Emergency service.

Crisis: measured by the Richter Scale

We spend a lot of time in crisis, CHT and me.

Whatever we do, and wherever we go, we find ourselves teetering on the edge of the San Andreas Fault and playing chicken with Mount Etna, tucked in our beds at night with grenades under the pillows. Adoptive families are either in crisis, or have it waiting cocked and loaded just a hair trigger away.

Crisis is simply part of the deal, because adoption is a state of crisis – be that overt and expressed in explosions of rage, or locked down and silenced inside Pandora’s Box. For us, sat silent in an empty white room with no additional stimulus, our baseline emotional state is still set at ‘fight or flight’; our ‘normal’ is other people’s ‘extraordinary’ on the Richter Scale. And the only way is up, because life isn’t a sterile white room; life is full of challenge and surprise and drama.

In the six years we have been together, the world outside our control has thrown everything at us. There have been suicides, letterbox letters filled with remorse, bullying, snubbed reunions, diagnosis of brain damage, major surgery, redundancy threats, and school changes.

And then there are events that to the unknowing eye may not earn the label ‘crisis’, but to us represent Armageddon: a lost hair band, a new type of food, a bike puncture, the appearance of a suitcase. Charging us, like the four horsemen of the apocalypse.

Each and every event is reacted to with equal velocity; CHT is explosive. Fuelled with trauma, and FASD, and the regular frustrations of being a kid. Like a tornado she tears at walls, doors, toys, herself.  She screams and rages, leaving further whirlpools of crisis in her wake; remembering nothing once the fury is past.

And then there are the times when I slip the calm blue leash of my Therapeutic Parenting skills; times when my own boiling frustrations come spilling out of the seams. I take my place among the rubble; notching up the intensity, and tearing down the trust we work so hard to build.

But together we are learning to spot the signs and fight back. More often now we recognize the onrush of our dysfunction and heightened crisis responses. Noticing the signs means we can use the right tools to avert the earthquakes and the eruptions. But then there are those times when noticing the signs is like a red rag to Godzilla “I am NOT getting angry” – and we are lost to the fire and the red mist once again.

But little by little we inch forwards, our combined emergency response team fighting the flames and taming them; winning. Sure, we get pushed back again as more lava flows and buildings fall.

But we pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and inch forward; step by step.

Bricks in the wall

The building blocks of every school are made of more than bricks and mortar.  Their high walls are made strong by the stark white building block institutions of policy, protocol, tradition, the three R’s, discipline, order, and consistency; cemented by staff experience.

I feel small writing this, staring up at that ivory tower that overlooks our invisible domain of adoption and FASD.

So I lay siege to their walls, chip chip chipping away with new research and guidance and diagnosis for insight; scratching at the deep foundations and pushing hard against their mighty pillars for some sign of recognition or give; beseeching them for the help and understanding we so desperately need.  Painstakingly trying to tear down their simplistic but impenetrable algorithms that sort all behaviour into either ‘good’ or ‘bad’.

Slowly, slowly I breakthrough.  In every meeting, it starts with a distant rumble until sure enough – one by one – the bricks start to shake and fall until those walls of stone come falling down toppled by an undeniable truth.  With a flash of understanding I can see my words penetrate their solid beliefs and replace them with compassion.

But somewhere between each meeting room and the classroom, my spell is broken. With every step along those hallowed corridors, every fallen brick moves effortlessly back to its place in the wall and piece by piece the insight and the empathy is blocked out once again.   As the teacher reaches the blackboard, the establishment is restored once again.

I appreciate their time and their ears, I really do.  But it is not listening we need; its doing. It is not me that needs their attention, it is CHT.  And it is not a meeting or a report that changes things, but action.

Because every day this continues, barriers of a different kind are going up.  Cold, misshapen walls loom, and silently trap CHT ever more tightly behind each negative experience. Their punishments, their rebuffs, their knock backs, their league tables, their prejudice undermine her strength and her astonishing will to do well; replacing her goals and her braveheart determination to achieve brick by brick with a reluctance to participate, a fear of trying, and a strong resentment for the education system that is letting her down.

It chills me to my very core as I watch seemingly powerless while they crush her and let her slip through their net.

FASD and adoption are the statistical shanty towns of the school room; loco parentis does not apply here and every child does not matter.

