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AJ’s parents

AJ was three years old when he came to live with us. He had had a very difficult start in life, his basic needs had not always been met, and he had experienced neglect, for example, he didn’t have any routines, regular meals or clean clothing and he wasn’t kept safe at home.  When he moved in with us, he was underweight and had very little speech. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but we were confident that we could offer Oliver what he needed to begin to feel safe and trust again and we loved him immensely.  

It was lovely to see the positive progress AJ made over the next 6 months.  Slowly but surely, he began to enjoy meals and had a good mealtime routine, even eating vegetables which he had never tried before. His speech improved massively with the help of a speech therapist, but what made us most happy was that we could see that he was starting to heal emotionally. AJ became a happy, active and confident little boy, and loved nothing more than being outside playing football with Clarke (his adoptive dad). Everyone who met AJ loved him and commented on what a lovely little boy he was. 

It hasn’t all been plain sailing, we knew that the impact of AJ’s early experiences would continue to affect him and that there would be times throughout his childhood when there would be challenges.  For example when AJ was four, we noticed that food was going missing from our fridge, and a few weeks later we noticed a strange smell in his bedroom, and we found, balled-up sandwich leftovers, and other half-rotten uneaten food under his bed.  We were really upset as we didn’t understand why he had done this, we always ensured that AJ had regular meals and that he knew that he could ask any time if he wanted a snack or treat between meals. I had to pluck up the courage to ask for advice as I was worried that people might think that we were not feeding AJ and that was why he was taking food.  

I needn’t have worried, the adoption support team were fantastic, they helped us understand that AJ was not misbehaving, and it wasn’t because we had done something wrong. The need to hoard food was something AJ had learned at a very young age as a strategy for survival. He was hoarding food, as a result of food not being available to him in his early years and not knowing when his next meal would be.  We learnt that to reduce his fear we had to help him feel that he had some control. 

So following advice, we went shopping with AJ and bought him a little box that he chose, then together we chose some snack which AJ put in the box, for example, breakfast bars and boxes of raisins (food that would not go off). We then put the snack box under AJ’s bed.  We told AJ that we would check the box every week and replace what had been eaten.  Amazingly we never had to replace anything as it was enough for Oliver to know that there was food there if he needed and he didn’t take any more food from the fridge. We were over the moon as we knew that he had finally started to trust us to look after him and to make sure that he had what he needed. He no longer felt that he had to look after himself. 

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