Robert and Sarah

Adoptive parents Robert and Sarah have been struggling to deal with their daughter's increasingly difficult behaviour. The help they are receiving through the Adoption Support Fund means they are now more hopeful for the future. 

Sophie is a five-year-old girl who was found abandoned at two days old in a school bag. Despite efforts to trace her birth parents they were not found and there is therefore no information about her birth family. This is causing Sophie significant anxiety and is impacting on her emotional well-being and relationships with both her parents and her peers.

Robert and Sarah have been struggling to manage Sophie's increasingly challenging behaviour at home. She can be very loving at times but can quickly become physically aggressive towards her parents and has difficulty controlling her anger. Situations can quickly escalate into quite major tantrums if she gets upset. Sophie seems to struggle with anxiety, anger and shame if she is made to feel in the wrong. Her parents are also concerned that she has tried to harm herself on occasions. Although this is not regular behaviour, Sarah is concerned that it could escalate in the future. Sophie has also started to make a growling sound and will growl in people’s faces in a threatening way.

Sophie's behaviour can be particularly oppositional and controlling at home. She is described as being defiant and unable to follow instructions without a battle. She can be threatening to parents and other children, especially her brother. She calls people names and will kick and punch and throw things. She will tell other adults that she is going to punch or hurt them, although never has. She threatened to stab Sarah when she was just three years old. Robert and Sarah struggle to calm Sohpie down when she has worked herself into a rage and will take her away from the situation because she is unsafe to be left. Sophie struggles to control her anger and her behaviour can escalate very quickly if she gets upset. She has little sense of danger and will run ahead of her parents when they are out with little regard to their whereabouts. She will also frequently stop and refuse to move if she is unhappy about something. Robert and Sarah feel that this makes it impossible to take both children out as Sohpie's brother is only two and therefore needs a lot of supervision and guidance.

Robert and Sarah have been open with Sophie about her history and have shared her life story book with her. This has led to Sophie questioning who her birth mother is, and she will continually ask about strangers ‘is that my tummy mummy?’ She has also asked her father ‘Why didn’t my tummy mummy want me?’ Robert and Sarah feel that this has increased since her brother was placed as he has a great deal of information in his life story book whereas Sophie's has very little. Therapeutic input may be required to help Sophie to process the information she has and to help her to understand her history at an age appropriate level.

Robert and Sarah asked for help to understand Sophie’s anxiety, aggression and attachment difficulties. They wanted her to feel more secure with them.

It was felt that there needed to be a fuller assessment of her needs in order to determine what, if any, therapeutic support would be most beneficial for Sophie and the family as a whole. This work was carried out through a Developmental Trauma and Attachment Assessment, via Northamptonshire County Council, which assessed the impact on Sohpie of her history and the information shared with her, as well as the impact on her relationship with her parents.  

The assessment identified a therapeutic package of support. This includes intervention for reducing stress through mindfulness-based cognitive therapy. Robert and Sarah will also attend a Nurturing Attachments Group to increase their understanding of parenting a child who has experienced early childhood trauma. It is also planned that Sophie will have Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy once changes in parenting have been noted. This will be informed by an understanding of her life story to assist her in coming to terms with the losses in her life. Robert and Sarah now have a much clearer understanding of the impact of Sophie’s history and how this is affecting their relationship with her and feel less like parents who are just ‘getting it wrong’. 

Sarah said: “We have attended two sessions of 'mindfulness' so far. I feel like it is having an impact on our family life. We are going on holiday and I am really looking forward to going, usually I am full of dread for weeks before we go!  We feel much more hopeful as a family about the future.” 


 * All names have been changed to protect the family's identity.