Bethany and Claire's story
Bethany was taken into care shortly after she was born and was adopted by Claire when she was 18-months old.
Because of her birth mother’s significant alcohol consumption during pregnancy, Bethany was born with a range of physical and neurological birth defects – a life-long condition known as Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS).
Bethany had poor muscle tone, delayed speech and, most challenging for single adopter Claire to manage, sensory processing difficulties which resulted in significant behavioural issues. Bethany’s sensitivity to noise, light and touch meant she particularly struggled to cope in busy public places and having to avoid these environments meant Claire and Bethany were becoming isolated. Day-to-day life was increasingly difficult and Claire didn’t know how best to help Bethany.
But their lives were transformed when Claire accessed support from an Occupational Therapist through the Adoption Support Fund.
Launched in 2015, the Adoption Support Fund was campaigned for and informed by Adoption UK.It is a commitment by the government in England to provide adoptive families with vital post-adoption support services; something which had previously been severely lacking and impacting on the success of adoptive placements. £19 million was ring-fenced to the Fund which has supported over 7,000 families. The Fund has since been increased to £23 million per year.
The Adoption Support Fund paid for an Occupational Therapist to visit and work with Bethany once a week. This specialist support dramatically improved Bethany’s speech, enabling her to successfully communicate with her mum Claire. Specially-tailored exercises helped develop Bethany’s muscle tone which enabled her to lift a spoon to her mouth and begin feeding herself independently. The Occupational Therapist also worked closely with Claire, helping her understand how Bethany experiences the world around her and how best to support her.
“It was the best thing we’ve ever done" explains Claire. "Our social worker says Bethany is a different child to who she was prior to us accessing support through the Adoption Support Fund.”
Life has improved dramatically for Bethany but it's still not without its challenges, especially around Christmas. "Noise is still an issue for Bethany," Claire explained, "we attempted the Christmas carols earlier this month but it was too much for her so we left five minutes in.
"Bethany's very frightened of the idea of a stranger coming into our house delivering presents so we don't do Father Christmas. This isn't necessarily a bad thing though as I'm constantly telling her not to speak to, or accept gifts, from strangers - so there would be mixed messages if we promoted Santa."
Claire added: "We tend to keep Christmas low-key, without lots of presents as she can find the whole thing overwhelming because of the hype and expectation."
Christmas time can be particularly difficult for adopted children – far from being magical and peaceful; the hype, pressure to socialise and change in routine can trigger emotions and memories that are scary and overwhelming.