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Parenting From a Distance

Parenting From a Distance

Today I’m going to visit my daughter. She’s nine but emotionally more like five due to the trauma she suffered in her early years. I won’t go into the details as it’s her story but, it is safe to say it has affected her deeply. She came to live with us age 4; a tiny, chatty cute looking thing with a dimple on her chin and her hair in bunches.

Freya (not her real name) now attends a therapeutic residential school especially for adopted and fostered children with emotional and behavioural problems. For five years we tried to integrate her into our family but it was not to be.

We are experienced parents; we have an older daughter who is ours biologically and prior to that my husband and I ran youth clubs for children and young people. We thought we were ideal candidates to adopt a child who needed some love. But love isn’t what it’s all about. Children deeply affected by trauma struggle to accept love; deep in their souls it’s what they really need but their experiences mean that they can’t accept it.

Freya has been poorly this week; she’s had a trip to the hospital, a doctor’s appointment and an emergency visit to the dentist to repair a broken tooth. My mummy instinct wants to gather her up in my arms, give her a big hug and tell her that everything’s going to be okay. But I can’t.

Instead, I spoke to her on the phone. She described in detail how she wanted to kill me. I talked about the weather and about what her teddies had been up to in her bedroom and how they were looking forward to her next weekend home.

Earlier this week I was stood chatting to our handyman at work. He had a stanley knife in his hand. I had to walk away. Knives are a primitive form of attack; my girl isn’t wordly wise and stabbing indiscriminately with a knife is probably as far as her imagination can stretch. I’m quivering now just thinking about it.

My visit to Freya this afternoon will consist of me desperate to hear about her experiences this week, needing to empathise with her feeling ill and showing concern for her broken tooth. I’d love to wrap her in a blanket, snuggle up on the sofa and watch a film with her……..

Freya will be defiant, angry and unable to tolerate me being near her. I might manage to get into the same room as her and we’ll have a trained and experienced chaperone to help to keep us both safe. If I’m lucky I’ll stay for tea with her and her other housemates. As a stranger they’ll be desperate for my attention, clambering to tell me their story and inside hugely anxious, wondering if I’m there to take them away.

I’m totally in awe of the work undertaken in the community where Freya lives. The staff are dedicated to these children who have been through some terrible times and as such have extreme ways of protecting themselves. The difference is that there is no pressure; there are no mums and dads, people that have subjected them to awful situations in the past, no educational targets and no “tick-box” Government directed process to follow. The plan for every child is individual to them and the outcomes are good. The staff, in some ways are lifesavers….but they get to go home after each shift and have regular supervision with time to stop and reflect.

I’m part of a group of other adopters and we all support each other. Many of the adoptees are older than Freya and the future is scary. This week I have heard of an adoptee who had been shot in the leg. He texted his adoptive parents pictures and then disappeared and hasn’t been seen since. It’s a surreal world that we live in with little support from overstretched authorities.

You may have read in the news recently about two of the young people accused of the Parsons Green bombing earlier this month. They were fostered by a couple who have fostered hundreds of children since the 1970s and who were both appointed MBEs for their services to children and families.

These are ordinary people doing a difficult and essential job and deserve our support. Quite often adopters and foster carers are overlooked. The public don’t know the full story about their children and perhaps label them as “naughty” or “violent”. Sometimes we are wary of connecting with them, often through fear of not knowing what to say and these people become very lonely in their surreal world that others struggle to comprehend. From my own experience, an offer of a cup of coffee or a walk in the park would make a huge difference.

A Guest Blog from an Anonymous Writer

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  1. Rachael Duggan
    September 27, 2017 / 7:50 am

    So, so brave. There are two adoptions both within current and historical parts of my extended family and although not ‘straightforward’, I know that neither child arrived traumatised and troubled. So thank you for what you do. We salute you.

  2. Laura Pickering
    September 27, 2017 / 1:59 pm

    so so sad! Its nothing compared to this story but we are just about to go through the courts for the 3rd time in an effort to keep our son (my step son_ safe and away from his mother an alcoholic with mental illness. Our son (age 8) is showing signs of emotional damage that can infict a child with a troubled parent.
    You sound like the most incredible loving, realistic and supportive mother/lady and I would love to take a walk with you and have a cup of coffee. I hope that the school continues to help your daughter and all of the other little ones there. xx

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