Thursday, 11 November 2010

Being an advocate for your child.

The adoption preparation groups seemed so long ago once Little Bear was placed and eventually adopted by us, and although some of the information imparted has been lost in the passage of time, one thing still stands out today.
"You must be prepared to be an advocate for your child."

At the time I didn't realise quite how important this phrase would come to be. I heard it and my initial response was "well of course any parent worth their salt is prepared to be their child's advocate, surely?" and of course this is true. It is particularly true when children have additional medical/emotional/learning needs to be considered a parent needs to make their voice heard.

When a baby is born there is a possibility that at some point in the future this child may/may not require additional support in some way.

When a child is placed for adoption there is a likelihood that this child will require additional support in some way. 

All adopted children are affected by their experience. There has been a lot of research into the effect of the separation from the birth mother, and one particularly famous work worth mentioning is Nancy Verrier's Primal Wound. In which she states:

Many doctors and psychologists now understand that bonding doesn’t begin at birth, but is a continuum of physiological, psychological, and spiritual events which begin in utero and continue throughout the postnatal bonding period. When this natural evolution is interrupted by a postnatal separation from the biological mother, the resultant experience of abandonment and loss is indelibly imprinted upon the unconscious minds of these children, causing that which I call the “primal wound.” (Verrier, 1993, p. 1)

This means that even children removed at birth (or reliquished which is very rare in this country today) are affected by their experience. They may stay with one foster carer or move around. In the early stages they would still be having contact sessions with their birth parents, birth mum may be being assessed to check her suitability to parent the child. All necessary parts of the process but all adding to the separation.

If this is the experience of an infant who has never lived with his/her birth parent one must then consider the children who do have cognitive memories of their birth parents both positive and negative memories.

Adopted children need to be loved but more importantly they need to be valued and accepted and as adoptive parents we are the people to do that. We not only need to value and accept the lovely and happy things that they do as children but also accept the negative aspects of their behaviour, being forever available to them and willing to help them to make sense of themselves and value who they are.

It's a tough call. It is hard to be the parent of a child who hits, bites and spits, even though you are fully aware of the reasons behind these behaviours. It requires an inner strength to stand in the playground and watch all the other Mums in their little groups and know full well that you will never be going 'round to play' with your child at their house. It requires one to 'grow a backbone'! I hate confrontation and I am by nature a people pleaser so this has not come naturally to me.

I am more than willing, as the person who knows my child the best, to say "You are brilliant, capable, clever, loving and I am proud of you, no matter what I will love you." I am also the first one to explain why a certain behaviour was wrong and to help my child find ways to recognise and manage his fear/frustration/sadness/anger. To go to meetings in school, with adoption support, with the Educational Psychologist and say "This is how I think Little Bear was feeling in that situation, how can you help us to manage it?"

According to the Educational Psychologist, it is looking far more likely that Little Bear will go through a full assessment for an Autistic Spectrum Disorder. This is after my persistance with research and discussion with his teachers. 

For Little Bear to go into the world and be the very best that he can possibly be he needs to trust the adults around him. He has to be able to trust that we as his parents will never leave or give up on him no matter what.  He slso needs to trust that his teachers, teaching assistants and even dinner ladies can see him as a whole child, his good and his not so go behaviours.

Some very good friends of ours (who are themselves adoptive parents) played us this song a long time ago, it never fails to bring a tear to my eye.
"This Is To Mother You"

This is to mother you
To comfort you and get you through
Through when your nights are lonely
Through when your dreams are only blue
This is to mother you
This is to be with you
To hold you and to kiss you too
For when you need me I will do
What your own mother *couldn't do
Which is to mother you

All the pain that you have known
All the violence in your soul
All the 'wrong' things you have done
I will take from you when I come
All mistakes made in distress
All your unhappiness
I will take away with my kiss, yes
I will give you tenderness

For child I am so glad I've found you
Although my arms have always been around you
Sweet bird although you did not see me
I saw you

And I'm here to mother you
To comfort you and get you through
Through when your nights are lonely
Through when your dreams are only blue
This is to mother you

*I have substituted couldn't for didn't as in our case this is a far more appropriate word.

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