Tag Archives: adoption

Adopting: real life stories

img_5015

 

I was a bit surprised when this book first dropped through my letter box. I hadn’t offered to review it and so for a while it lay on a very tall pile of “books to read when I have some spare time”. But of course the title should have given it away…

If anyone was thinking that love is all that’s needed, or was tempted ever to say that “all kids do that”, then this is a book for them! Not that it’s all doom and gloom by any means. Adoption stories are statistically more often positive and affirming, but it is a sad fact that as many as a third of families will experience real struggles (see Beyond the Adoption Order) and Ann Morris quietly and without drama shows us both sides of the coin.

She brings us voices of both adoptive and birth parents, as well as some of the children themselves. From thinking about adoption – and the advice that was given – through to children reaching adulthood or sadly moving out of the home for other reasons; adopting children with special needs, thinking about particular issues such as race and religion and different models of parenting; understanding attachment and how this plays out in school as well as in the home … it is hard to think of topics that have not been covered, or questions unanswered. Strikingly, many of the stories involve difficult to understand behaviour: behaviour that tests and sometimes breaks relationships. Behaviour that is violent and abusive. Sometimes it is portrayed as a response to early trauma or to damage in utero, sometimes a deliberate and calculated attempt to establish control within the home. It is heartening to read of the advice and support that many parents were able to access, and the way a transformation was achieved; but the pain of those simply struggling through each day, or recounting the decision to bring an end to the relationship, is tangible and a challenge to all those working in the field of adoption support.

Marketed at adoptive and prospective adoptive parents, counsellors and social workers, and others working placing children in families, its real importance is in bringing us the voice of the real experts: those who have already walked the journey.

With a foreword by Hugh Thornberry (former Chief Executive of Adoption UK), this is the second book by Ann Morris documenting the experiences of adoptive families. The first was written around 20 years ago and much has changed in that time in terms of legislation, practice and understanding.

Adopting: real life stories, 2017, Ann Morris, Jessica Kingsley Publishers. ISBN: 978-1-84905-660-1

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Book review

#CPV: What does it look like, part 2. Intent stuff

One of the issues that makes it difficult for us all to talk about child to parent violence and abuse is the fact that there is no one agreed definition. The one I tend to use when speaking to people is that proposed by Amanda Holt:

“A pattern of behaviour, instigated by a child or young person, which involves using verbal, financial, physical and /or emotional means to practice power and exert control over a parent”, and “the power that is practised is, to some extent, intentional, and the control that is exerted over a parent is achieved through fear, such that a parent unhealthily adapts his / her own behaviour to accommodate the child.”

For me this seems to be broad enough, while encompassing the main features of what I am thinking and talking about. It builds on and refines earlier definitions that have been proposed. But the more I speak with other people, the more I realise that everyone’s experience is different and there are many, many parents who experience something that looks and feels very similar without necessarily ticking all the boxes. I wrote about this most recently in a post at the end of March, when I started thinking about the boundaries and edges of the definition we use. This is an issue that troubles me because it seems that a lot hangs on how readily we start to bring different aspects of violent behaviour into the CPV camp. Today I want to think about intent more specifically, and I hope that you will feel free to join in the conversation in the comments section.

A couple of months ago, Al Coates posted about the definition of child to parent violence, following discussion with other members of the adoptive community, some of whom felt unsure that perhaps theirs “didn’t count”. He and Dr Wendy Thorley further grapple with the discussion in their final paper about Adoption and CPV. The question of intent can be tricky, as parents may talk about a child sometimes acting out of frustration or trauma, and at other times choosing very deliberately to hit in a controlled way.

Consider this family …

 

A child in crisis, or triggered by a particular situation, dysregulated, out of touch with all going on around them, may cause a great deal of harm to their surroundings, to those around them whether adults, other children or animals, and also to themselves. That is not to say that, in that moment, those around them will not experience the violence, terror even, and find themselves forced to change their own behaviour, then and in the long term. But the element of intent is surely absent.

Another child – and perhaps even that same child – may on another occasion, show remarkable discernment and control in the manner in which they choose to act. They may target precious possessions in their rages, they may choose words they know will cause the most hurt, they may kick where there are already bruises.

 

As we learn more about the families who are experiencing violence and abuse, we see a huge range of issues which can contribute to the abuse, often layer upon layer in one child or family. As we start to think about responses, we need to unpick these issues. Different approaches for different situations; a trauma-informed response here, a behaviour oriented response there. Elements of each in different situations? There is certainly no blanket “one size fits all” answer.

Why does a definition matter? Are we simply being pedantic by arguing about intent? In a fast developing field such as child to parent violence, where knowledge and understanding is growing all the time, is it not inevitable that definitions are refined? Well, yes! But in a fast developing field it is also important that we know what we are talking about; that people sharing knowledge are talking about the same things; that parents can feel confident about asking for help and believing they will be understood; that services designed in response are fit for purpose and meet the needs of those they seek to serve. It can be a tremendous step for a parent to finally acknowledge the violence being committed within their own family. What may seem obvious to those outside, can still be passed off as “normal” teenage behaviour, or as something that is somehow deserved, by those on the receiving end. Shame, stigma, and ignorance all contribute to parents not identifying their situation to themselves or others.

As the conversation gets louder, and more people start to identify what they experience themselves as CPV we need to be sure we have got it right for them, right from the start.

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under Discussion

Non-Violent Resistance, a review of one day training

This post was written for The Adoption Social website by Sarah last week, and I have reposted it here with permission. I know that there are many ‘views’ of this site in respect of NVR, and so I hope it will be useful. Similarly, if you have an interest in adoption matters, The Adoption Social is an important and valuable resource.

Sarah from The Puffin Diaries shares her thoughts on a Non-Violent Resistance course she attended.

Recently my husband and I attended a course based on the practice of NVR, Non-Violent Resistance. This course was hosted by PAC and delivered by Rachael Alymer of Partnership Projects.

The first thing that struck myself, my husband and indeed many others, was that we were a room, full with over thirty people and everyone of us had experienced violence from their child. This in its self had a huge impact on many of us; there was an instant feeling of not being alone. Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Training opportunities