Sunday, 9 October 2011

A week away, references, and a catch up with friends

We've just come home from a lovely week away in the sunshine. We weren't planning on another holiday this year, but as it's possible that we won't get one at all next year if the adoption wheels move quickly (as I'll be saving all my annual leave to have time off post placement to add some extra bonding time), we decided to treat ourselves to a week of relaxing in the sun!

It was fabulous, as it gave me a chance to catch up on all the reading that I've been promising to do. I did feel a little odd lying by the pool next to people who were reading the latest Jackie Collins, whilst I was reading books about Therapeutic Parenting and Parenting Abused Children, but I don't think too many people noticed!

I read four books in total, well, three and a bit really as one annoyed me after the first five chapters as I decided it was just too negative for words, but I got lots from them all. Probably my favourite, and the one that I found easiest to read and most clarifying, was a book called "The boy who was raised as a dog" by Dr Bruce Perry, an American Child Psychiatrist.

The book isn't specifically about adoption, it's about his work with traumatised children, looking at what can be learnt about loss, love and healing. Dr Perry is an preeminent psychiatrist and has been called in to work with some of the most badly affected children, including children released from the Waco siege in Texas before the fire that killed all their relatives, children who have been satanically and sexually abused, children who have suffered the most severe neglect and children who have been affected by terrible violence. A jolly holiday read as you can tell! What the author was explaining, was how early years experiences have a direct effect on brain development, and therefore, even though some of the experiences would have happened in pre-verbal children, and children of an age too young for them to have any specific memory of the event(s), the trauma or neglect can be directly linked to elements of brain development, and will therefore unavoidably affect their own emotional and/or physical growth and development throughout the childhood and into their adult lives.

It's fair to say that the author only spoke about the very worst case examples, and with any luck, our own future child will not have suffered to such an extent, but the one thing we do know is that any child that has been removed from their birth family, will have suffered an emotional or physical trauma, and we have a responsibility to help that child, and understand the invisible damage that has already been done. In living memory, it was assumed that children were resilient, and would 'bounce back' from early childhood situations, what Dr Perry proves, is that this simply isn't true, and even the youngest baby will be in some affected by their early weeks of bad experiences.

Of course, we knew that already, indeed it had been the subject of a large part of the Prep group, but this really clarified a lot of that info for both G and me. Additionally, what it really demonstrated to us, was why it is so important that the adoption assessment process that we now found ourselves wrapped up in, is so thorough in exploring our lives to date. So many of the examples in Perry's book, can  be traced back to parents that just didn't know how to care, love or support their own child, because of their own previous life trauma's. It stands to reason that the social workers have to ensure that we have ourselves benefited from a warm and caring childhood, and that we have resolved any of our own life traumas, in order to be strong enough to care for a child, especially a child that will already have had at least one experience of major trauma, just by being removed from their birth parents.

The reassuring thing about this book however, unlike some of the other books I've read, is that it was positively talking about some of the work that can be done with these children, to help them to recover from their early experiences. Perry says:

"Ultimately, what determines how children survive trauma, physically, emotionally or psychologically, is whether the people around them - particularly the adults they should be able to trust and rely upon - stand by them with love, support and encouragement. Fire can warm or consume, water can quench or drown, wind can caress or cut. And so it is with human relationships, we can both create and destroy, nurture and terrorise, traumatise and heal each other.

Currently, there is little we can do to change a child's genes, temperament, or brain processing speed, but we can make a difference in their caregiving and social environment. Many of the traumatised children I have worked with who have made significant progress, report having had at least one supportive adult in their life. Even the smallest gesture can sometimes make the difference to a child whose brain is hungry for affection.

The more healthy relationships a child has, the more likely he will be to recover from trauma, and thrive. Relationships are the agents of change and the most powerful therapy is human love."

The reason I found this so encouraging, is that so many of the books I've read so far, have focussed on the unquestionable challenges that adoptive parenthood is going to throw at us, but very few (if any) have looked at the possible outcomes that we may just be able to achieve through providing a child with a new forever family. Dr Perry's research really gave us both some hope, that our love and guidance and support can actually make a difference.

Our holiday was mainly spent discussing adoption matters and thinking about our future life. It was really lovely to have the time away from everything to really chat about things, it did make us question however, what we talked about this time last year!!

In other news, we got back from holiday yesterday to find out from most of our referee's that they've received a letter from our social worker asking for their written references on us both, we've also had contact from our GP to make an appointment for our medicals. This was really exciting news as it shows us that things are all moving along nicely and that our local authority seem to be on top of things, which is good news.

And today we had a lovely afternoon out with all 12 members of our adoption prep group. It was really lovely to catch up with everyone, share stories, find out how the process is developing for everyone and generally just to offer one another some moral support. It's great to be able to do that with the people that truly understand what we're all going through at the moment. The good news is that everyone seems to be progressing well and we all seem to be working well with our respective social workers.

This week's home visit will just be for G - it's a one to one meeting looking at his life and relationships so far, and then next week I'll have my one to one meeting. I've been told that G can't really tell me what he does in his session, so that's a surprise for me next week, so I may not have much to add to the blog until after my visit next week.

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