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4.4 out of 5 stars
The Trouble with Alex: A Mother's Battle. A Child's Rage
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 17 August 2008
Melanie Allen's experience is sadly not unique. Modern day adoption is about finding families for deeply traumatised children, children for who a world's worth of love may not be enough to 'cure' their hurts. Hurts which can seriously affect a child's ability to function normally in the world, and especially in a family, and make it almost impossible for them to trust.

Melanie and her husband were typical adopters, full hearts, brimming with hope and a strong desire to 'make a difference' to a child who needed them. They imagined (as so many do) that they would be different; the worst-case-scenario would not happen to them because they would make sure it didn't, and they would have energy and strength enough to spare.

As a foster carer and adopter myself, I did find their expectations of Alex and of adoption were rather high, but again this is not untypical. I also found myself concerned during the first 200 pages about the way in which Melanie managed Alex, realising that she had got the 'needs firm boundaries' message loud and clear but was at risk loosing her reasoning and applying rather draconian discipline to Alex - but once again this is not an unusual scenario. It was not done with malice, but with a real expectation that this was the right thing to do.

Social Services experiences were again so normal as to be predictable to anyone who has had much involvement with them. The Allens weren't believed, they were blamed; vilified even. The Lord save foster carers and adopters from very young, very inexperienced social workers! Real effective help costs BIG money, which social services departments don't have as the Allens discovered. But please don't misunderstand - the system is the problem, not individual social workers.

I read this pretty much at one sitting, as I progressed through the second half of the book my sympathy for the Allens grew, and it was possible to feel their bewilderment as they struggled to make sense of a system that claimed to care but failed to show it with anything other than empty words.

If you found this book compelling, the following book will be of equal interest and give even greater insight as to how early-years neglect or abuse can decimate a child's life.

The Boy Who Was Raised As a Dog: And Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist's Notebook - What Traumatized Children Can Teach Us About Loss, Love, and Healing
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on 17 April 2011
As an adopted mother of two I was recommended this book by my best friend who had read it to try to understand our situation better. I read a few reviews (some of which are quite judgemental) before reading the book and having now finished it I have to say: read this book with compassion for both Alex and her family. Our adopted daughter has Disorganised Attachment Disorder and Post Traumatuc Stress Disorder and we have experienced many of the difficulties that Melanie described so well. Parenting a traumatised child is incredibly difficult and emotionally and physically drainin. As prospective adopters we are not informed or prepared for these children because it is not in the best interests of Social Service to be fully truthful when placing them and it is not economical for them to admit to these serious issues- if they did they would have to do something about them. Melanie has been incredibly brave to put her story into the public arena- she has stood up for so many of us who struggle on day to day with unbelievable challenges without adequate support and carrying the shame and blame that is placed on us by others. If you want read this for voyeuristic reasons please don't our struggle is painful and real we are not a "good read", if you want to read this to judge please don't because until you have lived through this you have no right to judge, if you want to read this to learn about attachment disorder and its profound effect then do so with compassion and use your understanding to support us and challenge those who will villify and blame.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 15 January 2009
I have yet to read this...and I go there with aprehension.

As adoptive parents we live with this, and have just been through the exact same experience with Social services. We did nothing but try and get extra help for our child.

Our family is in pieces and our child has had no help from them.
I want to read this,i'm afraid of reliving it. More importantly, I want others to read it...because it's no fairy story.

I'm glad that this book has been written.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 8 April 2008
After just reading this true story it has left me deeply sad, frustrated and angry but most of all it has regained my belief that there are truly amazing people out there with so much patience and love to give. The sadness is because this family could have had a better life if they were listened too. The frustration that people who in society are given the responsibility to "know what's best" have ignored the facts and put their own beliefs above the people who love and know a child. Finally the anger that this poor child has been left to deal with her own inner demons and will probably never really feel at peace with what happened in her very early childhood. This is a beautifully written book that pulls at every single emotion.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on 4 August 2010
Utterly unputdownable. Pure vindication for an adoptive mother who has suffered at the hands of social services ineptitude. All prospective adopters should read this in preparation for the troubles - not from the damaged children they may adopt - but from the utter farce of a social services system in this country.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 5 January 2012
I'm halfway through reading this book and it is an interesting account of bringing up a child who doesn't conform to the everyday rules most of us adhere to! Anyone interested in adopting children with special needs should read this.
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on 30 December 2014
I did find this book a page turner - in fact it was read completely in two sittings however I was compelled to get to the end as to hope that Alex came through this traumatic experience and better adjusted and happier young girl. I'm afraid that unlike other readers my sympathy levels concerning Mel were very low (as she herself came to expect from most people). I can't help but get the feeling that she thought she was adopting a dog from a rescue centre and that all this damaged little girl needed was love and she would instantly reciprocate. By her own admission Mel speaks of being complacent and failing to read even the basic literature supplied during the pre-adoption training process regarding attachment disorders. Mel could have saved a whole lot of heartache for everyone if she had bothered to read such important information. By the time she did read it, understood Alex's difficulties and looked for help from Social Services Mel had already painted herself as a neurotic and uncaring mother who to all other observers, was effectively trying to demonise this poor child. I am sure that Mel did enter into this adoption whole-heartedly with only the best intentions but her introductory reference to being a 'normal middle class family' raises my suspicion that referring to her socioeconomic class infers that she thought such financial stability and possibly the ability to 'buy' love (think of all the activities with Alex she had planned prior to the placement) was a substitute for putting in the hard work to truly understand the possible needs of such a child. This family went in way too far over their heads and their naivety only served to damage this girl further in my opinion. Quite simply, Mel wanted to have a daughter who mirrored her well behaved biological son whilst failing to recognise that Alex's first five years of life were more horrific and damaging than her son will most likely ever have to endure in his entire life.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on 3 April 2008
I was totally absorbed in this book. Definitely a page turner but not for the reasons that I usually read books. Yes I wanted a happy ending for Alex but also wanted Social Services to admit that they hadn't listened to the Allens. I didn't get either ending.
Melanie Allen was truthful and honest about her feelings - so very brave to put them down on paper and face the public with what had already destroyed her family and her peace of mind. She will have to hear people berate them and believe that they could "fix" Alex. If that was the case then I believe that she would have been the 1st one in the queue to do this. The love that she showed came through in the book. Her patience in helping Alex learn her alaphabet was extraordinary. I know that my frustration would have come through much earlier!
This book should be talked about as there are questions that need to be answered and Social Services be asked to justify their actions.
Well done Melanie
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 1 May 2008
I read the book cover to cover in just a couple of sittings, just willing the parents to be listened to and Alex to be helped.

The fact that this is a true story, is amazing - it is hard to believe what this family went through with very little support.

Hopefully, those involved in social services will read this book, and will be better equiped to support families in this situation in future.
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This is an extraordinary and very well written account of a family's struggle to survive following the adoption of a young girl. The honesty shown by the author in her heartbreaking and vivid account is exceptional and really does provide so much thought-provoking information on what it is to be a parent and to be part of a family unit. I'm certain that anyone who reads this book will recognise themselves somewhere in the story.

There is also some very useful information on child development which is integrated into the text in a readable and relevant way and must surely be essential reading for anyone thinking of adoption or of becoming a parent.
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