Book review: Attaching in adoption by Deborah Gray

I’ve also been skimming a book for parents of attachment disordered children/ children of trauma. Attaching in Adoption, Like The connected Child by Karynn Purvis, it’s a guidebook on the various issues and interventions parents can use to make family life stable increase healing and even have fun. Deborah uses similar techniques to Karynn Purvis Daniel Hughes, and Nancy Thomas. These include the concept of high structure/ high nurture. Meaning that children are in an environment where expectations are extremely clear. There is a lot of emphasis on doing chores, being taught the right way to interact with others through repeated practice/ coaching. And consequences for any disorder behaviors that are harmful or interfere with family life. On the other hand, it’s high nurture. Lots of time staying physically close to the mother. Mother doing developmental stage activities such as rocking emphasis on eye contact, bottle feeding ETC. Having special time just for the child and mother. Lots of bonding fun activities.

From the basis of those two things working together Deborah then goes into other things books I’ve read so far haven’t covered. The issues that come up for siblings of a traumatized child, or child moving into the family. Being sure that things are fair and emotionally balanced in the family. Even though yes this child has special needs, they aren’t allowed to manipulate or take over the ability of the family to work together, feel safe and have fun. There are strong boundaries around what information siblings know about a child’s trauma history. Siblings set boundaries as well to keep themselves and their property safe. There is a balance of making sure everyone’s needs are addressed at all times.

There is a lot of talk about self-care which from reading blogs on the subject is way easier said than done. Like in many cases can not be done due to the nature of the situation. They give practical steps for setting up a support team and what information you give to each person on that team. How to find a good therapist and exact qualifications are discussed.

Another interesting section looks at what the parent’s emotional needs are. Being sure the parent has support in not being traumatized by the child’s symptoms or trauma story. As well as being compassionate and including the parent’s possible difficult reactions in the therapy. If a mother who was sexually abused had a child who was working on this in therapy she might be supported in leaving the room at that moment to trigger herself. She emphasizes everyone’s needs being a high priority not just the child’s.

I don’t remember every section of the book. I am impressed with the scope of topics covered. I think it answers probably every question someone might have. It also gives an extensive resource list.

One comment she makes around interacting with the kids that I don’t like. If a child is continuing a poor behavior and just totally stuck. She’ll have parents say the child “needs to learn/ remember practice acting like a “family boy or family girl.” To me this is really insulting/ hurtful. These children have been either passed around the system, or just so abused in the relationships that are supposed to be the most nurturing and life giving. To tell a child when they’re not acting as they should that they’re no longer acting like a member of the family seems extremely harsh. She takes it a step forward saying that a child then should be put on worker status. Meaning no fun family things a bunch of chores and writing assignments. It shouldn’t last more than a day but still. How isolating and just not what I’d heard anyone else recommend. I would not talk to a healthy attached child like that ever. I can’t imagine the harm it could cause a traumatized child to hear they aren’t acting like a part of the family.

Other than that, which is a big concern, I’m in agreement with the rest of the book and it’s suggestions. I would recommend this book perhaps as a first glance at the various issues. And then decide what you’d need further resources in.

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