"In 2006, after (I admit it) I’d cried at successive meetings with our social workers, and repeatedly asked for a referral to the National Adoption and Fostering Service at the Maudsley’s Michael Rutter Centre in South London, we were eventually referred there. At the time I think it was part of CAMHS, the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service, though I’m not sure that’s the case now. I felt it was important to be seen by them because J had been seen there a couple of years before with his foster carers when they were struggling in much the same way. As a result I’d spoken with Caroline Bengo there before I went to Matching Panel, and I had a sense that she really knew him and I could trust her to tell me what the issues were. They had also said that they would see us once he was placed with me if we needed help around his anxious attachment.

There was, not unusually, what felt like a long and frustrating delay in the referral while the Local Authority tried to work out who was going to pay for it. But that was eventually sorted out and I was interviewed and J was assessed and a report was produced. Dr Matt Woolgar, who spoke at the Mental Health in the Teenage Years conference organised by Adoption UK in May this year, was part of the team which assessed us (he may even have led the team in fact).

The team provided us with exactly the help we needed. We had several sessions of the Parent – Child game [PCG, now known as Personalised Individual Parent Training (PIPT)],, where I wore an earpiece and played with J while they watched, commented and advised from behind one way glass. That was strange but very helpful. I had homework between sessions. I learned the attentive observing technique (eight years on, I don’t remember what they called it but I have seen something very similar described by other adopters). This involved me providing a sort of running commentary on what he was doing, including clear and constant positive reinforcement of behaviours I wanted to encourage. I still occasionally use that technique now, with good effect. I was taught to set aside time every day to play with him in a particular way where he directed all the play, and he always looked forward to that. I concentrated on helping him learn how to recognise and name his emotions and talk about how he was feeling.

This help, which came when I was at a very low ebb, was enormously effective and I will always be grateful for it." 

Read more about J's mother's experiences on her blog: http://travelswithmyson.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/a-stitch-in-time-part-ii/

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