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Struggling to follow SWs advice(38 Posts)
We are around 3 months into placement with our little boy who is 3. We felt that everything was going well but had a less than positive visit with LOs new social worker a few weeks ago. She told us that in order to encourage attachment we should stop doing the following:
Trips out to park
Trips out to anywhere new
Trips to anywhere that he would come into contact with strangers
No visits to anyone else's house
Severely limit contact with other family members
I have to stress that anything we have done so far before the visit was carefully considered, he is a super active little boy who has been used to being out and about all the time. We had been heading out two to three mornings a week for a few hours and had restricted this to a local cafe with play area, our local park and a little mum's and tots group. We had visited my mum's house on two occasions.
He has come to us from a long term foster home where he had several secure attachments.
Since her visit we have really felt that we can't go anywhere and are agonising over where we can and can't go and who he can see. The difficulty is that we are now trying to entertain a 3 yo at home in the middle of winter for 12 hours a day. I have pretty much exhausted my theraplay ideas. It's exhausting for us and I feel that LO is more unsettled than ever.
My close family have suggested that we need to just use our judgement and get things back on track but I am so afraid of getting things wrong. I'm sure LO is sensing that we aren't feeling good about things too.
Any advice greatly appreciated.
Could you contact a private play therapist and take advice from them? Also, have you got any contact with other parents who’ve been through this? In general (as a parent not adopter or foster parent) I’m a great believer in using my own judgement. If strangers are the problem but 3yo is going stir crazy could you go for a walk when it’s likely to be very quiet?
Personally, I would ignore her to a large degree. Its just not practical to contain an active toddler indoors. Its ridiculous to suggest not going anywhere you would come into contact with strangers, you could step outside the front door and bump into the postman.
I think there is a point about Christmas being overwhelming so its not always helpful to be doing huge family parties but it sounds like you are taking it slowly.
What does she think isn't going well, and how long does she think you should carry on like this?
Its quite common for SWs to recommend very restrictive activity for the first 6 weeks or so but you are way past that, you should be building towards a 'normal' life and routine for a three year old.
My son was older, but he met my best friends within the first week, was in cubs by week 3 and in school week 6. I bet your SW would be horrified.
The important thing is that your child sees you as the carer, so if they fall over you pick them up, you feed them, provide the comfort, the hugs etc.
There is probably a middke ground, but personally I don't think such restrictions are practical, so yes I would agree use your judgement.
Enjoy your first Christmas together
Absolutely use your judgement. My two came to me aged 4 and 6, there was no way we could stay that close to home in the early months. Attachment is built over a long period of time, not in a few months of excluding other places and people from your and your child’s life. As long as people point your child back to you for all care, feeding, comforting etc I think it’s important for them to be out and about for their wellbeing and your sanity.
How well does the SW know your child? Were they involved prior to placement? How much do they actually know about attachment theory (many professionals including SW are remarkably narrow in their thinking about attachment theory and have quite a linear x equals y understanding of attachment relationships). If your child is used to being out and about in foster care it would be really confusing for them to be effectively housebound after placement.
My two were used to being at school and play group, and started school about 8 weeks after placement because the lack of structure and routine were driving them crazy. They also needed to find their place in our extended families and have build good, strong relationships with aunts and uncles they were introduced to quite early on. They both are building really lovely attachments at their own pace (over 16 months in placement).
Attachment is a long game of consistent care and relationship building, developed over space and time. You’re the child’s parents, you make the judgement calls.
Use your own judgement. From your list, I would keep the park / playground. I'd maybe add a picture timetable of your favourite places and your home so you can show you're always coming back home again. I probably would drop toddler group unless it's giving you support (your needs matter too!) Unless it's a massive strain for you, I'd limit the other homes you visit to maybe one? Increase gradually when you feel it's right and til then could you have people visit you at home? I'm assuming when you do see family, they support you with what you need, while you stay the one who does anything hands-on?
I'm wondering whether your SW suggested this in principle because it's what she advises everyone, or in response to a specific conversation/worry? If the first, then I'd take it slightly less seriously although I think keeping the world fairly small at first does definitely help. If the second, I would give it a good try.
