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Paul and Maria

Adoptive parents Paul and Maria were at crisis point when they applied to the Adoption Support Fund for help with issues faced by their six-year-old son, Liam. Liam's behaviour had become increasingly challenging and he was frequently hitting, kicking and biting his mother. 

The couple had adopted Liam, along with his younger birth sibling, two years previously. Liam had always presented with some behavioural issues and during the summer of 2014 he experienced considerable regression resulting in his behaviour becoming very challenging and at times, violent. He was assessed by education professionals at the end of reception year as having a developmental delay of 12-18 months. His behaviour was also an issue at school to the extent that he could only manage in school on a part-time basis.

Paul and Maria were increasingly struggling to manage these behaviours and eventually approached their GP and Leeds Adoption Support Team for support.

Liam was presenting with trauma re-enactment and attachment issues and as he regressed, his behaviour became very challenging, particularly towards his adoptive mother whom he would frequently hit, kick and bite. On one occasion he hit his grandmother and would also hit complete strangers. 

Liam was reluctant to follow instructions or comply with even the simplest of requests and such requests could at times trigger outbursts and aggression. Liam's behaviour also impacted on his younger sibling and this was further complicated by the fact that the younger sibling had taken to winding Liam up, knowing this would trigger his outbursts. This also served to undermine Liam's attempts to regulate his behaviour. 

Paul and Maria admitted that his behaviour was impacting significantly on family life and relationships. The family sought advice from their GP and were referred to CAMHS but placed on a waiting list of three months. During that time and as their situation deteriorated, they sought out more specialist help and approached an independent practitioner for support.

This specialist help enabled them to understand the roots of Liam's behaviour and gave them approaches and strategies to implement with Liam to help him regulate his behaviours and raise his self-esteem. Paul and Maria were also provided with telephone support at times of crisis. This work was initially for ten sessions and the principles of the work were underpinned by Diadic Developmental Psychotherapy. 

In addition to this support, the family received ongoing help from Leeds Adoption Support Team. This included fortnightly telephone support, liaising with Liam's school and providing advice and strategies for staff, enabling Liam to settle in school and also arranging for Paul and Maria to complete SafeBase training.

The first block of sessions provided was funded by Leeds City Council. As these funded sessions drew to a close, it was noted that Liam was slowly beginning to respond to the sessions and was showing some improvement in some of his behaviours. He had also progressed to managing in school on a full time basis. At the same time, Paul and Maria were starting to gain confidence in implementing the strategies they had been given and were benefiting from the continuing telephone support from the adoption support team. 

It was felt that the therapy was at a crucial time in terms of Liam's progress and it would be detrimental to his development should it cease. The therapist forwarded a plan and a detailed costing of proposed further work with the family and an application for further funding was forwarded to the Adoption Support Fund.

The application was granted in August 2014. The support delivered from the Adoption Support Fund allowed further work to be carried out with Liam and built on the positive foundations laid down by the earlier work of the therapist and the adoption support team. The timelines in which the application was dealt with and approved meant Liam enjoyed an almost seamless continuation of support services.

Maria said: "Liam's first day back at school in September 2015 was the smoothest school journey/drop off we have ever had. We attribute this small but significant change in behaviour to the extensive transitional plan that the adoption support worker had implemented with school over the previous months and also to the ongoing work with the therapist which had been running concurrently."