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Legal presentation autumn 2014


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Direct contact via Facebook has changed the face of 21st century adoption. Motivated by curiosity birth families and adopted teenagers are reconnecting online, with no safeguards which is retraumatising many adopted children. Some walk away from their adoptive parents, some are derailed by the unwelcome intrusion in their lives, others fail exams or live in fear.
In this presentation Helen Oakwater, author of Bubble Wrapped Children, explores the hows, whys, whats and what ifs of unsupervised online contact and explains how future proofing by sharing 100% evidenced historical truth is the protective mechanism needed.
The courts, social services and health professionals must share data with adoptive families so they can understand the possible sensory triggers for a child and then be able to parent them therapeutiucally.

Published in: Law
  • The reality is there is no fantasy or secrecy in adoption anymore. Sometimes a Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google search can circumvent an adoption confidentiality order. Pre-18 visits and reunions are now the reality. We have to adapt policies to safeguard children by giving them the truth and therapy, not lying and coverups. The era of closed adoption is over.
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Legal presentation autumn 2014

  1. 1. Presentations to Lawyers & Co Autumn 2014 How and why social networking is transforming adoption. The need for Future Proofing Helen Oakwater Coach, Trainer & Author ! Adoptive Parent of sibling group placed in 1990’s aged 5,4,2 A problem well defined is a problem half solved 1
  2. 2. What’s happening now • Email received by adopted child at Xmas Sweetheart im so happy iv found you plse rit back coz uv bin told lies bout me • Adopted children retraumatised by birth family arriving in their bedroom 2 All presentation! photos ! are “stock”
  3. 3. What’s happening now 3 • Schooling disrupted • Exams missed • Concentration fragmented
  4. 4. What’s happening now • “Reunited” children returning to live with birth families, dropped out of school, • Adoptive families already struggling crack under the extra strain and child returns to LAC 4
  5. 5. Experts Technology advances5
  7. 7. Who is looking? Both sides • Birth Family, • mum, dad, sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, nanny, grandpa and many of their mates • Adopted child (& LAC children) • Adolescence • Typical “I hate my parents” massively magnified • “My real family would ...............” 7
  8. 8. Why are they looking? ! • Curiosity • Unanswered questions • What are they doing now? } Was ever • Alleviate guilt & shame thus • Mismatch (feelings & ‘facts’) Why wouldn’t they? 8
  9. 9. Why now? Because they can • OPPORTUNITY: 60 / 24 / 7 / 365 • In May 2007 Facebook had 23 million users Worldwide • In December 2009 Facebook had 23 million users in the UK: (ie 20 months later) • Each day 23 million people within UK access Facebook 9
  10. 10. Adoption Now • Adoption breakdowns (after Order) statistics were not captured • Few long term studies (all small) • Anecdotal evidence is grim • Post adoption support woefully inadequate • Julie Selwyn
  11. 11. The past : remember why they were removed • Deeply inadequate parenting • Intentional harm • Failure to protect • Adults unlikely to change (in child’s timescales)
  12. 12. Reasons children are removed from their birth families Classi-fication What was done to them Some examples What it did to them Possible interpretations Emotional Abuse Berated, insulted, compared unfavourably to others, ignored I am wrong, bad, worthless. They want me dead. I should not be alive, I’m not wanted Physical Abuse Beaten, thrashed, burned, used as ashtray, hit with chair/stick/hand/belt, locked in cupboard The world is a dangerous place, I am bad & powerless, Sexual Abuse Violated, Raped, forced to watch or participate in sexual acts Destroyed innocence. I can’t trust anyone Neglect Unfed for days, nappies not changed, no toys, no interaction with adults, left alone for hours, unwashed, no play, No self concept. I don’t matter, life is hopeless, I am helpless &/or rage filled. Do I even exist? Chaotic environment Lots of different carers, locations, broken promises, frequent moves, squalor No safe or secure base. I am terrified. Trauma A combination of experiences and events that felt utterly overwhelming or life threatening to the child I am going to die. 12 Table taken from Bubble Wrapped Children
  13. 13. Sensory Experience ! with Neglect! ! •Hear - Crashing doors .. “shut up you stupid f**ing Bi**h”! •See - darkness! •Taste - sour milk, vomit! •Smell - own faeces & urine : vomit & sour milk! •Feel - cracked skin of nappy rash from stomach to knees, ! •Feel - cold feet, gripping stomach pains from hunger
  14. 14. Metaphorical! Bubblewrap distorts their view of the world and ! the world’s view of them 14
  15. 15. Inadequate→ Poor → Toxic Parenting • VIEW OF SELF • I’m not safe • I’m not cared for • I’m scared • I’m unlovable • I’m ignored • I’m not valued • I’m alone • I’m bad • VIEW OF THE WORLD • It’s a terrifying hostile world • People hurt you • Dangerous place • No one could ever love me • I am not important • There is no place for me • The world is dangerous • The world is not okay Poor attachment between child and others 15
  16. 16. Inadequate→ Poor → Toxic Parenting 16 ! Likely LifeTrajectory with little intervention 0 10 20 TIMELINE
  17. 17. Consequences of neglect and maltreatment • Developmental gaps • Damage from Trauma: (“overwhelming affect or belief you might die”) • PTSD & Developmental Trauma • BUBBLE WRAP metaphor • Distorts our view of them and their map of the world • Belief formation “distorted”A problem well defined is a problem half solved
