To test or not to test?

To test or not to test?

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That is a good question…..should we, and when should we, if we should? Over the 15 years that we have had our children, through adoption, we have had many therapy sessions, talks with social workers and assessments. It is the nature of the beast I’m afraid and can be very draining for all concerned. Today we have started another assessment process for my daughter of 22 years old and I have to say it has been stressful getting to this point.

I wanted to talk about this for two reasons. Those who are parents or carers who read this you may be familiar with the struggles I will talk about, or you may be wondering if it’s something you need to consider for your child/ren right now. For you I hope my ramblings may help you in your journey through assessment or at least help you feel not so alone.

For those working with vulnerable children you may not be aware of the struggles families face in this area. You may also be far too aware as you get involved in the EHCP process or anything else that requires input from you. For you I hope this helps to just gain more insight into the struggles and to have sympathy for our impatience or intolerance when we let our stress show.

I will confess that I have let me stress show today to a lady who is in our front room right now talking to my daughter. My stress was not due to this psychologist at all but with the disappointment at again feeling we were getting somewhere on a certain path only to find out it isn’t the right path at all!!

I will come back to that pathway later but let me begin by saying we don’t all have to walk the same path. In adoption we very often do though. Our children may be different to each other, but we know they often struggle in similar areas, and we regularly need similar assessments done to ascertain what support is needed.

Should we get our children ‘tested’ at all?

Adoption can bring lots of challenges and sometimes as prospective parents we are told some of those challenges. We may know they have a history of neglect and abuse that can bring with it emotional and social difficulties. We may know their birth mother drank alcohol during pregnancy which may have resulted in Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder, we may know there is Autism in the family history, we may know that a child has witnessed horrific events in their lives that will impact their development, BUT we may not know any of those things as well.

As children develop it is easier to see some of those challenges as the gap between them and their peers gets wider. Finding the path to getting support can then be very difficult. Many of us will have accessed the adoption support fund (as we have a few times for all our children over the years) and this can be very helpful in providing some answers and some therapy to work through some of those challenges.

But then there’s the maze of mental health, whether children or adults this can be hard to navigate. We have been in both systems, and I wish now we have pushed more for diagnosis earlier and definitely stuck at the EHCP process when my daughter was younger. Now as a 22-year-old struggling to find work, gain independence and manage her social, emotional, and mental health issues it is a struggle to understand what her actual challenges are.

Today’s dilemma was that, after months of waiting for what I thought was an assessment for a diagnosis, is not that but an assessment for therapy. That’s good too of course as she does need more support, but we were hoping to be able to understand the layers of need that would give her more access to support outside of the adoption community as she tries to move into adulthood. She is certainly vulnerable but to be classed as a vulnerable adult a diagnosis of something is helpful.

Adverse childhood experiences and the attachment difficulties that can result from them is not a diagnosis apparently! It is not enough to be impaired in all areas of your life because of the damage caused in early childhood. There needs to be more to mean that a person can get the help and support they need. I am finding this frustrating, as you may be able to tell, and those on this journey with me will understand. The constant fight and battle that comes with adoption is exhausting.

I know that lack of access to child and adult mental health services is not exclusive to adoption – many families struggle, and the systems make it incredibly difficult to navigate. I would consider myself an intelligent person (our psychologist today might not agree now) but it is very hard for me to understand what needs to be done. Last week alone I wrestled (not literally) with a universal credit staff member to understand the requirements they have so my son can claim some benefits, messaged our doctors surgery AGAIN after a year of waiting for my other son’s ADHD treatment plan, spent time engaging a support brokerage service to help our daughter transition to live on her own, and now trying to keep calm as I realise I’ve misunderstood something, yet again.

So, lots of ramblings today, I apologise for that, but I also know it is the reality that maybe isn’t in the prospective adoption brochure. Expect a battle and if things are easier than you think appreciate that fact as that’s the exception rather than the rule.

If you are a fellow warrior in this battle, then I stand with you. We can help each other as we learn the tricks of the trade and share our knowledge. We can cheer each other on when it gets hard, and we can rejoice with each other when we get that elusive EHCP or that diagnosis or that professional who truly understands.

For those of you working with our families – thank you. Thank you for your understanding and your support. We are grateful that you stand with us too and sometimes you are on that battlefield with us. If you see us fall, please help us get back up – we know it is our battle to fight but it’s so much easier with others standing with us.

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