It is weeks since I last blogged, there’s a half chopped down tree in the garden, the fridge stinks, the kitchen floor is ankle deep in biscuit crumbs and dried up peas and someone has written their name in the dust by the tele. I’m not on strike, or recovering from an operation, I’ve been rushing to finish a book, my second one. It’s about all the strategies and tactics and coping mechanisms I’ve learned during the past eleven years of being an adoptive and increasingly therapeutic parent. It is about the every day stuff like mealtimes and school as well as the hard, scary stuff like violence and the complexities of raising traumatised siblings. It has been a long but satisfying process. As I prepare to hand the manuscript over I realise just how much I’ve learned and how far we’ve come since our two little cuties arrived with their beautiful hair and their deep wounds.
As well as writing I’ve been talking and meeting: the sort of thing which requires smart clothes and a bit of bottle. I spoke at the Wiltshire Adoption Conference, with Dr Vivien Norris about transitions; why they are challenging for adopted children and what we can do to support them through change. It was a privilege to be invited and a pleasure to meet so many adopters and professionals working in the field. I’m also taking part in a Department for Education Expert Advisory Group on adoption support. It feels like a once in my lifetime chance to make real improvements to the support that adopters and their children receive. I’m representing all adopters, particularly those who like me have wobbled under great strain through lack of understanding of and support for attachment and trauma issues. For much of my time as an adopter I’ve felt like a lone voice and sometimes like a crazy lone voice. It doesn’t seem quite so hopeless now. Increasingly I talk to teachers and civil servants and social workers and others who really do ‘get it’. Much of the credit for that has to be given to adopters who have had the nerve to speak out when all the pressures upon them indicate they should keep quiet. Social media has and will continue to play a huge part in that I think.
We know it takes years for scientific discoveries and research to drip down and inform public services, but even so this has been a deeply frustrating issue to try and shift, especially at the same time as being locked into a traumatic landscape within the family. But, I am cautiously optimistic that change is happening, slowly. That change is still being held back by a widespread misunderstanding of early trauma though. Children do not, contrary to popular myth, just get over traumatic experiences, no matter how inconvenient that truth may be. (Popular myth however accepts that animals, like dogs suffer trauma, for which they require long and careful rehabilitation.) There are wider issues as well around listening to and believing parents, around who the experts really are and around priorities and arse-covering and labelling. It’s a kind of Sod’s Law too, that as well as adopting children from the state, having to cope with often undiagnosed and unsupported trauma and attachment issues, adoptive parents often end up having to play advocate, campaigner and general rabble-rouser as well. They don’t tell you that bit in the preparation groups.
Finding my voice has been as much about connecting up with other adopters, adoptees and professionals as it has been summoning up my own (battered) courage. When I first ventured on to twitter there were just a handful of adopters sharing experiences, now there are lots and what a wonderful space has been created to collect and share ideas. I’ve never felt part of such a vibrant, creative, committed and honest group of people before. Last night I asked for some help with a presentation I’ll be delivering to the Department for Education on why adoption support is a crucial part of the adoption reforms. I was bowled over by the response. Thank you. Once it’s been delivered I’ll share my/our presentation and my ongoing work with you. I would love to keep the conversation going.
But for now, please excuse me, it’s Friday afternoon, the children are due home any moment, the kitchen floor needs sweeping and there’s the small matter of Mother’s Day to
stage manage organise. A happy weekend to you all.