Valerie and Saul

A local authority in the north of England has helped adopters Valerie and Saul access vital help from the Adoption Support Fund for issues faced by their teenage son T.

T was adopted when he was five years old. He had been placed with his adoptive parents the year before, aged four. T had lived with his birth parents and two siblings for the first two years of his life. After being removed from his birth family he lived in a foster placement for a further two years before moving in with Valerie and Saul.

T has special educational needs. He attends a local secondary school, but does so in the Access group, and even within this differentiated learning environment he struggles in all areas of the curriculum.

T had developmental delay with regard to his motor skills and speech and language that was attributed to the severe neglect he suffered in the first two years of his life. He was not given the opportunity to walk and talk and was instead left strapped in his pram, or left to the care of his siblings. His parents were believed to be using drugs and alcohol. The birth father physically assaulted the middle child and the injuries he sustained have left him with additional needs and disabilities.

Valerie and Saul became increasingly concerned that T's emotional wellbeing was deteriorating. He became increasingly angry and was expressing this more violently, mainly towards his mum in the form of shouting and swearing. He had even lashed out at her and punched her on the leg over seemingly minor issues.

On occasions he has demonstrated this behaviour towards Saul. He is generally less aggressive towards his dad but there was an incident last year where uncharacteristically, he violently challenged his dad and had to be physically stopped from repeating this. As well as becoming angry, T has always found it difficult to regulate other emotions. He very much feels the highs when he is pleased - his parents describe him as jumping around the room with happiness - but equally if he suffers a minor disappointment he could cry inconsolably. 

T has direct contact with his older brothers. His eldest brother is soon to be 18 and will be leaving his foster placement. This is a concern as T very much needs this direct contact, and his parents are worried that they may not be informed of where his sibling is living.

A therapist met with the family at home in June 2015. Over the course of his assessment he concluded that the primary cause of T’s difficulties are around emotional regulation and are probably rooted in his early life experiences. The therapist recommended therapeutic work based on Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP), this work is being conducted jointly between a social worker and therapist. 

The DDP sessions, paid for by the Adoption Support Fund, began in September 2015 and have taken place weekly with both parents, T, the psychologist and social worker. Before the sessions began the social worker completed some work with T about his worries. These were that he got angry and that he didn’t have many (if any) friends.The sessions have been prioritised by the family and they have all worked really hard to follow the DDP model.

The DDP work is helping with T's anger issues and his ability to recognise and regulate his emotions. During a session mum mentioned that T had shown an interest in attending a therapeutic residential camp. A subsequent application has been made to the Adoption Support Fund to secure funding for T to attend the residential camp which aims to improve family relationships and reduce social isolation.

Valerie was thrilled that for the first time T was starting to show some level of independence and age appropriate interest in social activities. Until now, all of T's social activities had either been led by his parents or involved them in some way.

Valerie and Saul are both really excited that T has developed the confidence to try something new, especially as it is away from home without knowing anyone. Until very recently, T needed his mum to check on him during the evening when he was in bed and this is occasionally still the case.

T has been very reluctant to try anything new; he finds changes to routine difficult and becomes anxious which he has previously acted out as aggressive or abusive behaviour. T is much less prone to these type of outbursts now, and not only can his parents trust him to be able to take part in this residential, the social worker feels that T trusts himself more as he begins to know how and why his body changes with his mood.