We are very glad to welcome a second guest post by Marcus Clarke. In this article Marcus reminds us how children removed from their families have to deal with impossibly hard situations, and of the issues we need to be mindful of.

It can be difficult for adopted and fostered children. These children not only have to deal with the same developmental pressures as other children, they have additional psychological problems stemming from the adoption/fostering process such as abandonment and rejection issues, grief and loss and self-esteem issues. These psychological problems can create behavioural disorders in children and adolescents, and failure to manage these problems correctly can result in failed placements. Whilst adopted/fostered children might not have the ability to explicitly communicate their needs, there are seven common things your child would love you to know to help them deal with their issues and avoid failed placements.

#1 Please don’t give up on me

Adopted/fostered children will usually come to placement with a lot of emotional baggage. They may have been forcibly removed from their family due to family violence or abuse, and may have developmental issues, trauma, mental health issues and demonstrate negative behaviours. The important thing to remember is that above all else, the child may feel rejected and abandoned by the birth family; that they were given up on. They’re not worth fighting for. Adopted/fostered children need, more than anything else, for you to demonstrate resilience and not give up on them.

#2 Please understand that I am grieving a loss

The removal from a familiar (even if maladaptive) environment or family is a loss to the adopted/fostered child. It’s a loss of familiarity, home, family, and known behavioural patterns. Loss is usually paired with grief, and adopted/fostered children may indeed be mired in grief when placed in care. Grief can be a strong provocateur of negative emotions, and angry outbursts, withdrawn sobbing, or self-harm may be manifestations of grief. You need to be aware of the child’s grief and loss, and work with them through these feelings.

#3 Please understand my anger might not always be directed at you

Anger and disruptive behaviours may be common in adopted/fostered children. Grappling with feelings of abandonment, grief and loss and a sense of being treated unfairly, these children are prone to expressing frustration and anger. A lot of this pent-up anger may be linked with self-worth issues, or directed at the child services system or the birth family, however being in the line of fire, the adopted/foster family may cop the brunt of this ire. Please remember that all the child’s anger, though aimed at you, might not be meant for you.

#4 Please understand I may be traumatised

Trauma is a very complex and multi-faceted psychological issue. Adopted/fostered children often have some degree of trauma. Trauma can manifest in many ways and it’s important when talking with, disciplining or physically handling adopted/fostered children to remember they may be traumatised and avoid directly or indirectly triggering their trauma. Learning about trauma can be a good way of avoiding triggering these children.

#5 Please don’t hide the truth from me

Children are generally more self-aware and intelligent than most adults give them credit for. While it might be necessary to omit details of adoption/fostering when a child is too young to understand the concept, open honest conversations about adoption should be engaged in as soon as the child is old enough to understand. Caution should be used not to taint the child’s view of the birth family nor engage in blame or disapproval of the family; remember it was their actions that were erroneous, not the people.

#6 Please understand I feel unloved and unworthy

Adopted/fostered children may have unresolved abandonment and rejection issues. These issues may lead the child to internalise the belief that there is something wrong with them, and they are consequently unworthy of love, affection or even being treated kindly. When shown love or affection, the child may react with mistrust, suspicion or ambiguity, and may not know how to reciprocate appropriately. It is important to remember this if your love and affection is rejected by the child.

#7 Please help me to feel like a good person

The adopted/fostered child may have come from a harmful or abusive environment, perhaps even a criminal or maladaptive environment. The child may therefore believe the normal behaviour is deviance or violence. The child may also be used to being blamed, shamed or abused. While it might be difficult at first for the child to accept positivity, it is important to remember to take every chance to remind the child that he is a good person, worthy of love, affection and making good choices for himself.

Children from “hard places” might not be able to adequately convey their needs and wishes, and may act out with anomalous or deviant behaviour, but these children need you to know these seven things to help them make their placement a success and help them to grow into a self-confident, accomplished adult.

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One Comment

  1. PatSmith 27th July 2017 Reply

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