Eight years ago I had a breakdown and was subsequently treated for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of parenting my traumatised adopted daughter and suffering daily verbal and psychological abuse with frequent physical attacks. I love my daughter and understand that these behaviours are not malicious, and they stem from the chaotic nature of her early life. From conception, in utero and for the few first months of her life, she was a member of a household where conflict and abuse were the norm. She was removed from the family into the care system and became a member of my family at age two.
Throughout her childhood I sought support wherever possible. An Adoption Support social worker did ‘life story’ work with her. School applied for a Statement of Educational Needs, allocated a one-to-one Learning Support Assistant and regular sessions with a Learning Mentor. CAMHS provided Filial Therapy, Theraplay sessions, medication for ADHD and, latterly, psychotherapy. Nothing changed at home. In fact, as she grew, the Child to Parent Violence became less easy to manage and the verbal abuse began to incorporate a wider range of ‘colourful’ language.
I repeatedly asked professionals what I was supposed to do when my daughter was assaulting me. Post Adoption Support referred me for a ‘parenting’ course! I had trained and worked as a nursery nurse and successfully raised my birth son so this was rather frustrating. I asked for other training but was told the ‘Team Teach’ course requires two people, so as a single parent I could not do it. It struck me as ironic that the Post Adoption Support Social Worker would come to my house before Team Around the Child meetings and then repeat what I had said to her in the meeting. Finally, the local authority arranged a Family Group Conference. When my wider family realised the extent of the abuse, rather than offering support, they were horrified and advised me to return my daughter to the care system. Alone, having seemingly exhausted all support options, my mental health at an all time low, I had to admit defeat. I was not coping at home or at work and both my children were suffering.
My daughter returned to the care of the Local Authority under Section 20 of the Children’s Act. I will not go into detail about her experiences as a ‘care kid’, as that would be a book not an article. Much is on public record in a report from the LGO ( Local Government Ombudsman) who upheld my complaint that the Local Authority “Failed to put in place any long term plan” for my daughter’s future and their actions “had a significant, detrimental and irreparable impact” on my relationship with my daughter. A full care order, 13 placements, 15 social workers and a further complaint upheld by the LGO later, my daughter came home.
I have undertaken a course in Non-Violent Resistance for adoptive parents who suffer CPV and further ‘parenting teens’ courses. I have fought for appropriate trauma-focussed therapeutic intervention and cooperated with the local authority in their ‘Reunification Assessment’. Incidentally, the assessment made recommendations that a number of actions be implemented before they could recommend reunification, yet my daughter was already reunified under PWP (Placement with Parents) regulations. One such recommendation was the allocation of a ‘floating support worker’. The purpose of this was to offer support to us as a family to ensure we could sustain the PWP agreement. Initially, we were allocated 15 hours per week. Then, three hours were re-dedicated to admin work. After an aggressive outburst from my daughter, the worker withdrew and, subsequently, a second worker was introduced. Since they were then working 2-1, the hours had to be halved. Following a threat of physical violence to one of the workers from my daughter, they again ended the session and have said they are unable to work with us ‘as a family’, but they continue to ‘support’ my daughter.
So, and here we come to the main point I want to make, when I again asked the social worker what I was supposed to do when my daughter was abusing me, as part of a discussion as to why the professionals allocated to supporting us were unable to continue, her response was “You are doing really well.” She then went on to tell me about her teenage daughter and how “all teenagers behave like that.” How can throw-away comments like this possibly help parents like me who are put under such a high level of duress? The impact of such conversations on us is the feeling that professionals believe we are overreacting, we are not good parents and it is our fault that our children behave in this way. One of their own recommendations in their 27-page assessment was “Work to be undertaken with (mum) by the allocated social worker, around managing the risks to family members from conflict and ensuring safeguarding, constructive boundaries are in place.” Is this that ‘work’?