I am on a soapbox today. Don’t let any professional tell you that you are a bad parent because you need a break from your traumatized, attachment challenged child or if you think your child’s behavior is unsafe at home. If your adopted child is tantrumming, self- and other-harming, ruling the roost, and challenging your authority at every turn out of fear related to his/her difficult beginnings, you may be suffering from Secondary Posttraumatic Stress. There is even something called Post Adoption Stress. These are real experiences of loving parents everywhere who have adopted hurt and wounded children. It is phenomenally difficult to maintain one’s sanity while trying to heal these scared, scarred, and reactive little (and big) children. Unfortunately, because there are not enough respite resources and money to pay for consistent, competent childcare, adoptive parents fall prey to illness from stress–posttraumatic, post adoption stress.
Compounding the problem, if you happen to have trauma in your own childhood narrative, the likelihood of you coming down with a stress illness from the prolonged duress of raising challenging children is exponential. If you doubt me, check out Dr. Nadine Burke Harris’s short TED Talk to hear the truth, THE EVIDENCE, about adverse childhood experiences (ACES) on all humans, children and parents alike.
It seems child welfare professionals (not individuals necessarily, but collectively) are having difficulty holding the dialect that loving parents are still loving parents when they get stressed out. Loving parents can break down. Breaking down does not mean one should not continue being a parent. It may mean child welfare agencies need to step it up. STEP IT UP! Stop withholding funding, permissions, resources. Stop putting parents down and holding them back. STEP IT UP with more support directly into the purses of the parents who are ragged under the weight of trying to get what is needed for their children.
I am very deeply concerned that adoptive parents are being blamed by agencies, social welfare services, and adoption support organizations for not being able to whether the ill effects of childhood abuses on their adoptive children. Adoptive parents are getting the shaft, taken to task, called up on CPS charges, blamed in WRAP team meetings, and getting scorched and scorned behind closed clinical doors (where the motto is supposed to be “nothing about them–parents/children–without them.) This is happening simply because the adoptive parent ends up having posttraumatic symptoms directly resultant from the prolonged reactive, stressful behavior on their own brain functions. That was an ineloquent set of sentences, and I don’t give a care. I mean every awkward word.
My views on this do not make me the most popular person in power’s that be circles and I can’t care about that more than I care about the families I see every day in my practice who are hurting and desperate for help. I am not blaming the system. I want to change the system. I believe it has lost its collective way under the misguided belief that evidence-based interventions must all be tried and failed before creative, holistic ideas can be considered. We need to pull our heads out of…the sand.
I am calling for a revolution in post adoption services, a la Bernie Sanders and Black Lives Matter. If $10,000 per month can be given by a county to a WRAP program to have meeting after meeting after meeting after meeting to no solid, tangible, evidence-based result for adoptive children, then adoptive parents ought to be given a shot at the same amount of money each month to acquire real, therapeutically trained, in-home supports that will actually help with the stress, remove some of the barriers to therapeutic attachment, and soothe the frayed nerves of adoptive parents who want nothing more than to be the loving, healing agents of change their children need.
Ce Eshelman, LMFT is an attachment therapist, adoptive mother, stepmother, guardian mother, dog/cat mother, grandmother, not her husband’s mother, and author of:
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