Hi Everyone,
This is my first post. I am a single mother of an adopted, older adolescent with significant developmental trauma. Here are my two top issues for us here in Massachusetts and one at the national level:

1. Lack of transition resources including job training, internships and mentoring. We have been using the traditional vocational resources but have found incredible lack of basic trauma knowledge. We've tried 3 programs now including one funded by Department of Mental Health and two by the Rehabilitation Commission; all did not work. My daughter is turning 18 next month and though I am paying for one-on-one transition counseling, this is not sustainable.

2. Lack of clinical experts. To date, we have no clinicians in the metro Boston area with substantial expertise in developmental trauma and attachment. I travel every other month 2 hours one way to see Dr. Dan Hughes with my daughter. Last time I checked there was only one clinician in the entire state trained in NMT by Bruce Perry. I have now spoken out in public settings to the Commissioner of Department of Mental Health and the Commissioner of Department of Children and Families about the horrendous barriers we as adoptive parents with older kids with severe developmental trauma face in accessing real healing for our kids. I have gone as far to ask for a Task Force for Adoptive Parents to no avail. 

3. Lack of collaboration between fields of developmental trauma and attachment/adoption. I see a lot of amazing things posted on this website on developmental trauma but rarely are they combined with attachment. For those of us in the trenches this has to change (yes I belong to the Attach.org but their national conference does little to ensure we can find resources in our respective states).

Thank you so much, Gail Merriam

Original Post

Welcome Gail!
More power to you for being an advocate for your child and all the children whose parents are not able (for whatever reason) to be the squeaky wheel, speaking truth to power, and holding onto a position/opinion that is right for your child but not necessary accepted by the mainstream. 

I am so sorry you and your child are having such difficulty. 

While not specifically attachment disorder (although in some ways similar but with different underlying causes) your struggles sound so familiar, my two kiddos were diagnosed with autism and we struggled to find and obtain the interventions needed to make a real difference in their developmental trajectories. I can recall saying (in IEP meetings and elsewhere) if my kiddos had a medical condition then we could get assistance - as if the mind and the body are not connected. Very frustrating, even for me, a public health nurse who worked "in the system". It was eye opening and heartbreaking. It is a long story... however I can say that today they are doing well and all the difficult, alienating, advocacy really did payoff. The outcome for other families we were close to, who followed the educational system's recommendations (vs the emerging science around autism related interventions) their kiddos will need lifelong support. This is not to be judgmental, it is to say you know your kiddos best. Listen to your heart and voraciously read the emerging science. 

Once the dust settled a bit, I was appointed to the board of a statewide organization advocating on behalf of people with developmental disabilities. 

Locally, overtime, I've seen many board positions go unfilled - meaning missed opportunities to bring a voice to meetings where key decisions are being made - that will impact the lives of those we love. Here is an example of a board in MA: Massachusetts Developmental Disabilities Council

I am wishing you all the best - and appreciate you reaching out here on ACEs Connection and shining a light on developmental trauma and attachment disorder.

You've also sparked me to wonder if these issues are being considered when new ACEs screening forms are being piloted / developed? Thanks for nudging me to wonder ...
Karen

Hi Gail -- how are you!?!  I don't "know" about the resources I'm going to suggest because I don't live in MA.  But given that the ARC model for intervention was created in the Boston area, I have to believe there are practicing therapists there somewhere who are using this.  I realize there's been upheaval of JRI and the originators, but is there anyway you can access through their information to clinicians. https://arcframework.org/

Also wondering if Adoption Journeys can give you any meaningful help in finding vocational resources/coaching/training.  This is a HUGE problem for our developmental trauma population nationwide.  ATN has volunteers with young adult children struggling to find meaningful transition services in many states.  I've personally been "lucky" that the private transition provider our voc rehab assigned our daughter to (experts in high functioning autism) have been a good match for her and recognized in the first 2 weeks that she, in their words "doesn't really appear to have autism...or there's something else" -- they've been very open to learning about developmental trauma and working with us.

We have a LONG way to go advocacy-wise for the children/young adults who have been the most significantly impacted by their trauma.  We at ATN share your concern about the lack of understanding/awareness around addressing attachment issues (dare I say disorders) in addition to the impact of trauma.  We advocate for the inclusion of DT in the DSM, and we love networking with/working with our colleagues at ACEs Connection because we agree that knowledge about attachment theory, attachment disorders and attachment-focused parenting are critical components to help heal early childhood trauma.  We also advocate for those focusing their missions on building resilience to understand that the most crucial building block for resilience is healthy attachment - which means the most crucial change agents for our children are those parenting them!  Equipping and supporting parents is a huge solution to helping this national trauma epidemic!

Julie

 

 

Gail:

I'm so glad you asked here so maybe this can be a bigger conversation with a lot of other parents. It's such a great post for such a hard and important question. I  know you're in MA (like me) but I agree that these are national issues and hopefully others will share as well. I've heard lots of adult survivors and those who work with adults survivors about the lack of resources available for those who are adults who've had lots of trauma, ACEs, challenges and are dealing with that all in present tense. I'm thinking of @Dawn Daum and @Joyelle Brandt, of @Louise Godbold and @Rebecca Lewis-Pankratz of @Elizabeth Perry, @Melissa Sadin and @Julie Beem (I'm glad Julie's already replied) as well as SO MANY others.

