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.
Would you consider joining our Adoption Panel?
We’re looking to increase numbers of Independent Panel Members available to attend our Adoption Panel. The aim of the Panel is to ensure we have carried out a thorough assessment of prospective adopters, in order to find the best possible parents for children in need of a permanent home. The role is an interesting, responsible and at times challenging one. To find out more information, visit our Join Us page.
Join us for an inspiring range of performances in support of the Young People’s Forum
Tickets are now on sale for Acting Out – in support of adopted young people. The event will showcase an exciting range of creative arts performed by Forum supporters, members and outside professionals who have kindly donated their time.
Join us on Saturday 27 October to watch an inspiring range of performers – a professional dancer (Asmara), a filmmaker (Shabazz), a rapper (Malachi) and more. There will be Q&A sessions with performers and a chance to meet up with other young people at the event.
Venue: The Rosemary Branch Theatre, 2 Shepperton Rd, London N1 3DT
Date: Saturday 27 October
Book your tickets here:
and find out more about the event and performers here.
“A nationally recognised centre of excellence for therapeutic adoption and adoption support services”
Family Futures has been rated ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted (August 2018) for the third time in a row and under the new, more robust Ofsted inspection framework. Ofsted recognised that:
“The agency is a nationally recognised centre of excellence for therapeutic adoption and adoption support services which address the damage caused by early developmental trauma. The agency has developed its own highly effective therapeutic model over many years, which has been externally evaluated.”
“Children and their families receive holistic care of exceptional quality, which results in excellent experiences, outcomes and progress.”
Alan Burnell, Family Futures’ Registered Manager, comments on our Outstanding Ofsted rating, 2018:
Modelling a better future for families
If 20 years of helping families heal is a crowning achievement, then the jewels in our crown are this summer’s Ofsted inspection and our recent round of research. We are very proud that for the third inspection in a row and under the new, more robust Ofsted inspection framework we once again have been judged as Outstanding. One of the criteria of the inspection framework is ‘how well children, young people and adults are helped and protected’. This was judged to be Outstanding. The inspectors reached this conclusion in part because of our research programme. Read More…
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.”
Download The impact of Significant Harm Fact Sheet here.
Most children placed for adoption today have been removed from their birth families because of “significant harm”. The significant harm they have suffered causes significant harm to their subsequent development, as evidenced by neuroscientific research. Understanding and assessing the impact of significant harm will inform what support or therapeutic intervention is needed to address these developmental issues.
Alan Burnell, Registered Manager at Family Futures said:
“By taking significant harm as our starting point we are beginning to tackle the epicentre of developmental trauma, rather than forever trying to manage the aftershocks.
We need to move from seeing adoption support as helping families in crisis to seeing it as developmental repair. Let’s help children move from significant harm to significant help.”
Alan Burnell, Registered Manager, and co-founder of Family Futures, shares his reflections here 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.