  18. 18. Typical “Life story” book: My early life Me and Mummy on my first birthday Sometimes Mummy was ill and couldn’t look after me properly 18
  19. 19. Typical “Life story” book: My early life Here are my brothers and sisters One day Mummy was ill so the police came and took us away. We lived with different foster parents and met weekly Sometimes Mummy got angry and shouted so an important person (Judge) agreed with social workers that I needed a new forever Mummy and Daddy. That’s called adoption. 19
  20. 20. Real “Life story”: My actual early life “The house was a bit messy” Real “Life story”: My actual early life 20
  21. 21. mismatch between saccharine life story book and actual sensory experience 21
  22. 22. GET REAL BE TRUTHFUL This is a complete mismatch with the saccharine life story book the child is given. Yet this was their experience, their truth, stored in their implicit memory and sensory databank. 22
  23. 23. Blunt trauma injury to front temple SWs unable to wake parents! Gran (unconcerned) present Bruising on both ears “I’ve never ever seen such a sad defeated child” Foster Carer Bruising of different colours on her face Wet soiled cot! vomit on mattress! no bedding Black! eye knees! waist to heal from rash weeks to Nappy Took 4 Drank 2 bottles of milk ! in less than 4 minutes Swelling on top of head Rammed food into her ! mouth until she was sick Hand and finger marks around her neck
  25. 25. Birth Family Perspectives? • “wot did i do wrong?” • “I’ve always loved you” • “That never happened” .... I cant remember it • Cycle of grief for years/decades ...what are likely coping strategies? • What has changed in their world since time of removal/adoption? What learnings? • Can they honour child's experiences? Empathy? Mindsight? 25
  26. 26. Contact Works When Birth Family:- Take Responsibility Offer a coherent account of what life was like ! Say “Sorry” It was our fault not yours ! Give their blessing to where the child is currently living ! CONTACT MUST HAVE PURPOSE AND MEANING ! 26 Cruel and unrealistic if Birth Family expected to do this without support
  27. 27. Contact via Facebook & Social networking • Unsupervised • Unfacilitated • Unscripted • No safeguarding • No filters or control features • Expectations raised .... and dashed? • 60/24/7/365 What protection from lies, deceit & danger ? 27
  28. 28. Future Proofing Distinguish between disposable knowledge Facebook privacy settings location, trendy band, party, venue, fashion ZX81 3D printing sustainable knowledge Information which will always be important and relevant 28
  29. 29. Future Proofing How!! sustainable knowledge This happened to me....because ... My life lessons from this include …. Beliefs & Values formation Long term What information really, really JIGSAW! matters OF! TRUTH 29
  30. 30. 100% truth! telling in ! 30 age ! appropriate way
  31. 31. EMPOWERING REFRAMING Multiple Fresh Perspectives utilizing extra knowledge, resources, new learnings and age appropriate wisdom ! 31 cot . HEALING ! ? ! ! ? ! ! ? ! ! ? !
  32. 32. Reframing 32 The past was horrid. The future looks good I am OK One sad event That saved my life
  33. 33. Reframing requires • Indisputable Evidence • Independent evidence to confirm their experience and sensory memories (reports, photos, witnesses, facts, data) • Support for adoptive parents • Therapists who understand the legacy of trauma 33
  34. 34. 34 Therapeutic Re-Parenting + 100% Truth Telling Likely LifeTrajectory 0 10 20 years TIMELINE
  35. 35. TRAINING SUPPORT therapy vandalism TEARS suicide DISRUPTED FAMILIES £££££ £££££ PRISON Mental breakdowns rage £ fostering 35 Paradigm shift + Cost Benefit Analysis Mega support for adopters is cheaper than fostering Early Intervention & therapy
  36. 36. 36
  37. 37. Future Proofing. What can you do? YOU are the experts on the legal system • Provide robust evidence to adopted children and their parents about their early life • Authorise release of reports, photos etc including police and medical reports • Question long term post adoption support provision • Think outside the box. • Be creative & courageous because new technology & legislation will create fresh challenges
  38. 38. Existing Technology Tools • Facial Recognition software • Face Ageing software • Location services • Google: name & word searches • “Jigsaw information” on one screen • Wikileaks • Combine to reveal private & protective data • What next in1/3/5/10 years? } ? =
  39. 39. Media! Access! 39 to! Family! Courts
  40. 40. 40 Family Tree DNA testing
  41. 41. 41 Find out about your DNA
  42. 42. Find your DNA Family Tree (relatives) 42
  43. 43. Adopted children need • Therapeutic Reparenting (to undo the damage and fill the gaps) • 100% Truth Telling, in age appropriate way, to prevent mismatching and delusions (jigsaw of truth) • Independent evidence to confirm and make sense of their experience and sensory memories (reports, photos, videos, witnesses, facts, data) • Support in processing the historic horrors • Ongoing age appropriate therapy • Access to records and files NOW 43
  44. 44. TOUGH QUESTIONS Should an adults’ behavioural history be protected/secret; when sharing full data will empower and heal a hurt child? ! Is that truly a child centred strategy? 44
  45. 45. TOUGH QUESTIONS What 3rd party information should be shared so a child is protected in the future? (ie from/about Uncle Fred) What is a truly, child centred strategy? 45
  46. 46. 46 How and why social networking is transforming adoption. ! The need for Future Proofing ! Helen Oakwater ! ! @helenoakwater ! E: A problem well defined is a problem half solved