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Arson / behavioural problems?

(13 Posts)
Clarinet60 Tue 14-Aug-07 20:42:40

Hi everyone.

My friend has fostered for a few years now and is trying to adopt the 3 (from same family). Does anyone know of anywhere offering help to deal with emotional/behavioural problems? One of the children has started burning/smouldering tiny areas of paintwork around the house. She doesn't yet know which child it is. Don't know how they've got the matches/lighter, but two of them are teenagers and the other is 8. Their backgrounds are sad - abuse, neglect.

Social workers on their case seem to cause more problems than help so friend really feels alone.

Rhubarb Tue 14-Aug-07 20:51:23

Sounds like normal child behaviour to me. My db (also adopted) used to start tiny fires around the house. I think most kids go through a phase of being mini-arsonists.

I would try a zero-tolerance approach. Perhaps a visit to a fire station? If you phone the station master (are they called that?) they will happily arrange a visit and a lecture.

KristinaM Tue 14-Aug-07 21:52:42

droile - i hesitate to post coz last time i posted on this topic i received a lot of abuse from the Op because i said things she didn't like. So my caveat is...if you dont like what i say, feel free to ignore me

Your friend is to be commended for wishing to provide a permanant family for these children. The best way for her to do this IMHO is to permanatly foster them. They are going to need A LOT of profesional help and they will be able to access this much more easily if they are fostered and not adopted.

It is very difficult at the best of times to get help for severe emotional problems in children. its much harder if they are adopted as their problems will then be seen to be caused by their parenst ie the adopters. they will move from being part of the solution to being part of the problem.Especaily as these problems have only shown up recently.

If your friend has other (biological ) children living at home they will be more at risk if the children are adopted rather than fostered

I hope rhubarb is right and that this is normal child behaviour. sadly i suspect its not. i worry its one of the many signs of attachment difficulties ( google RAD or reactive attachment disorder)

Despite what i said about adoption, she shoudl contcat and join adoption uk. they knwo a lot about getting help for very disturbed children & you dont need to have adopted to join

I'm sorry to hear that SS are so useless but i'm afraid thats fairly typical

lijaco15 Tue 14-Aug-07 22:43:54

I think that this is probably normal behaviour my son's went through a similar phase with matches etc. They were around the age of 12 / 13 years. It annoyed me really that shop's would sell them lighters easily. I think it may be a phase boy's go through. It was a facscination I think. One of them used to burn paper in the bathroom and burn tiny areas of paintwork the same.

Clarinet60 Wed 15-Aug-07 08:44:16

Thanks, all. Useful, I'll tell her.

Kristina, I didn't mind anything you said and the fostering rather than adoption bit is very interesting. I get the idea that they couldn't receive any less help than they do at present, and there is a hollow laugh whenever I mention all the help I've heard about for fostering....
I will tell her about joining adoption.uk though, that sounds like a good move.

(Hi Rhubarb, long time no hear

KristinaM Wed 15-Aug-07 12:35:40

Sadly, the amount of help you receive seems to depend largely on the agency you are with. And they can't really chaneg that now!

There is also much less help for emotional/behavioural probelsm and/or mental health problems than there is with physical or learning difficulties. ( I know, i can hear a hollow laugh from the parenst of SN kids )

For example, in some areas the child psychiatic service won't even take referrals for children with "conduct disorders" or attachment disorder and they wont even acknowledge personality disorders in children. Most mental illnesses are very underdiagnosed eg bi-polar or depression as they can manifest differently in children


The standard assumption in child therapy/psychaitry is that its not the child who has the problem, its the family and the child is simpy acting it out. So they often wont work with adoptive families as they are by definintion, the souce of the problem. It doesnt matter that the child has a horrendous past and an family history of such problems.

TBH I think its always harder to get help for problems that are invisible. Kids in wheelchairs get ( usually) public sympathy. Kids with ASD having tantrums in Asda get dirty looks.