I'm also tagging @Deb Mutschler who manages the Massachusetts Essentials for Childhood program, as well as @Heather Turner@Kristal Cleaver@Laurie Loisel and @Andrea Mancuso the Trauma Informed Hampshire County community as well as @edward jacoubs and @Melinda Kneeland who are doing great work on the South Shore in MA, and @Debra McLaughlin who is also leading work in central, MA. @Erin Golden is also key as is @Sebern Fisher and @Claudia Gold as they are all in MA, as is the amazing team at Riverside Trauma. I'm hoping some of them might have more ideas, suggestions, actual resources for you. Also, maybe it's time for a meeting in MA to expand the conversation and create more linkage with Stephanie C. of the Attachment Trauma Network who is also in MA (and is great)?    

Speaking of, maybe this whole topic could be a session or several at the next ATN conference next year, about supporting teens transitioning to adulthood as well as supporting adults who have had developmental trauma, ACEs, traumatic stress, attachment losses or wounds?

Unfortunately, as someone who has been dealing with my own developmental trauma in greater Boston area, actively, for three plus decades, I also find it's really hard to access more than talk therapy even though the research shows far more and different is needed. Neurofeedback and lots of somatic based approaches aren't affordable, accessible, or covered by insurance at all a lot of the time and/or don't have practitioners anywhere near where we live, go to school, or work. Though we supposedly have some of the best healthcare, experts, and research here in MA that doesn't translate into the best actual or accessible services or support for kids, families, or adults dealing with attachment issues and developmental trauma in present tense, or later on. 

I worry that the responses to ACEs screening is to refer people to behavioral health, mental health and social workers when those who have had access to those are and have been saying for a long time that what currently exists not only doesn't always work but can even re-traumatize those with trauma. It's a HUGE area. I admire your effort and advocacy to help make changes for not only your family but for others. I'm sorry it has been so darn hard. I know it's hard and I've lamented the crisis at our own Boston-based trauma center and the way it's made things harder here in MA for survivors and those needing any outpatient mental health services in the last year plus. 

I think those in the adoption world and who know about developmental trauma are natural partners and are talking so much about so many similar issues. I agree that more collaboration and support for each other is needed. As an adoptive mother with my own developmental trauma, it was what I learned about attachment, as an adoptive parent to be, that was one of the top five most healing things for me, not just to help prepare me as a parent but to understand my own challenges relating to others. I mention this whenever I talk because while the trauma-informed movement is big on talking about "relational wealth and health," as the key to resilience, it's not talking as much about how parents with developmental trauma will have some real challenges, not because we aren't loving and capable but because we've not been as relationally advantaged as others, and live with that the adults we become.

I wish I had more resources, supports, specific things to share that could support you and your daughter. I can say this is a place (as is Parenting with ACEs) to keep sharing your concerns, and also to announce and share what you are sharing when you speak out to the Dept. of Mental Health, and if comfortable, share what you are saying in case others want to do the same and could share talking points, or at least support each other for the way advocacy and single parenting can be especially daunting when raising kids and dealing with their/our needs not being met, so we can keep finding each other. 

This is a long response but I am sorry it still lacks tangible resources and that we have to be part of creating better resources as we're also in need and looking to identify them. Thank you for what you're doing and sharing. 

Cissy

P.S. Rise Magazine though in NY not MA is doing great work helping advocate as and with parents who have been involved in child protective services. They address the equity and racial injustice issues that are often avoided or ignored and are important voices for all in child protective services and ACEs prevention work to listen to and work with. Often, people lament the lack of "lived experience" voices at meetings and tables, but there are lots of folks sharing articles and speeches who can give insights, and have support of orgs, and aren't token voices, or in awkward spot of being service recipient to an org asking them to also give feedback. For those who truly want to learn more, it's possible. My personal feeling isn't that it should be asked of parents and survivors to do as free and voluntary work when everyone else on the team is doing as a paid part of their wider work, and it keeps voices and representation token. I think teams and initiatives wish for more representation but don't yet have tools or skills or maybe willingness to really take this issue up and on and make change.

Cissy & Gail -- I'm glad that Cissy suggested elevating this conversation.  Here's why -- whatever's not happening in MA, you can bet that it's not happening in most of the rest of the country as well.  Yes there are experts scattered about who are doing marvelous work...but as Cissy points out, it involves a great deal of time and money accessing them (not covered by insurance and not always nearby).  

Our advocacy work for healing IN FAMILIES is far from over.  I also whole-heartedly AGREE with what you said Cissy about parents being the token voice at the table for many, many years...it is in part why ATN was formed, because our voice wasn't taken seriously or valued in the same way as others, even while research is saying that the one nurturing caregiver is the most important resiliency factor there is.  And yet...for over two decades we continues to shout...to volunteer...to reach out.  We're hoping now that the public is turning to trauma-informed care in many fields that the most important trauma-informing (and supporting) that is needed...within families...is going coming to the forefront.

ATN welcomes conversations about how we can collaborate in meaningful ways to make things better for families...and to promote the importance of attachment-focused parenting, therapies, interventions and supports to help children and families become more resilient.

Julie

Julie: 

On behalf of parents ( via adoption, and in general) as well as survivors THANK YOU snd the ATN team. I know you’ve been at this a long time and I admire the passion and commitment and the way communities and orgs and sectors are converging and working together more. More is happening and more is needed!!  ATN has been a huge force for good driving change!!! Cissy 

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Karen Clemmer (ACEs Connection Staff)
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