The question 'What do you want from adoption support?" has been bandied around the Twittersphere a few times lately by different people. It's something that I've thought hard about but found it difficult to pin it down to one thing. We could all list many things we need and want all unique to our circumstances and needs.
I guess the primary functions of PAS is to support adoptive parents and to support adopted children. Added to that is the service offered to birth parents of adopted children as they try to reconnect post 18.
In the last few weeks we as a family decided that we needed to access our local authorities Post Adoption Support (PAS) services. It is over 7 years since we had our last significant contact but the purpose of this recent call has been to document some of our current experiences and initiate a formal assessment of our need. We have clear shopping list of what we need to enable us to remain safe and stable at this point in time. Realistic, pragmatic and achievable. We don't want parenting advice or referrals to therapeutic services as Mrs C and I have forged our own route in regard to this. Through our GP, LAC Paediatrician and the fearsome Mrs C's dogged determination we have very good therapeutic input.
We opted out of the whole Post Adoption Support system in 2008 for several reasons. The main one being the support we were given was the exact opposite of support, undermining our confidence and invalidating our experience and intuitive concerns for our child and ourselves. Secondly, we sought out a group of supportive, wise and experienced friends and drew them around us for support and lastly we had appropriate therapeutic support for the children.
In view of the above and the suspicion that we could do just as well as the SW we met we took it upon ourselves to learn all we could, however we could, from anyone who made sense.
Free training, bought training, Adoption Panel Training, Psychotherapist training (Mrs C) and Social Work Training (me). Books, internet, anything.
Sucking up everything we could that was helpful, and it was.
But considering what we want and what I hear people asking for the underlying principle is the need for validation.
Not to be dismissed with stock phrases we've all heard, "every child does that" "they're picking up on your anxiety". Words that undermine our perspective and invalidate our judgement.
Whether you're stumbling and anxious after 2 days into a placement of a 12 month old 'bundle of joy' or on the ropes after living 8 years with a child of 'pain and hurt'. Validating your experience, worries, concerns and anxiety is first step in meaningful and effective support.
The conclusion of all the training and experience that Mrs C and I have acquired is that we have validated our opinions, not only to ourselves but to those we meet.
However, on hard days sometimes all that dissolves and we falter. But to hear kind and gentle words of validation can rekindle hope. Every day on Twitter and Facebook I see the words of validation that are as affective support as you'll find anywhere.
The mutual support found online and in support groups is seeped in validation, sweeping away self doubt and questioning.
One of the most profound piece of support that we were ever given was during the days Gracie left home:
"Well done, you managed 15 years"
Words that validated and acknowledged our experience. Words that we hung onto and still do a year on.
I believe that validation is the foundation of support that we as adopters need.
Acknowledgement and giving value to our words, thoughts, worries, hopes and expectations seems rather cheap.
Odd that it seems in such short supply at times.