After several months’ almost total abstinence, it is a crying shame (emphasis on the crying) to revisit me old bloglet for this reason, but as it says on the tin, this week was our final session at Family Futures, and I feel the occasion should be marked.
We first went there in the spring of 2011, when our Blueboy’s behaviour had become so disturbing that we realised we just couldn’t cope. CAMHS, who we were already seeing then, had been little or no help, focussing as they did on our parenting and his behaviour rather than the root causes: a potent cocktail of trauma, neglect, 5 primary carers by the age of 3, a brain wired for stress with a dash of ADHD, all vigorously shaken with a strong personality and resulting in an overwhelming need to control. In desperation, we rang Adoption UK and were put in touch with one of their parent consultants, the altogether excellent Carol Green.
We wondered if our situation was just par for the adoptive course. She begged to differ. Following her suggestions, several articles we’d read in Adoption Today and the very inspiring BBC documentary A Home for Maisie, we contacted Family Futures and arranged to meet with Alan Burnell. The feeling of relief that followed that first visit has stayed with us to this day. The Wave and I were so grateful to be finally and fully listened to and understood by a professional, in a beautiful light and airy building full of gentle, smiling people, uplifting images, inspiring messages and comfy cushions, we knew there and then that this was where we wanted to be.
CAMHS, please take note.
Our therapeutic journey began and was peppered with some very rigorous assessments, huge wads of questionnaires, psychometric, paediatric and cortisol testing of the children, which have been repeated at various stages since. There was no psychiatric assessment because our LA wouldn’t pay for Family Futures to do it and CAMHS wouldn’t agree to do it now that Blue was not their patient – groan.
Still, once we’d been (almost fully) assessed, we immediately appreciated the extraordinary levels of care and apparently infinite flexibility of everyone at Family Futures – from the diary arranged and rearranged to suit our needs (and sometimes our uselessness), sessions started and finished in the car park to stop Blue running away or just to eek out every precious moment, rose and geranium aromatherapy oils burning in themed therapy rooms; delicious snacks, the World’s Best Coffee and even meals provided if necessary. The sessions were mostly dyadic (parent and child with therapist in PLACE mode) and holistic using all sorts of sensory integration tools and techniques (weighted blankets, yoga, visualisations, therapy brushes, bouncy balls, pull-up bars, aromatherapy) and creative methods (drama, dance, art, design, construction, storytelling, video, roleplay, puppetry) to guide us gently into their very well-researched, challenging and revealing life-story work.
Eventually, in December 2012, all this goodness led to Blue disclosing some tragic, shocking and completely credible new information about his past, for which we will always be grateful to Jay, his wonderful therapist. That new information was and is sensitive. It has made blog writing, which I had hitherto enjoyed in a spirit of openness and honesty, very challenging indeed. And if it is a challenge for me, what must it be like for Blue who lives and is reminded of it every day? Still, better out than in and although he probably doesn’t know it yet, we trust that Blue’s life will eventually become easier for the sharing.
Unfortunately, any progress we made within the therapy room was constantly hauled back by the funding battles that waged heavily outside it and that fight has taken its toll. It will be no surprise to many that the children’s original (Northern Metropolitan) local authority and our own Verdant Royal Borough could not agree on financial responsibility. It was only when child protection teams became involved and lives (for which read ‘jobs’) were put at risk that the funding flowed freely. Once Blue started to benefit from the therapy, in December 2013, all the plugs were pulled. We had apparently had ‘more than our fair share’ and must continue with CAMHS or nothing.
At that point, of course, Blue’s behaviour degenerated again (we have visited A&E three times since Christmas, all self-harm related incidents). He doesn’t need another loss. At almost 11, he is about to change schools and plunge headlong into puberty, only to be reminded again of all his early transitions and other past horrors. As far as our local authority is concerned, all that’s as maybe. He will meet his new CAMHS therapist in a week’s time.
We can only hope that the good work done at Family Futures will stand us all in good stead. Blue is a charming, intelligent and talented boy and he’s much better at talking through his feelings than he ever was before. He still dysregulates if he is nervous or excited, regularly soils, refuses to eat and cannot sleep when stressed, reacts aggressively to ‘no’ and manipulates others to feel strong. It’s never going to be easy, but it’s a lot better than it was.
So thank you Family Futures. We have learned a lot about acceptance, empathy and playfulness from you. We’ve really appreciated your warmth, commitment, creativity and professionalism. And we will never forget what you have done for our family in terms of attachment. If only all post-adoption support could be that good…