What do we mean by ‘trauma and loss’ for our children?
Adopted and fostered children are likely to have experienced trauma on a number of levels: from earlier abuse and neglect as well as from the separation and loss of their birth family. This trauma can lead to emotional, behavioural and educational difficulties (Pennington, 2012).
Children’s responses to traumatic events vary. For some, the ‘fight or flight’ response is activated and they become hyperaroused (demonstrated through hypervigilance, anxiety and panic). For others, fighting or fleeing is not possible so the child ‘freezes’ and uses avoidant ‘fleeing’ mechanisms that are dissociative. Examples of a dissociative state include a distorted sense of time and a detached feeling of observing oneself. In extreme cases children may withdraw into a fantasy world (Perry, 2003).
Traumatised children need to be helped to work through their trauma as they may continue to experience the neurological, developmental and psychological impact from their early histories even when they are placed with a supportive and loving family. Traditional parenting techniques may not work with these children and foster carers and adopters need to develop alternative therapeutic parenting techniques to help build their resilience (Pennington, 2012).
KEY SITES for information and resources on Trauma and Loss
- Beacon House
- Inner World Work
- Animation – repair of early trauma
- Home resources explaining the fight/flight/freeze responses
Other useful sites
- Fostering and Adoption – early childhood trauma
- Care for the Family
- Beacon House – voices of adoption