If you’re looking for a way to explain to children how the brain’s development is affected by traumatic experiences in childhood & how you can help change the way your brain works, watch the Introduction and read more information here.
You can read a review of The Brain Game here.
“I am so impressed with this video. Something for children is much needed. I showed it to my 16 year old adopted daughter who has a trauma history and to my 12 year old birth son. They both really liked it and understood the information. My daughter even came back to me a few hours later to discuss some of it. So, as a parent, thank you so much for creating this resource!” Adoptive parent
Contacting Family Futures over Christmas
Family Futures is closed from 5pm on Friday 21st December 2018 to 9am on Tuesday 2nd January 2019. If you are a family in treatment with Family Futures and have a serious emergency or crisis during this time and you think that the crisis requires the emergency services, we suggest you call them first. You can then ring into Family Futures on the main number 0207 354 4161. On the days when the office is closed a Duty Manager is available between 10am and 5pm. On working days you can contact a Duty Manager between 5 – 9 pm. If when you ring in, you then press 3 as instructed on the answerphone message, it will divert your call to the Duty manager’s mobile. Please leave a message with your name, number and why you are calling and the Duty Manager will call you back as soon as possible. We hope however that you have an enjoyable Christmas and New Year.
Our Occupational Therapy Team have put together some ideas for sensory activities with children and tips for the festive season
Family Futures Sensory Christmas activities
Create a sensory Christmas bottle with your child
Spotting the hidden items can have a calming effect at night time.
Fill a plastic bottle with glitter glue (1/3) and add some small beads, stars, glitter, letters, marbles, small plastic animals etc. Fill it up with water. Use hot glue to shut the lid.
Make your own decoration
Great to encourage fine motor and praxis skills, and the pipe cleaners provide tactile stimulation.
You will need: Various beads and pipe cleaners. Place three pipe cleaner strands overlapping. Fix them in the middle with a small piece of pipe cleaner. Parents can also prepare the star shapes and help their children. Have fun putting the beads on the rays. Encourage the child to work in patterns. Tie an additional thread around it and decorate your tree or your room with it!
Key messages from our 2018 Conference
Many good things came out of the conference ‘Assessing and Treating Developmentally Traumatised Children’ in October. Colwyn Trevarthen, our keynote speaker, reminded us all how important the first few weeks and months of a baby’s life are. What really struck home to me was his point that babies from the outset are intentional. They want to relate, they need to relate and they have a way of relating in-built that is musical in nature. Read Alan’s blog here.
Realistic Positivity: understanding the additional needs of young children placed for adoption, and supporting families when needs are unexpected
This research by the Council for Disabled Children explores support for adopted children and their families in relation to special educational needs, disability and health. Interviews with parents and professionals are considered alongside policy and available evidence.
Alan Burnell, Registered Manager at Family Futures comments on the report:
It’s refreshing to read an independent report that evaluates current adoption and post-adoption services with a fresh pair of eyes. Sadly those eyes see many of the same shortcomings that Family Futures has identified as a result of our work in the field of adoption.
We very much support the findings from the parent interviews which once again highlight the need for comprehensive, developmental, multidisciplinary assessments of children prior to placement, as well as the need for a post-adoption support service that has the expertise to meet those needs.
We realise that some adoptive parents and professionals may balk at the idea of labelling adopted children as ‘disabled’. At Family Futures we have said from the outset 20 years ago, that the majority of adopted children, because of early adversity, neglect and abuse, have ‘invisible special needs’ at the point of placement. Neuroscience has confirmed this and the label of developmental trauma is now used to describe their developmental challenges. Labelling children does not define their limitations but should be used to shine a light on what their needs really are and how they can be met.
Alan Burnell, Registered Manager comments on new research on Child to Parent Violence and Aggression
CPVA – a major problem that needs to be addressed to prevent unnecessary disruptions
A Summary of the Let’s Talk About: Child to Parent Violence and Aggression (CPVA) 2018 Survey report by Dr W Thorley and Al Coates MBE is now available to download. The findings were highlighted by an ITV News broadcast this week: six in ten families living with child on parent violence experience daily attacks. 538 families across the country took part and 53% of the sample were adoptive parents, foster carers, kinship carers or guardians. Alan Burnell, our Registered Manager comments on the findings:
“This is an important report highlighting a major problem that has been around for some time but has slipped under the social policy radar. Child to Parent Violence and Aggression has many causes as the report says. For adopted and fostered children we know from our experience that in the majority of cases this is a consequence of early child abuse and neglect, and needs a robust therapeutic response from placing agencies. The government should prioritise the Adoption Support Fund to help address this issue if they want to prevent unnecessary disruptions.”
