Story About a Child
I have been working with an 18-month-old child I will call Felice, who was a foster-to-adopt child infant. A couple had fostered Felice from birth until she was returned to her biological mother at two months. That return failed, and she spent time in other foster homes. When the child was returned to the couple’s care twelve months later, she was self-harming and attacked caregivers and therapists and mostly herself if she was triggered, which happened more frequently than not.
Because Felice couldn’t let anyone close to her, she was unable to receive any intervention services. So the foster/adoption agency referred Felice and her family to me to work on her disorganized attachment issues.
The couple wanted to adopt Felice, but it was clear that in her previous placements Felice had been deeply deprived of appropriate care.
I worked with the family weekly, slowly introducing Felice to more delight, loving connection and calming regulation. There were many breakdowns and upsets, at times the couple doubted they could handle the stress. Going slow and understanding how painful and scary it was for her to trust again was paramount–letting her set the pace while providing a safe, contained place where she slowly learned not to hurt herself or anyone else.
One year later, she was a completely different child! She is now much more regulated and is learning to tolerate frustration without descending into hours of uncontrollable rage and tears. She loves dancing and music and especially her parents! Her favorite thing in the world is to stay at home and spend time with them. For all of us, this was a triumph, a triumph won through weekly parent-child sessions and frequent parent coaching sessions–and, of course, by courageous parents with abiding faith and a good sense of humor. At two years and two months, Felice had made the leap from being impossible to soothe when upset, to seeking comfort in her parents’ arms. She was happily adopted and is thriving.