Q: “What does the Bermuda Triangle and our current Local Authority post adoption support services have in common?”
A: “Things disappear, and requests for help and support often go unheard, or responses are too late”
Let me start by saying that this post is not an attempt to criticise Post adoption Support agencies and what they offer, but more an attempt to highlight the changes Bumble and I have experienced in the services that are provided by Post Adoption Support services in our area at a time when there is a heavy emphasis on support packages being built into new placements from the very beginning.
Okay in the interest of not wanting to turn this post into a great big rant, let me break this down a little.
I do not mind admitting that at the time of the boys being placed with us officially (obviously they had been staying regularly during their respite stays), Bumble and I were only too aware that we were going to need a robust support package and for the best part of the first 4 years, that is what we experienced. The most important elements of support that Bumble and I found invaluable were:
- Access to training courses and annual adoption conferences
- Attachment training followed by access to a monthly support group facilitated by a very skilled SW and therapists, who provided a safe space for adopters to be open about their experiences and, where necessary, offer support and guidance free from judgement.
- Access and support from a simply wonderful SW who was always only a phone call, text message, or an email away, and who would always respond almost instantly, even if it is only to acknowledge the message and let you know that she would ring as soon as she could.
- The same SW would also be the first to ‘touch base’ if she did not hear from us for a period of time. Likewise she made every effort to support us at school meetings and offer valuable advice to both Bumble and I, as well as the boys’ schools on possible routes that could be taken to support everyone. In the event that she could not make a meeting then she would go out of her way to find a stand in for her.
- As a family unity we had an experienced and supportive DDP therapist working alongside us, enabling us to regain perspective even at the most painful times.
8 years down the road and theoretically the baseline of our post adoption support is still there, but it has changed. In the past, the support elements that I have already highlighted felt like a stable foundation and supportive level of scaffolding. Accessing support and feeling supported wasn’t something that we lost sleep over. While we were still had an uphill battle accessing services and interventions for the boys (particularly educational), knowing that we had someone and somewhere to turn to, gave us the strength to continue.
In recent years this has changed. With the introduction of the ASF and at the same time heavy budget cuts to local authorities seeing our own agency’s employees stretched beyond their physical and financial limits, accessing support has become an uphill challenge.
- While there is still a support group, it no longer feels like a place of support. The dynamics have changed and from a personal point of view it no longer provides the supportive platform/environment to be able to discuss difficult situations. The group no longer has a therapist in attendance at every session (if you are lucky there is one every 3rd or 4th session) and the group is more of a coffee morning chatter and issues are often minimised or dismissed.
- We do not have the relationship that we had with our original SW. Our current SW is overworked and there hasn’t been the opportunity, as before, to build a trusting relationship with her.
- Unless we going chasing our initial communications, we can go months without hearing from anyone – in fact the only times we have had contact from PAS is when I have been ruffling Waxy’s previous school’s feathers and they go complaining to her.
- And don’t even get me started on accessing the ASF!
Yes we still have the newsletters and they continue to recommend courses and conferences (at our own expense most of the time). They have their helpline which for some is useful, but not for someone who is barely ever on her own long enough to be able to have a private conversation detailing a problem, since Buzzbee is always with me.
I am at risk here of this #WASO post sounding like the selfish ranting of a tired and overwhelmed adopter who has spat her dummy, because she is no longer getting what she wants (at least that is how it is sounding to me while I read what I have written).
While it is clear that our experience of Post Adoption Support services has changed dramatically. Our day to day challenges, parenting two complex, traumatised and vulnerable young men hasn’t changed. The only difference is that before Bumble and I had the emotional and physical scaffolding available to us, giving us the much needed foundation which freed us up to support the boys emotionally, physically and therapeutically without burning out.
Recently I attended the DDP Connect UK Launch Day. I had the honour to listen to a wonderful presentation from a local authority agency, who have a couple of social workers who are DDP trained practitioners and provide therapeutic support to their adopters (they do not work with the children). From a personal perspective, providing a safe space for adopters to discuss challenges that they may be facing, offers parents an invaluable service, which in turn enables them to provide the support to their children, that is so desperately needed (if often unwanted).
In fact, they are providing their adopters with the same level of support that Bumble and I experience at the start of our journey as a family.
*Apologies if this post is a little manic and disjointed. My tired and stressed out brain is not working as well as it used to*