Further reading:

Adoption UK Publication – Education Now

Other adoption/education blogs from The Weekly Adoption Shout Out


A child like CHT comes with labels; so many you can barely see the girl for the tags.

FASD:  condemned before birth to a lifetime of struggle and frustration, these four letters are acid etched by alcohol into the brains and faces of children while still in the womb. Once born, the label is widely unrecognized except by those who carry it; there is little support, and it is devastatingly misunderstood.

Victim of Domestic Trauma:  this sharp edged label is scriven in blood. Penned by a family at war, the twists and turns of every letter cut deep crimson scars, leaving no room for words of tenderness, care or protection.

Looked After Child:  ward of the state, taken.  A label written only in numerals on the side of a file. A case, a report, a court order; lost among the many on a social worker’s desk. Just one more number in the tangled workload of a weary care system.

RAD:  a theory, a diagnosis.  A primal wound ripped into the very fabric of the soul.  A label scrawled like graffiti on a great wall that imprisons love trust and self-belief, and separates a child from their roots and their home.

Sensory Disorder:  a label packed tight with conflicting messages.  Tapped out in code, it’s white noise assaults every sense to scramble any chance of integration and regulation, and makes chaos of the world – inside and out.

Adopted:  an official seal on a dotted line, this label classifies a human as an institution; too complex to do justice here.

Sometimes I wonder which label we are dealing with today, which one is steering her with its complex script.

All these terms render her different:  set apart, misunderstood, marginalized, lonely – all that even before the hateful jibing labels that haunt every child in the playground: fatty, four eyes, big ears, gingernut, stupid, pissyknickers, crybaby, pig pen, welfare…

I hate them; hate them all.  Hate that she was given them, and the power they have over her.  The pain they carry, the way they cling to her, and how they shred her childhood to ribbons.  I hate the way they dominate and obscure her, and force her to live their story. And lastly, I hate that – as she discovers each label and recognizes them in herself – they leave their mark ever deeper in her skin, like tattoos. 

But then – for a moment – she is simply a girl once more.  

Just a kid; a whole kid, unfettered by words.  Running along the link mesh at school during playtime, waving madly and shrieking with surprise; laughter pealing from her lips and light shining from those deep, brown eyes.  Shedding all the labels in an instant, forgotten; fluttering, trampled in her wake like autumn leaves.

No preoccupations, no issues, no disorders, no fears, no trauma, no pain, no wound, no walls; no labels. Just running, elated and happy to see someone she loves smiling back at her from the car window as it flashes past.

No labels – just a kid.

These are the days we label with hope.


Read more here on:

Children and Domestic Violence: Women’s Aid

FASD: The FASD Trust

Attachment Disorder (RAD): Dan Hughes

Sensory Disorder: SPD Foundation

Introducing Mumdrah

A need inside has been growing.

Competing with the responsibilities, demands and emergencies that rule and shape my everyday. Finally this desire has won a place in my list of priorities; and a blog is born.

There is so much to tell you, so much ready to spill out of me.  But stories are best shared when gently unfolded; so we will start with some basics of navigation in Mumdrah’s world.

Adoption brings out the best, and the very worst in me.  It involves a daily discovery of raw inner strength and resource i never new existed;  the pure, white love of devotional saints, the blood red claws of a protective lioness.  But i also stumble into the black depths of despair, frustration and anger; a selfish triad who slip their chains to release a screaming banshee that – once calm – is crushed by the horrors of her own lack of humanity.  The yin and yang of adoption.

I see this as a journey of four parts: birth parent, adoptee, adopter, and the poor bewildered collective of friends and family dragged unwilling into the intrepid journey. They say there is no wilderness left to explore, and yet the outback territory that adoption leads me into requires a machete.  There is no compass or map to guide us, no local knowledge to welcome or point to the right path; Debrettes can tell us nothing about the rights and wrongs of charting these rough but rewarding seas.

We hope to navigate our way through, knowing there is no way out.  Trying to find and build as much self love and wholeness during our journeying, while scaling the bitterness and trauma to cut it down to size.

Adoption is the forging fire into which we – all four – are thrown; to be hammered, shaped and changed irrevocably.  A process which causes as much pain and torment as it does triumph and agape.  It builds you up and strips you down, exposes you and isolates you, turns you upside down and inside out.

And i wouldn’t have it any other way.