By guest blogger Cintha Archer, Senior Practitioner, Adoption Team
In the Adoption Team we are always trying to find better ways to help adopters really get to grips with what we mean when we talk about attachment behaviour and attachment difficulties. I have seen various changes over the years in the attachment session we present on our Preparation to Adopt course. I’ve seen an emphasis on information giving, then a shift to an interesting use of more visual prompts; I’ve been involved with the inclusion of dramatized scenes to show how early life experiences can and do play out within new relationships, no matter how positive the caring environment might be. We have even used the theme tune from Jaws as a creative way to help prospective adopters get into the minds of the children they are likely to be parenting. While a lot of the feedback we have had has been positive, adopters are all too aware that what we have given them is just the very tip of a very large and complicated iceberg.
Training has provided a different way of approaching Preparation courses
So this year when looking at how we can improve the Preparation to Adopt course further, we have been excited to be able to include some of our learning from the excellent courses on Attachment ESCC has commissioned from Rebecca Carr-Hopkins. This training has focussed on the Dynamic Maturational Model of Attachment developed by Patricia Crittenden and while this is in no way a new model, it is one which, until now, we in the Adoption Team have not shared with adopters in our formal training events. The model is particularly relevant to adoption as it focusses on understanding and identifying behaviours as meaningful, self-protective strategies given the individual’s previous life experiences and it shows how these strategies can change when that individual is able to recognise they no longer fit their present experience. This is what we are doing all the time in adoption, trying to support adoptive parents while they strive to create family environments where these children can begin to step away from those behaviours which have served them well in the past and try out new ways of trusting, confiding, considering and interacting with people close to them.
Different ways of talking about attachment
Getting all this across to a room full of eager potential adopters is going to be a challenge, but we have made a small start. The Preparation Training course we ran in July gave adopters a different way of talking about attachment. Instead of the anxious ambivalent, anxious avoidant and disorganised headings, we spoke about the A,B,C strategies. We used a set of child’s scales labelled ‘Thoughts’ and ‘Feelings’ to demonstrate how a child with a B strategy is going to be functioning from a place where responses are balanced, as the child is equally able to access their feelings and their thoughts. Then we showed the less balanced responses of the children using the A and C strategies. This was a very simplified way of starting to get the adopters to understand the basis from which their adopted child is coming from. At the Preparation to Adopt course we also emphasised the importance of the adopters recognising their own strategies and reflecting on how their past experiences influenced where they might sit in the A,B,C spectrum. We know that without this insight into their individual histories, adopters might struggle to recognise all the elements influencing the strategies their adopted child draws upon as they grow up.
More to learn
There is a lot of scope to build on this learning in post-approval workshops and that is definitely the plan within the Adoption Team. We are also all very aware that there is a lot more we can learn as practitioners. Crittenden’s model continues to offer a real wealth of information and opportunities to understand how we function as practitioners, as well as helping us support the adoptive families we work with.