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by Daisy Stirpe

Post-adoption work: how early intervention can make all the difference for a new family’s future

At JSA Psychotherapy we provide services for a diverse array of clients, utilising many different therapeutic models to do so. One that is particularly close to our heart, however, is the work we do to support parents of adopted children. Post-adoption work is, at its simplest, a means of assisting families in dealing with the unique challenges that the process of adoption can bring.

Our provision of this assistance begins with an initial psychological assessment. This allows us to determine what the most suitable programme of therapy will be to utilise. Typically, this would be a course of Play Therapy, a non-directive means of working with the child’s issues and concerns in an environment that is designed to be approachable and engaging for them. Parent-Child Relationship Therapy is also a common choice. This course is run specifically just for the adoptive parents and lasts for 10-15 weeks.

The assessment is of significant benefit to the overall period of intervention as it allows us to begin therapy with an integral understanding of the child’s unique needs. This ensures that subsequent practice is suitably evidence-based, with a trauma-informed approach maintained throughout. Sometimes however, the client or presiding local authority has a desire to commence a specific programme of therapy without conducting the assessment first. This is something we are able to accommodate upon request.

Additionally, many of our referrals for post-adoption support come from private agencies who operate under a strict budget for each adoption case. For this reason, we are able to provide comprehensive breakdowns of all costings involved upon request, inclusive of all expenditures.

All assessments conducted at JSA utilise the Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics, and those that precede post-adoption work are no exception. Indeed, the use of the NMT metric is of vital importance in these cases. In simple terms, the NMT is a means of mapping the impact of trauma and other adverse childhood experiences on a child’s brain development. It can be used to pinpoint where they may be struggling to meet their expected milestones in terms of age-appropriate relationship skills and cognitive ability.

This is of particular relevance because many children who have been adopted or enter foster care are likely to have previously lived through traumatic circumstances that have hindered their development. The specific issues that this may have caused will be unique to each child and are something that parents and carers will need to be mindful of. This is to say nothing of the trauma and attachment difficulties that may have arisen from breakdowns of any prior failed adoption or fostering placements.



Our psychotherapists have an established format for conducting the NMT within the assessment, which we use to compose a comprehensive formulation for further intervention. This includes two sessions with the adoptive parent(s) and an additional two sessions with child, conducted separately. This allows us to gain a full picture of background circumstances and understand the family dynamic at present. The remainder of the work is conducted by the therapist outside of sessions, ensuring that a maximum of four hours in total is necessary for allocated appointment time.

A recent report published by the British Association of Adoption and Fostering’s report in December’s edition of the quarterly adoption & fostering journal provides a sobering reminder of how essential it is to ensure that adoptive parents are able to access support where they need it. The study, titled What do we know about the impact of stress on foster carers and contributing factors?’ identified that the multitude of stressors that apply to parents who adopt are a pervasively frequent cause of placement breakdowns.

It has been demonstrated that timely intervention helps immeasurably to ameliorate what is easily the most prominent factor in placement breakdowns. It is for this reason that clinical therapeutic support for adopted children and their carers is of vital necessity. Not only does this avoid the emotional distress and disruption that a failed placement will cause, but it also means that for the sake of a relatively minor investment, local authorities and private agencies are safeguarded against the extreme financial burden of having to source an entirely new placement.

If you would like to learn more about our service, or the therapeutic models involved in our practice, be sure to follow the links in this article to other areas of the site where they are elaborated on in further detail. More specific queries and any inquiries for referral may be addressed to office@jsapsychotherapy.com

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