Alan Burnell, Registered Manager and co-founder of Family Futures, shares his reflections on how the work of Family Futures has developed over the past 20 years
Though we’re celebrating 20 years since the birth of Family Futures the idea was actually conceived 30 years ago. At that time, in the 1980s, adoptive parents who had adopted older children, sibling groups or children with complex needs were receiving no post adoption support of any significance or to any effect.
In that sense our service was conceived from anger and despair with the intention of providing hope and change.
As practitioners working in the early days of post adoption support, we were challenged to find clinical interventions and theoretical models that would help us and adoptive parents make sense of the struggles they were having with their (what we would now understand as) traumatised children.
At its inception, Family Futures used attachment theory as developed by John Bowlby, which was our first step towards understanding why adopted children were so challenging. It was our getting to know Dr Dan Hughes and his work that enabled us to translate attachment theory into clinical practice. This relationship with Dan Hughes has been seminal. Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP) is a training course we have offered since that time and integrated it into our work.
In early 2000, our Educational Psychologist, Richard Lansdown, based on his clinical experience of Great Ormond Street Hospital, realised that the children he was assessing at Family Futures had Executive Functioning difficulties. Their problem-solving and cognitive processing had been impaired by early neglect and abuse.
After five years of Family Futures’ work with families, and having looked at so many horrible histories of the children we were working with, we realised that this population of children not only had attachment difficulties but were highly traumatised by neglect and abuse in early infancy.
It was then that the work of Bruce Perry and Bessel van der Kolk provided a neurological basis for our understanding regarding the impact of trauma on child development. The final piece of the jigsaw was at this time our emerging awareness of Jean Ayres and Sensory Integration. It became apparent to us that neglect and abuse in infancy had a developmental impact upon how children are able to regulate their sensory information both internally and externally.
In 2006, we published our first paper which outlined our neurosequential approach to treatment in which we integrated therapeutic interventions that were sensory, attachment and cognitively focussed, and we linked them to the triune brain.
We have subsequently called our model of therapeutic intervention Neuro-Physiological Psychotherapy. For children who have experienced ‘significant harm’ there are developmental consequences that impact their sensory motor development, their affect and attachment, and their cognitive processing abilities.
In order to respond appropriately to this complex picture, Family Futures has had to develop over the last twenty years, an integrated, multidisciplinary team of professionals all dedicated to and with an expert understanding of the neurological, biological and psychological needs of adopted children.
Though we are child-centred, we are parent-friendly and family-focused. These are key aspects of our ethos. We have worked hard to combine clinical excellence with compassion; empathy with expertise. As the proverb says,
“It’s better to light a candle than to curse the dark.”
Assessing and Treating Developmentally Traumatised Children
We are now taking bookings for our 2018 Conference: ‘Assessing and Treating Developmentally Traumatised Children’ to be held on 19 October at The Crystal, London. The conference is aimed at social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, teachers and anyone involved in helping children who are looked after or adopted. Come and hear about our new, independently reviewed research on our Neuro-Physiological Psychotherapy treatment programme and the outcomes for children who have/have not received treatment. We are delighted to have as our keynote speaker Professor Colwyn Trevarthen, one of our guiding lights. You can see the conference agenda, find out more or book your place here: https://www.familyfutures.co.uk/product/2018-conference/
Are you ready to start your adoption journey?
Watch real life stories about adopting a child with Family Futures here. Our next Information Evening for anyone thinking about adoption will be on Wednesday 18th April at Family Futures, London. Come along and find out how we can support you or find out more here.
Adverse Childhood Experiences – new research published in Children and Youth Services Review, January 2018
A study, Examining exposure to adverse childhood experiences and later outcomes of poor physical and mental health among South Carolina adults, has found that the most frequently reported ACE category among respondents reporting poor health was household dysfunction with emotional and physical abuse.
“The odds of reporting poor health increased as the combination of categories of abuse increased, with respondents who had all three categories of abuse much more likely to report poor health. Similarly, the most frequently reported ACE category with respondents reporting frequent mental distress was household dysfunction with emotional and physical abuse and among all categories of ACEs and combinations of categories of ACEs, the respondents reporting all three categories of ACEs had the highest odds of frequent mental distress.
The presence of sexual abuse in childhood increased the odds of reporting poor health and mental distress, supporting the idea that some ACEs may have stronger associations to long term health outcomes than others.”
Alan Burnell, Registered Manager at Family Futures commented on the findings of this new study: “These ACE results are clearly predicated on individuals who have had no help for the abuse and neglect they suffered in infancy. Surely this is one of the strongest indicators yet as to why children in the care system or who are adopted need guaranteed therapeutic help in order to prevent poor outcomes. Without this help we are not just failing them now, we are failing them in the future.”