Sue and Sam

Adoptive parents Sue and Sam received help from the Adoption Support Fund for issues faced by their son, Matthew.

Matthew was presenting with very challenging aggressive behaviour and displaying attachment issues. He had grown up in a chaotic environment and had suffered neglect and physical abuse. He had also witnessed / heard one of his parents being abused by the other which led to feelings of insecurity. Matthew had a foster care placement with one of his siblings but a decision was made for a separate adoption from his siblings due to the attachment difficulties evident between them.

There were some very successful areas of the placement but Sue and Sam struggled with Matthew’s aggressive behaviour almost immediately. He kicked, hit and bit his parents as he was unsure of how to behave and relate to others in a positive way due to his chaotic upbringing.

Matthew was unable to regulate his emotions or verbalise his feelings. This led Sue and Sam to question their ability to support him and manage the situation.

An assessment of the family’s needs was completed early on by Birmingham City Council and it became clear that a high level of support was required immediately if the placement was to be successful. Therapeutic parenting support was identified as a priority. Sue and Sam needed guidance to ensure they didn’t bring about any shame for Matthew or trigger any abusive memories. Therapeutic parenting has helped the couple reflect on their style of parenting and identify the best approach to deal with Matthew’s unique needs. Therapy needed to be delivered to them as a unit to ensure that they are able to provide consistent care as a team.

Once Sue and Sam have reached a stage of readiness, therapy work with Matthew will be delivered to ensure that there is a supportive environment from which he can explore his history.

Having been able to access support from the fund at this early stage of placement the family have been able to explore and begin to put in place systems and structures that will allow for a greater sense of security for Matthew. The therapeutic reflective space created for Sue and Sam to hear each other and share ideas with a therapist has been incredibly beneficial. A safe place to explore how they can and need to parent together in a consistent manner that is rooted in attachment has seen almost immediate results.

The therapy has allowed Sue and Sam to understand and appropriately respond to child on parent violence which has given them confidence in their capacity to parent and manage the situation. With this confidence from his parents, Matthew has developed a greater sense of security in the family and is making progress in expressing himself and showing an interest in understanding his personal journey. This is an outcome that, had the Adoption Support Fund not been accessible at this early stage, may not have occurred until much later if at all as there was a risk that either the child or the adoptive parents would have emotionally shut down.

A spokesman for Birmingham City Council said: “This early intervention has been really successful for the entire family. The parents have valued the therapeutic space and there is noticeably greater stability in the placement. The child has a greater sense of security which has allowed progress and ability for them to share and seek help in understanding their journey at a significantly earlier stage than anyone would have anticipated.”

The therapist said:"The use of a parent consultation model to introduce Filial principles has proved extremely helpful in supporting and containing the child in the early stages of placement and has helped to increase the parent’s attunement to the child's particular and not insignificant needs. The move to a Filial Therapy (Gurney Model) intervention is a very natural progression and ensures parents are confident and supported in helping the child process his pre-care experiences with them in metaphor symbol and words, which serves to keep the process child centred and safe."