Once these kids are adopted Ss can wash their hands of them. In theory they cant but they often do. they will say they are so stretched that they can only take on cases where there are SERIOUS child protection issues. So if a parent threatens a child with a knife,they will help. If a teenager threatens their adoptive mother with a knife they will do nothing. At best they will allocate them a worker who will take them out to macdaonald, chat to them and tell the parents " he seems all right to me . tell me are you having problems in your marraige?"



If the kids act up in school, they are less likely to get excluded if they are fostered, as SS will put pressure on the school not to exclude them.

anyway, i really hope that I am totally over reacting and its just normal teenage behaviour

Clarinet60 Sat 18-Aug-07 23:54:05

Hmm, scary.

grannyslippers Sun 19-Aug-07 00:12:19

According to Nancy Thomas' book "when love is not enough", children who've been abused are more drawn to fire than a normal curious child. She says that skilled therapy is needed in this case as well as being super vigilant about matches etc. In a sad way it's a sort of cry for help I guess .

kayjayel Thu 30-Aug-07 12:35:57

I know child mental health services are patchy, but it does vary across services. As they're currently not adopted, then there MIGHT be a CAMHS LAC service available. Its worth checking. Find out where your local CAMHS service is and ask them.
After adoption you might still be able to go to CAMHS. Its all dependent on how services are funded in your area. Do an internet search or call the local children's hospital services and just start chasing it. Oh and try and get some advice on what CAMHS might want to hear - mental health terminology etc.

And while I agree with Kristina that services are underfunded, as someone who works in CAMHS I don't see the parents as the problem, though I think there probably are workers who come across as thinking that. Its more trying to see who has the power to help the child most - in the end the parents are much more important than some stranger. Which is why you might feel the focus is on you, but especially with adoption I'd never see the adoptive parents as 'the problem'. I really hope your friend does get to access some help.

twinsetandpearls Thu 30-Aug-07 12:45:09

I am not an expert but I think it is something to watch, I worked in a school a that a child had set on fire and previous to that we had had very small fired around school for a few months which started off as you describe.

the firebrigade came in to do some training and they said to watch for children who start regular little fires as in some cases it does escalate to a big fire such as the one at our school.

But having said that I can remember being fascinated by fire and matches.

This behaviour woudl worry me if it was accompanied by other concerning behvaiour or a background as you describe.

I do think rhubarb's idea about a visit from the firestation is a good one.

Mutie Thu 30-Aug-07 15:28:20

Hello Droile

My two are both adopted (at 5 1/2 yrs and 15 months - arrived together). In some ways, I am afraid I agree with KristinaM about the long term fostering versus adoption debate. Support for fostered children is available - adopted children's problems are meant to fade away miraculously on adoption day! My children have a sibling who is still fostered (within the birth family) and she has extra help at school, emotional support etc - I have to fight for mine.

Having said that, we do have help from CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health) for the attachment issues but we had to hassle to get it.

I would try and get the child help now before the adoption went through. Also, I think most local authorities have post-adoption support now although this is patchy.

Saying all the above, we love our children very much and do not regret adopting them one bit. Adoption is important for the children too as it gives them a sense of belonging and your friend is wonderful to give them a permanent home.

I just feel sometimes it is hard to get what is rightly theirs and I don't want your friend to have to struggle.

ayashasky Tue 02-Oct-07 09:45:11

hi, I dont know if this is any help but our son who has adhd used to be fascinated by fires.We had a long garden and we dug a small pit for him and he used to have little bonfire in there where it was safe, he used to burn leaves and twigs etc.We also used to have litttle camping sessions down there as well.When we moved it was to a house with a smaller garden where he couldn't really do ot,but the phase passed.He was about 8 at the time.He wasnt adopted but I was at 7 y.o and I know at the time I was really insecure and used to do things that I cringe at now ........
So I dont know if I can offer any real support but stick in there and try and find out which one is doing it and hope it is just a phase...good luck anway.

BettyBatShapedSpaghetti Tue 02-Oct-07 09:55:38

re: the fire service -in a lot of areas they actually run proper sessions for young people who start fires although i'M NOT SURE IF THEY HAVE TO HAVE BEEN "CAUGHT" (oops sorry for caps) /dealt with officially for it in order to get referred.

Its definitely worth contacting your local fire station to find out more though.

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