It is through Mumsnet and the support and knowledge of posters here that I am learning, very slowly, about all the myriad of problems that children and parents can experience. So I am very sorry if I offended you, but we are all (I think) here to learn and try and make sense of children, and that was one thing that did not make sense for me. But I stand corrected.

Nananina thanks for your wisdom. Can I just say put me in with the adopters, which is very flatettering, but I am not yet an adopter. I am a birth mum and approved to adopt.

I (for one) am finding this thread very helpful and so thank you again to all who contribute.

Italiangreyhound Tue 07-Jan-14 22:58:02

Sorry - typo - Nananina Can I just say you put me in with the adopters... I'm not yet one!

ghostinthecanvas Wed 08-Jan-14 09:16:39

Morning all.
Oblomov, it is like a dripping tap, some days you hear it and other days you can zone out. So hard. Though as we are talking bath water, possibly not the best analogy! wink One of the things I find very difficult is the fact that we know the problem and it doesn't make it easier to get through the day. We know our children are functioning differently. Mostly we are lucky enough to know why. But it is still so hard.
I think of the word spectrum and it makes me think of rainbows. I then just apply that to my children. What colour are they today. Yellow = ok, red = let's get through it. That way labels are less important. Maybe that seems a strange way to approach it but it is one of the things that works for me. Most days anyway.

HollyHB Thu 06-Feb-14 20:09:10

I read the newspaper article. The book was published in 2008 and seems to cover roughly a ten year period so Alex will now be an adult (assuming she is still alive).
The thing that occurred to me immediately was "Did anyone take the trouble to track down Michelle when Alex was a teenager?".

It could be that 10 years later Michelle might have completely turned her life around and would be delighted to have her teenage daughter back in her life. People change enormously over a ten year period (I know my ex did hah!). And reunification with Michelle just might be the thing that Alex so wanted and would not tell anyone. Michelle might be the one and only person in the world to whom she might attach. Of course that would mean social services having to admit they made a mistake.

Too late now of course. All water under the bridge.

eightytwenty Thu 06-Feb-14 22:20:26

Stumbled on this in active conversations. Heartbreaking stories. Why is there a policy to keep kids with their birth parents so that so much damage can be done?

whatrousetoday - I can't imagine what you must have gone through. I'm not sure if anyone else picked up on your comment though - perhaps someone else has been through similar and can help...

crazeekitty Fri 07-Feb-14 13:08:54

Ah lilka. My dd sounds just like your dd did. In fact, much of the behaviour in the mail article is what I see minute by minute and hour by hour. No cruelty to animals or children but the increasingly desperate and inventive ways to seek attention.

What could those parents have done differently? I don't know but I do know I was given plenty of training what you might expect with an ac but I wasn't prepared for all of it coming in one bundle in my house at once. Maybe ss didn't know enough to tell me. In hindsight I think they alluded to things which weren't made explicit. I think that moving a child from fc to an adoptive family peels back layers and layers of emotion that have been buried... Often just to survive in chaotic environments. When they start to surface then stand by!

My dd doesn't say she has another voice in her head (great bit of sensational reporting there) but she talks about having different parts of her brain telling her different things. It's just child speak for saying she's in a massive muddle about things.

What could they have done differently? Probably nothing except stick it out, which would be a difficult decision to make when another child is being affected.

Best advice? Don't scare yourself reading unbalanced articles in a flimsy rag. Good for debate but not for a reasonable account. That wouldn't sell papers

MrsHLoves Sun 21-Feb-16 00:29:12

Hi all,
I'm new to this site and realise I'm posting quite late in the game with this thread.
However the issue of attachment disorder will unfortunately continue, way past the trend of this thread! smile

I am an adoptive Mum of a DS. Nearly 5 years down the line and I have come to realise that the issues both DS experiences and impresses on others, plus the affect this has on both adoptive parents, and in time, teachers is extreme. I really can relate and sympathise with 'Buster51'.

It is relentless and however much therapeutic parenting you do, love, patience and understanding you have, it is painful to be rejected, ridiculed, manipulated, watched, belittled, spied on and 'hated'.
Please don't get me wrong, our child is a beautiful person. He is kind, empathetic, caring and fun. But he does have a darker side that surfaces when he is threatened, scared, angry or hyper vigilant which unfortunately is more often than not. We experience anger, rage, violence, fear, night terrors and controlling to the ninth degree (that continues daily), and as you say Buster51, it is the small detail, the daily grind of manipulation that hurts.

Other adults in his life, who he is not attached to, do not get attachment disorder and believe he adores them and write off his behaviours as 'normal' in earnest to save themselves dealing with the reality of his motivations. They do not see nor do they want to deal with, what is going on in his little mind that has been traumatised at an early age. I have learnt that most adults would rather his behaviour be 'normal' so they can cope better with it than deal with the reality of his history.

There is hope though. He progresses each day....softly softly, catchee a monkey! Patience, love, consistency and time do make a difference, albeit slowly.
I am pushed off my bike less each week! I am told less that I am not as good as Daddy, there is less splitting, less 'looks' aimed at me from behind a door as he starts mayhem and I am hit less each day!
I have hope. I believe he is a good kind and precious child that needs our support and perseverance, with a few hurdles on the way, for the rest of his life.
It is so hard and I have fallen on many occasions trying. But I will carry on because he is worth it.

Italiangreyhound Sun 21-Feb-16 21:46:14

MrsHLoves you sound like a very patient and loving mum. I am sorry it is so hard. Bless you. (I was looking to see who started a thread with such a long name, and it was me!!!)

MrsHLoves Sun 21-Feb-16 23:15:22

Italiangreyhound........Loving yes, patient.....sometimes!
Life is hard for us parents to take such a challenge but not as hard as it is for the kids who don't make the choice to be adopted. I don't claim to have it any harder than most - it's life isn't it. I cry and scream and can't cope like the best of them. But every now and then a good hard reality check is necessary for us all.
Attachment disorder's effects can be tantamount to bullying and it's bloody hard to be the brunt of it but we're the adults. It's about time they learnt that we can be trusted and make good choices for them.
Lots of love to all of you out there going through similar.

Buster5187 Mon 22-Feb-16 09:31:12

Wow, I was reading through this thinking 'this all rings a bell to me!' then realised the date.

I have to say, DS still has some of the issues I mentioned back then. Especially what Lilka said 'she would rather her children have the tantrums etc' DS does not, at all. He recently actually said to me "I hold my feelings inside, and deal with them in private" - he is 6. Never shouts, tantrums, just tears. We have finally, very recently managed to get the ball rolling with some sort of after adoption support - what that will be yet, we don't know. But we do feel we / he needs it.

We also still get the occasional 'behaviours' when DH is home. Luckily now, not so much, and DH notices it too (so it isn't a case of me just going mad!).

BUT reading through this was a real eye opener for me, as to how far we have come in many respects, but really how much the major 'issues' back then, are still there today. It does make me feel I am doing the right think pushing (still) for some sort of support.

Kr1stina Mon 22-Feb-16 15:29:18

I agree buster, you are doing the right thing to demand support for your son. I hope this makes you trust your own instincts, you knew that there were issues right from the start . And you rights they won't just magically disappear with the passage of time .

Kewcumber Mon 22-Feb-16 15:58:14

I think resurrecting old threads randomly should be enforced as it does make you look back and realise how much you spotted and how the "oh they all do that"'ers didn't know what they were talking about.

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