This week I started on a course run by CAMHS and Post Adoption Support (PAS). The course looks at brain development, behaviour, attachment, play therapy and follows the theories and research of Margot Sunderland, Kim Golding and Dan Hughes.
This week we looked at brain development, the primitive and mammalian brains and how -in simple terms- an action, when repeated over and over becomes hard-wired in the brain.
In Mini’s case, his brain has been hard-wired to believe that caregivers abandon him. Again in simple terms (they're the ones I understand best), the more a message moves around the brain, the faster the brain learns to process it. Often we get to a point where we react before our brain has even finished processing, because it's so hard-wired into our primitive brains. If you see a lion in front of you, you don't stop to think about walking/running away, which way you should go, how fast - you're already running before your brain even fully recognises the danger!
For Mini, Social Services felt it was in his best interest (although how they came to this conclusion we’ll never know!), to see his birth family or a combination of them –2/3 times a week, in various contact centres for the first 10months of his life. Each time, he would be taken from his foster carer by a strange social worker, rarely the same one, to a strange place to see his birth family. At the end of each 2/3hour long session, he would be taken away again, by another strange person, and returned to his foster carer. What a traumatic experience to endure so frequently…especially for a baby….
How could he not feel abandoned by firstly his foster carer who was there to protect him and look after him, who was his primary care giver. And then at the end of each session, this person – his birth mother - who fed him, changed him and loved him to the moon and back for 2 hrs, also ‘allowed’ a stranger to take him again.
I’m cross with social services to allow this continual abandonment to happen. How could that possibly be in Mini’s best interests? There was never any real possibility that Mini would go back to his birth mother, so why did they continue to unsettle my son 2/3 times a week?? And why did they continue to give her hope that he’d be returning home. Why did they feel it was appropriate to send a baby off with strangers (albeit strangers with police checks)?
I’m not sure whether it would be worth taking this up with social services. It wouldn’t change anything, blaming people isn’t going to help anything, would social services even admit that this has contributed to Mini’s attachment issues? – I doubt it. Has it even contributed? Am I just looking at the situation with the benefit of hindsight and a teeny tiny bit of knowledge about brain development.
I don’t know the answers. All I know is that Mini was repeatedly abandoned and passed from carer to birth mother and back again regularly, and then a few months later, over a ten day period, was passed again daily from carer to me and the NC and back again, eventually settling with us.
It is no wonder that every time we take him out, visit friends/family, or have visitors to our home, Mini worries that he’s moving on and gets upset, emotional, angry, unsettled. And it's no wonder that he worries about being abandoned even though no threat is there - it's part of his primitive brain, he's thinking about survival, not being hurt again; it's hard-wired in, and so before there's even a threat, he's protecting himself by anticipating it.
I live in hope that we can re-wire Mini’s brain, and he can learn that he’s loved, very much wanted and a part of this family – forever! But I know it’s going to be a long, hard, slog, and a lot of hardwork from us all.
Now, if we were to adopt all over again, this is the sort of thing I would question with social services. What was the benefit of all those contact sessions? 4 and a half years ago, we were so excited to become parents, and believed what they told us. We didn’t think to question the damage this could cause to Mini.