In 2000 my darling husband and I started seriously thinking and working toward adoption to start our family. At the time I worked in an Assessment/Day Treatment program for preschoolers with social/emotional/behavioural issues. I would go into work and sit in clinical meetings and while the people I worked with were amazing and dedicated and knowledgeable and deeply dedicated to helping children and their families – they also seemed resigned to the idea that our very young kids were often destined to a lifetime of misery no matter what we did for them in early intervention. Many of our kids were in foster care (or on the brink of going into care) and my colleagues often proclaimed they were damaged and “unadoptable”. I couldn’t reconcile this. To dedicate your life to these children, to witness the delight my colleagues took in the escapades of our young charges only to turn around and declare such doom and gloom for the future of the very young.
When my Manager heard that we were taking the adoption classes in 2001 she congratulated me and wished me well but seemed guarded. When I told her we were looking to adopt a slightly older child (3 to 5 was our preferred age range but we would have looked at older) she tried gently to talk me out of it but stopped short of being offensive.
She did however give me a copy of “Adopting the Hurt Child” by Keck and Kupecky
The current title includes the words Hope for Families with Special-Needs Kids but I don’t remember those words being there originally, if it had I think I would have been thankful rather than put off by the gesture. Because to me I was surrounded by people that seemed to think I had lost my mind. I have said it before and I will say it again
We did not go into adoption thinking it would be easy, not by a long shot
But these people, my co-workers, they had seen a lot of really hard and serious stuff in their many years experience. I was young and eager and not as experienced. I wouldn’t say I was naive but I think my co-workers just wanted to protect me from the very hard road they knew we would be travelling.
So the title of my post is “Confession” and this is where I divulge it:
I adopted a child at the age of 3.5 who we now understand had severe attachment issues but we forged it ALONE without therapy or guidance on what to do. I purposely avoided reading books and blogs and websites about attachment even though I KNEW good/secure attachment is the foundation for everything else in life.
Let me explain
During the Adoption disclosure process C had a Psychological Evaluation. At the feedback I specifically asked about his attachment and we were told that it was obvious he had been fortunate to form some attachments in his young life. After that – I tucked away the attachment piece and rarely looked at it.
I mean – I knew at a deep level the attachment issues would colour his world. How could they not? He had multiple disruptions and had experienced significant neglect (the extent of which we would not understand until much later).
But no one in our community mental health systems seemed to know anything about it – the one social worker actually said to me, even though I informed her SEVERAL times that he was three and a half when we first met him and had serious and significant disturbances in his attachment – she said “oh but surely he doesn’t remember any of that”
that was in 2004 and I kid you not people
I knew she was wrong and ill informed but I got tired of trying to find someone who would understand and help us.
Over the years the topic of his attachment has been brought up and waved around but never really addressed. We forged ahead on our own. We focused on his Tourette’s, his ADHD, his learning issues, his anxiety and his OCD, his Asperger’s and his BiPolar but no where along the way did we really look at his attachment.
I wanted to but I only wanted to with experienced and knowledgeable people.
I had read many books and websites and blogs that scared the crap out of me. People being told to hurt, shame and/or punish their children for things that I knew in my core were not the child’s fault. Tactics that were not well researched or proven were being touted as “cures”.
And overall people were not optimistic about our traumatized children. All I knew was that I could not, would not purposely contribute to further traumatizing of my child.
I had not heard of therapeutic parenting
I eventually found Collaborative Problem Solving and
I went to some adoption conferences and training
We did the best we could at home
and boy was it hard
But that’s my confession
And if I could give just ONE piece of advice (which I don’t tend to give and only if asked) to adoptive parents who are just starting out it would be to find someone who is trained and extremely knowledgeable about attachment and adoption issues. Make sure that therapist is a good fit for your family because there are times where you will rely heavily on them.
I look at C, especially the past few weeks, particularly after I finished the Circle of Security attachment group and I am amazed at his progress. I am amazed by mine. I am also amazed by my husband’s progress – he was unable to travel to CPRI with me to take the group but he has listened as I do my best to describe things. He’s putting them to work and he’s even reminding me at times when I forget.
I try not to feel too sad that we didn’t have this earlier. I try not to feel bitter that for so long I was just flying by the seat of my pants. And now that its not all as scary and horrible as it used to seem I am reading about attachment (books and blogs) and I’m reaching out to others.
It’s nice to not feel alone anymore.