ADAPT (Scotland) supports foster and adoptive parents and the traumatised children in their care to find ways of managing life in happier and healthier ways. ADAPT, founded by Christine Gordon and Karen Wallace, helps parents and children increase their understanding of the reasons why they struggle alongside offering strategies that create the safe base where change is possible. In recognising that parenting and working with traumatised children is extremely challenging; our approach helps to make the challenge a little more manageable. ADAPT’s work is based on the developmental reparenting principles exposed by Dan Hughes and Kim Golding (Golding and Hughes 2012) and by Caroline Archer and Christine Gordon in their previously quoted book, Reparenting the Child Who Hurts.
Developmental reparenting is a concept associated with parenting practise that developed within the adoption and fostering communities from attachment theory and research. It provides a way for parents or parenting figures, through support from a trained parent mentor to understand the needs of traumatised children who have been through the care system. It aims to find ways to help children repair the trauma of the abuse and neglect which led to them being accommodated. Developmental reparenting considers all aspects of children’s functioning and how trauma affects children physically, emotionally and intellectually.
Parent mentoring is based on the values of developmental reparenting and our approach is based on the principles of PLACE. Parents need to communicate and interact with their children by being, Playful, Loving, Accepting, Curious and Empathic. Parent mentors at ADAPT support parenting figures in becoming trauma sensitive parents by helping them to develop an attitude of PLACE when understanding and responding to their children. We support parents to understand their children in the context of their early years and the neurobiological impact of trauma in their child’s brain, body, behaviour and cognition. This is reinforced by a plan of intervention that is bespoke to them as a family by providing strategies and practical suggestions to support recovery. The programme helps parents to link the theory and research and to put this in to practice to help them regain their parenting confidence.
Our programme helps to make and sustain the changes that are intrinsic to helping children heal. It is tailored for each family around a set of core elements; understanding children’s difficulties, a relevant and flexible parenting plan, strategies for new ways of parenting, supports to put strategies into action, confidence in therapeutic parenting, reducing conflict and stress, putting parents in loving control, therapeutic work to help children trust that parents can meet their needs, a framework that allows children to feel safe enough to change and manage their lives in healthier ways and a safe environment for parents to look at difficulties and explore new approaches.
ADAPT works alongside other professionals to ensure that there is wider community understanding of the needs of traumatised children. It promotes the development of a coherent plan for helping children and families and the support to put plans in to action.
It is our view that professionals need to be aware of the impact of parenting looked after children, who have suffered the trauma of neglect and abuse in their early years. This is crucial if they are to provide trauma sensitive support. What we often find are parents whose confidence in their parenting capacity has been eroded; they often blame themselves for the difficulties within the family. This may be exacerbated by professionals who criticise and judge them, based on their own lack of understanding. We have become increasingly aware that there is a need to for training in order for services to provide trauma sensitive support. We also need a systematic approach where therapeutic interventions are seen as integral to a child’s recovery rather than an expensive alternative.
It has been our experience that when professionals are supported in considering other reasons as to why parents may present as aloof, uncaring, uncooperative (secondary trauma/blocked care responses) this often helps them in seeing it from another perspective and to empathise rather than to judge.