Another good activity that wears out children while promoting bonding is swimming, if that helps?
Thank you for your comments. We have been on a theraplay course and have been doing all the stuff since he came but tbh he's a bit bored with most of it now and loses interest quickly. I sit most evenings planning what we can do the next day and I'm struggling a bit (ok, a lot!) which makes me feel terrible.
She took issue when I mentioned that LO will say Hi to people serving in the cafe and she seemed to latch onto that. We did speak to his previous FC and she said that he had always been a confident, sociable child and that it had been flagged before as possibly attachment related. The FC wholeheartedly disagreed with this and the bond that they had would completely support her feelings.
It makes total sense that no matter how long we sit at home it will take time to build an attachment, and that is being hampered by the fact that we are all going a bit stir crazy atm.
Thanks again for all your advice x
My DD is older and will say hello and chat to just about anyone - it’s definitely related to her being used to getting care from random people and is part of attachment difficulties for her. We manage it by helping her find appropriate boundaries with others, eg it’s ok to say hello but hugs are for family (over and over again 🙄), but not by keeping her away from others because then she feels like she’s being punished.
Part of attachment is providing a secure base to explore the world from, which means they need opportunities to explore and return (think of a baby going a few steps, going back to mum, going a few steps further, back to mum etc). It will be fine to be around others, and important for the little ones wider sense of belonging.
SWs can get hung up on all kinds of stuff (I am one, so I know whereof I speak), part of the parenting process is discerning what bits you need to worry about and the bits you can take with a pinch of salt.
She told us
That's not her place. She has no substantive qualifications in child development and someone who did wouldn't tell parents what to do without substantial observations of the child.
I'm quite sceptical about the level of understanding of attachment theory amongst SW. I've attended some of the training they do and it certainly isn't sufficient to be giving more than the most general suggestions.
My own advice (based on no more than being an adoptive parent to a 3 and 5 YO and some knowledge of the issues) would be:
- Make sure you do all the primary care and that family know not to try to do too much when visiting.
- Still keep family visits fairly short and not too frequent.
- Cut trips out shorter than you might, when the first hints of tiredness or anxiety show.
- Build in lots of gentle home stuff, even if it's just watching TV together. It doesn't all need to be fancy theraplay type stuff. Do at least a couple of days a week at home.
- Stick to a routine like you are in the army for the next 9 months.
No way would I stop going out with a 3 YO. I think the socialisation of things like play group are really important. You are his parents and ultimately the judgement has to be yours- all the advice you get is only useful if it works for you. Lots of fun, comfortable and relaxed time together is what you want- for all of you, not just him.
Our two and three year old came home nearly a year ago. They came to us from a buy foster carer and having had multiple placement moves in the previous six months. I knew the theory, read he books, these and other boards and was all set for funnelling. Locking the door keeping everyone away and bonding! Very quickly I realised it was just not going to work with these kids. I actually was going to end up walking out on all three of them if we did it that way.
They needed to be out in parks and play areas everyday. We needed to break the day up into manageable chunks and that included trips out.
What did we do?
- trips to local play parks
- soft play centres in the morning when quiet
- the occasional half hour visit to grandparents but we did all the care.
We slowly introduced others through short bump into’s In public places. Then a few visits at our house and then short visits to others houses.
Our own Sw is a text book girl and was firmly against all this but we were four years down a very long and difficult journey with her and knew how to play a game with her. We just played down all our outings (did not confess to a lot of them). The children’s Sw was amazing, she has thorough training in attachment, theraplay etc and she got the kids. Her advice was these kids need out, they need other adults around them and to secure the placement so do you.
A year down the line we feel that the bond is developing nicely. We had a busy Christmas night yesterday with lot of extended family. (We kept it low key until 4pm - and then joined the madness for a few hours) I observed my children interacting with all the family beautifully but appropriately. They would only accept comfort from us, they came to us to ask for food and when going home only grandparents got hugs - high fives were not even really on offer!!! This has certainly changed over the year and for the better. Go with your gut. Do what you need to do to survive - remember self care is vital. We can’t heal these children until we have put in our own oxygen mask.
