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Photo by Myicahel Tamburini on

Much is spoken about adopted children being violent, abusive and aggressive – acting out their trauma and being stuck in ‘fight’ mode. An adoptive mother would like to explain the challenges of parenting a young person who is none of these things.

My son is the sweetest, kindest, funniest and most intelligent, articulate person I know.

When my son isn’t up for connecting with people, or has had enough – its important to give space. Its also important to be there when connection is needed. A lecture I went to in Scotland a few years back with Bruce Perry has been invaluable to help me understand that my son can be overloaded quickly, and its all about what Dr Perry called ‘dosing’. This is what I try to do as he becomes an adult – and hopefully will make his own way in the world. Quite how he will achieve this when he has such massive anxiety issues and struggles to leave the house I don’t know.  Both of us are a bit worried about it.

My son has a raft of diagnostic labels: ADHD, PTSD, Complex Trauma, Reactive Attachment Disorder and Developmental Trauma – but somehow, because of his calm exterior and his interest in others he often manages to convince professionals that very little help is needed. He is like the swan, who looks graceful above but underneath is pedalling like mad to glide along the surface. I see the feet. Others who just see a glimpse, see the surface. By the time they have realised their misunderstanding and underestimated my son’s support needs, it is too late.

The biggest challenges I have had as a mother have been in rectifying professional errors and misunderstandings. Professionals who think they know, and think they get it – but really don’t at all – yet wield a terrifying power over our lives because of their professional status. The organisations I deal with have also been a major problem – they do not take well to being challenged by a parent and tend to close ranks and protect their reputation with complaints procedures that serve the interests of the organisation more than ours and make us revisit the problems in ways that don’t really seem to lead to anything positive. If we are lucky we will get an apology but it is very hard to challenge professional opinion – it isn’t even something the local government ombudsman takes into consideration. They are right and you are wrong.

Austerity has impacted on us greatly as a supported family reliant on services.

The Care Crisis Review has pointed to an environment that is “increasingly mistrusting and risk-averse and prompts individuals to seek refuge in procedural responses”

“Negligence through obfuscation” is what my son calls what is happening to us time and time again. But there is nowhere to go to be heard.

“We don’t discuss individual cases” I am told by government and the various institutions that consider the infrastructure and legislation that protects and supports children like my son and families like ours.

In a risk averse system children are increasingly ‘safeguarded’ instead of families being helped. I worry intensely about safeguarding for children whose abuse and negligence was in the past and feel it wasn’t the right way forwards for us, or for families where children are hard to care for perhaps because of hidden disability and neurodevelopmental conditions. It is too hostile. Too aggressive at a time when sensitivity and empathy are required. Harm was done.

When professionals who lack understanding and knowledge of the child only look through a prism of risk, parents are not seen as a force for good. We are disempowered and not valued. The helping relationship is affected by the way we are seen. This approach also firmly puts professionals in the driving seat in terms of support decisions for the child – when it should be parents getting the support they need to do what is by any standards, a very hard job.

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