The parents in front of me are clearly distressed. The mother is recalling the history of their adopted child since the age of 2. Problems with eating, attachment problems, controlling behaviour, sudden aggressive and violent outbursts, struggling to progress in school, yet very charming and mostly displaying impressive behaviour in the presence of the professionals. The mother talks about her helplessness as she counts the number of mental health professionals that have already seen their adopted child. No significant or permanent changes, despite the multiple therapy sessions, consultations, diagnoses and medication. The father is obviously
grinding his teeth, clearly frustrated and concerned about his wife who is now starting to cry.
Adoption breakdowns are sadly all too common. Most children who are adopted have previously been in local authority care. They have often suffered neglect and abuse prior to being taken into care. These experiences, as well as losses suffered in the past, are bound to affect them after being placed for adoption.
Children act out their internal distress with multiple emotional and behavioural difficulties, which have a huge impact on their relationship with their adopters.
Although adoption support services are available, delays and inefficient help can cause more intense problems. Very often, despite all these resources, adoptions still break down, adopters are left hurt and disillusioned and children are returned to the local authority with even more intense emotional and behavioural problems.
Imagine ……… imagine that you are 15-years old. You are intensely aware of how you look, you are not sure who you are, your best friend has just taken your girlfriend, you hate your parents and your life, you are not doing well in school and then you have to have weekly therapy. In therapy you talk about your problems at school as long as you can and
then at the end the therapist helps you to reflect on your life story. When you leave you feel more trapped, more anxious than before and you are more angry and aggressive, which gets you into trouble and you are grounded again!
The pregnant mother on the other side of the room was gently stroking her bulging
abdomen, smiling, while connecting to her unborn baby. In the background the voice of the tutor was droning. I was oblivious of the content of the training. Specialising in attachment, I was fascinated by observing the mother-foetal attachment. Two months later, the same setting and the same seats. The mother opposite me was now cuddling her newborn baby who could not keep her eyes off her mother. The prolonged
staring, smiling stroking and cuddling emphasised the mother-infant attachment. There was a sense that the attachment was so special it could be seen and felt in the room. Once again I revelled in the healthy attachment relationship being formed in front of my eyes.