I spent yesterday in Hay-on-Wye in the company of a lovely group of adopters, foster carers and a certain Dr Vivien Norris (who is, in my humblest opinion, the kind of Consultant Clinical Psychologist that every adoptive family and foster family needs in their lives).
I presented a day based on my most recent book The Unofficial Guide to Adoptive Parenting, which is all about messy, lived experiences and getting it right some of the time and forgiving ourselves when we get it wrong. We talked about how much of the most difficult aspects of therapeutic parenting are not about delivering prescribed methods but about understanding our child’s inner narrative and experiences and going from there. We took a long look at how much of this style of parenting is about us, the parents, because it’s difficult, emotional, often provocative stuff, in which our own personal hopes, dreams and values our intricately bound up.
The reason I like getting out of my own domestic bubble is that I am reminded of what an valuable, enormous and often unsupported job adopters and foster carers do. Many of our children are hampered by what are, to most of the population, unimaginable levels of past neglect and abuse and parenting them requires great skill and fortitude. Yet we can find ourselves more than unsupported in our role, we can be criticised and blamed.
Of course it’s not all as grim as that. There are pockets of fabulous support within our local authorities, schools and NHS. But right now, it feels like that’s what they are: pockets.
Children are profoundly impacted by their experiences of neglect and abuse and they and those parenting them deserve and need far more compassion than appears to be on offer right now.
Thanks to everyone who came and engaged so honestly and with so much energy and humour yesterday.