Adoption and Fostering
Taking someone else's child into your family can be enormously rewarding. It can also be extremely hard work. All children who are adopted or fostered have suffered the pain of separation from their birth mum. Many have also endured neglect, abuse, insecurity, fear and multiple changes of care giver. These emotional hurts leave scars which can cause problems ordinary parenting books don't cover but which experienced adopters and foster carers know well. Fortunately it's possible to benefit from their experience via books and support groups to help you decide which child or children will fit best into your family and to help them settle once they have arrived.
First Steps in Parenting the Child that Hurts: Tiddlers and Toddlers
by Caroline Archer (Jessica Kingsley Publishers)
This excellent book looks at the attachment and development of very young children in the fostering and adoption situation. It deals sensitively and practically with the young child's 'hurts' to help adopters and foster carers understand and cope with the many traumas they may experience in integrating a young child into their family. Caroline Archer is a real adoptive parent speaking from experience so this book provides good, practical advice and encouragement for the mothering figure when things are not following the normal attachment and development patterns. A major good point is her emphasis on looking after yourself - you only need to be 'a good enough parent - not perfect'. Its wealth of sensitive information and advice makes it an extremely useful book to read as a preparation for adoption or fostering and to keep on hand to dip into when problems arise. If you are only starting to consider adopting, you may like to follow the author's suggestion and skip the section on 'The Effects and Trauma on Attachment and Development' on your first reading - it's quite heavy going and is probably best read after the positive suggestions for overcoming problems which come later in the book.
This highly readable book is highly recommended for everyone fostering or adopting very young children.
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in Parenting the Child that Hurts: Tykes and Teens
by Caroline Archer
(Jessica Kingsley Publishers)
Caroline Archer is a member of the support group for adopters, Adoption UK, as well as an adoptive parent herself. As a result, this book is geared particularly to the needs of parents coping with difficult adopted or fostered children but it is equally suitable for step parents and others whose children present challenging behaviour.
This is a clear, sensitive and extremely practical handbook which looks at the reasons behind difficult behaviour, especially the effects of early trauma in a child's life, as well as suggesting strategies for dealing with it. The issues covered include bedwetting, anger, lying and stealing as well as drug abuse, risk taking and self injury. There is also excellent advice on continuing to parent even when the circumstances mean your child no longer lives at home.
The practical suggestions include ways of looking after yourself and the rest of the family as well as ways to help the child who hurts. There can't be many other books on parenting that cover sleeping with your purse under your pillow and discuss the problems of visiting your child in prison. The accompanying cartoon style illustrations aptly depict the hurting child as a hedgehog - prickly on the outside but soft in the middle.
This is a must-have book for adopters and foster carers and is also highly recommended for ordinary parents and step-parents whose children hurt for other reasons. If you are only in the early stages of considering adopting or fostering, it may open your eyes to issues you have not considered but try not to let its realism put you off unnecessarily. Not all children who have been through the care system have extreme problems, especially if they are given the sensitive support suggested here.
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