I too agree with the PP.
Keeping you under house arrest will drive you crazy.
The main thing is that you do the parenting, that they don't get overwhelmed, and that they aren't 'inappropriately' friendly to strangers (or to too many wider family members yet either).
Hope you had a good day yesterday.
Must bear in mind all children are different, Guide lines are general for all. but their needs are quite different, some may need too be more close others may benefit from inclusion , have too go with your instinct judge what you feel best. All new family's are different as are their life style this must be respected you are not a Text book.
Thing will be great in time , Good luck
The thing is, social workers aren't psychologists or therapists or child development professionals. Their role is to make sure that children are safe and to progress their care plan - in this case, write the annexe A report, write the later life letter and life story book, and see the adoption order through. They aren't qualified to give the advice that your social worker has given you, and I say this as a social worker.
Do you know why it came up, was it purely to do with the rule book?
There is a huge difference between what you mentioned and not going outside at all, though.
Like pps have said, a young child needs to get out, get fresh air and exercise, every day.
In terms of other children and adults, it depends on where you go - there are some cafes and parks and toddler groups which are cram packed full of riotous kids with yummy mummies braying at the top of their voices, which might be too much.
Or there are really quiet, calm places where you can do lots of 1:1 which are still lovely.
And it depends on how you are doing it. If while out you are focusing on LO with lots of 1:1 then that is different from letting them loose while you have a coffee and natter!
While at home, not sure what you mean by theraplay - do you mean normal things, like playing with them, drawing, painting, building things? It is exhausting,it is true. But good, too!
Some really great points for us to consider. It was always foremost on our minds that anywhere we went was quiet and we stayed close to LO throughout, providing all care as some of you have mentioned.
Santa Claus brought LO a bike so we ventured out around the block today, LO loved it. I think we will slowly work back towards a few trips out to familiar places a week, although probably best to wait until all the schools are back.
I think the hardest bit of the last few weeks has been trying to pick ourselves up after what felt like a very negative meeting, we have questioned our every move and doubted our own judgement. We just need to accept that we can't get this perfectly right all the time but keep in mind everything we know about building attachment and do our best.
Thanks again xx
Our daughter was 1 when she came home. She came from a busy foster family with lots of children that she loved interacting with. Luckily the sw were not rigid and her foster carer told us that our daughter would probably relax with my young niece and nephew round.
We compromised and did visits to neutral places with her cousins and our family. I don’t think anybody visited us in our home for about 2months just because we wanted her to associate home with us. She was and is such a sociable girl, we even took her to her cousins birthday party a week in! She just sat at the side watching with great interest as his little friends ran round.
I just made sure that absolutely all care was done by us. My family were very good, the instant she cried they took her to me. They knew I had to comfort her. We are 3 years in now and she adores my family. If she gets hurt she will accept a cuddle off her nan etc but she then reaches out for me or her dad. Attachment takes ages!
Oh and after months of being with your children, I can safely say you know better than a sw. purely because you know the kids!
Woollysocks18 he ds was 3 when he came to us and I had something similar. Was told to avoid toddler groups etc but very soon I found it very hard to be at home all the time!
We ended up going to a toddler swim once a week, and a toddler group once a week. Ds didn't interact with the other adults and didn't even interact much with the other kids. But it was a big open space full of toys and for me it was an hour out of the house.
When you go to court and the adoption becomes final you won't need to deal with social workers anymore.
To be honest as a foster carer and adopter I have learnt to take SW comments with a pinch of salt. There are many excellent ones but others are hung up on going by the textbook. Is she newly qualified? They are often long on theory but short on experience and are keen to try and do it by the book.
I agree with everyone else. Trust your own instincts . You sound like you are doing great.
I would ignore that advice. SW advice is inconsistent therefore not gospel in my eyes. After all it is only that, advice, you could kindly acknowledge it ..... and then ignore it ! X
Really glad to read this thread!
We are also 3 months into placement and absolutely loving it - but when I said I was going to groups I was greeted with shock and horror at our first review. Our LO is younger - 10 months now, but is incredibly active and had a very busy life with foster carer.
If we stay in, both of us just get really bored! He starts trying to climb the TV and I spend my whole time trying to entertain him with the same rattles that he’s seen over and over again.
Family is so important to me and my mum has been round quite a bit and so has my mum in law - they love our DS and have been so incredibly helpful. It’s been such a drastic change to our lives. It’s almost like they want you to have this amazing support network but then not call on them for any kind of practical help!
I completely get that our adopted children need to bond with us as their primary carers. But all the groups I go to- nobody else is looking after him. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t be allowed to go to the park, it’s not as if your child would be interacting with anybody else...
I have just ignored advice - as I need to go to the groups so I can ask questions about childcare and become a better parent, and so I can learn some ideas on how to play/sing to my child. It has made our bond stronger - going to groups and has given us the entertainment we both need!
I normally lurk more than I post but I wanted to say that your circumstances are very similar to ours, OP, as DS moved in with us when he was 3. I don’t want to disparage any of the sensible and wise comments you’ve received so far but I would say that for us, fairly extreme funnelling did work. We prioritised time at home and made that the focus of our life. We did a daily visit to the park but we kept to the same route and pointed out the same things. We did a visual schedule with the same mealtimes and the same activities. We kept his world VERY VERY small with very few new people in it. I think it was a good thing... and it worked for us. Perhaps this is what your SW is alluding to? Anyway, in any event, I hope you’re doing well and managing OK.
I work as a carer in a care home for looked after children and although it is not the same as adoption (I myself am now in the process of adopting) in my experience a lot of the time the social workers have got so much on that they work according to a standard playbook. In order to tick a box and to cover their backsides. As if each child fits the exact same mould.
Having spoken to a lot of adopters, before we decided to go down this route, I have learned that you have to use your own judgment a lot.
Some people took their child to meet the family after a week or went on a holiday the following month. For some families it worked and others returned home after several hours as the child needed more time to settle.
Learn and adapt according to circumstances. Try something and if it doesn't work, change your plans.
It's not like coming into contact with strangers in your presence will prevent the child from forming a positive attachment with you, is it?
Funnelling is the best investment we made, especially over Christmas. Depending on the child, the community where you loud, etc, strangers can be a complete liability in terms of destabilising a loosely attached child.
Going against the grain of the thread, I would advise caution about disregarding this archive, and explore what the SW saw to prompt it.
Funnelling isn't just an early days thing.
funnelling does not have to mean isolation, which the SW here is suggesting. If you take the advice not to go anywhere where you might come into contact with strangers you literally cannot go anywhere.
At some point you have to have a nornmal life. What about those of us who adopt school age children, or single adopters. There is a balance to be struck with funnelling. No one suggested that it was a good idea to throw this child into party central or hand them over to babysitters for a few hours.
I agree funnelling isnt just an early days thing - my son is 14, we are 6 years in, we still have times when its just us, over Christmas itself we saw no one for three days. Because we needed the time out together.
Like most things its about balance.
The SW seemed to be concerned that the child said hello to the cafe staff, if its a regular outing then the child will be familiar with them so a hello would be natural. But there are ways of teaching a three year old not to say hello to random strangers without stopping trips to the park or the cafe
Ime, FC do play down attachment seeking behaviours.
Funnelling doesn't have to mean isolation, no, but it can be difficult to ask, e.g., Cafe staff to back off being so friendly. If the child is at an age where secure kids would have some stranger awareness, and yet yours doesn't, that would ring alarm bells. A few "small world" months now could save major difficulties later. Ime, again, sws are more likely to be too lax about over-familiar behaviour, or of attachment, so it's quite nice to hear of some that value the benefits of working hard at it. It is hard work. And you can only do so much, or you go mad, but that doesn't stop it being beneficial. The investment now, especially with Christmas, can pay off hugely later.
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