Wednesday, 3 June 2009

TRUE LIFE REVIEW: The Trouble with Alex - Melanie Allen


Melanie Allen had a dream -- to adopt a special needs child and provide a stable loving family for her. But her dream turned into a nightmare that would tear her family apart. To all appearances the adopted girl, Alex, was obedient, happy and charming but, over the course of five years, Melanie was left desperate by the undiagnosed behavioural condition of Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) -- a problem not uncommon in children who are neglected. Alex festered with the rage and hatred born out of her unimaginable neglect as an infant. The manifestation of her symptoms was so malevolent and destructive that even Melanie's relatives didn't believe her when she told them the truth about Alex. She sought help from social services, to secure a correct diagnosis and support. Instead of receiving help, she was accused of abuse and neglect, resulting in a court case and a near-fatal incident that finally proved her innocence. This shocking story of how a caring, willing family were left powerless and desperate in the face of social services' incompetence is a thought-provoking and page-turning memoir. It is also a powerful, gripping narrative that tells what happens when someone you welcome into your home ends up destroying it, through no fault of their own.


A book that tells the story behind the nightmare of a family who adopted a child with special needs. What comes across however is a tale that is not only very blunt but also hasn’t portrayed the author in a positive light and feels more like a story written as an “I told you so” rather than bringing the struggles of the disabled child to the fore. Not only did the author come across as unprepared physically for the needs of Alex but also she lacked emotional fortitude along with understanding of what she was to put her family through in what felt like an “I adopted her to show myself in a positive light to my community.” Its draining and whilst I’m not saying that what they went through wasn’t a type of hell, it was a situation that they really shouldn’t have been in due to lack of comprehension to the child in questions needs. Interesting and thought provoking.


Stephanie said...

I agree. I found the story a very frustrating read and felt that Alex should have had regular visits to the paedeatrician and child psychologists from the get go.

I don't belive Melanie was adequately prepared, and in addition needed to seek psychological support for herself during the adoption process.

Despite, this - the mistakes Melanie made need to be read by those interested in adoption.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I both thought that Melanie (the author) comes across as someone who was very focussed on herself and not at all on the child. She doesn't even read the limited material she is provided at the start and only reads the booklet about potential problems and the description of the child's early life very late on. The mother's obsession with tidying away cutlery and setting the table exactly as she wanted it a bit creepy and obsessive and something any child would have rebelled against, never mind a damaged child. I was particularly disquieted by the assumption that the state should be taking care of everything for the family - if the child needed professional help and it wasn't forthcoming from the various authorities why didn't these supposedly loving parents just find the money to pay for it? They were both working and it was before the property price boom or the economic downturn. We felt that Alex might have been saved from the dismal future she now faces if she had had different adoptive parents and that sympathy should be with her and not with Melanie.

Anonymous said...

It seemed like Melanie was obsessed with making Alex conform to them than they to her. Granted, we only know part of the truths, but one can't help but wonder if, during their early times together, offering praise and rewards for good behavior might not have been more effective than the constant punishments for bad behavior. If Melanie could have understood then what she seems to know now, she might have been satisfied to let Alex be what she was-a little human full of flaws not her fault, but still pliable.

Anonymous said...

I think Melanie wrote this extremely honestly, even as a mother to only my biological son - when you get angry and then regret yelling, or scorning, it is a hard thing to admit to others when you feel you lost control of your temper... for her to admit that she completely lost control of herself on numerous occasions, as well as the complete honesty throughout the book, is very brave in my opinion. I feel for the family, and I am so sad for them that it split up their marriage. To say they should have been better prepared??? Even the professionals weren't prepared! I am the first to judge mothers who I don't think do their best, but I don't think Melanie Allen is one of them. I think she did all she could, and I felt I could relate to the way she handled the situation. It also put me off the idea of adoption if it ever were to have crossed my mind!!!

Anonymous said...

Melanie, I felt heartbroken & disgusted as I read your book. I had to keep putting it down & picking it up later to get through it. Alex deserved so much better than you & your 'family' - There was a reason nature disallowed you from more than one 'perfect' child. You are not fit to be called a mother.

Anonymous said...

i found the book quite frustrating, as in I could feel the frustration and desperation of melanie and her husband. i was so sad for little alex and for all she had endured - no child should ever endure such things of her past. But what i saw was a family who wanted to make a difference in her life, who yes - bit off more than they could chew without realising how difficult it was going to be, but i thought they did nothing but try and try to make a difference in her life, and while i did not always see or understand melanie's thinking behind certain things (such as cutlery), I saw a women being pushed to the edge having tried so many things in trying to help this child she wanted as her daughter. she got no help from those that should have been able to help.I think until we've been in that exact situation we should keep our criticisms to ourselves and instead pray for them and for all other people who find themselves in these heartbreaking situations.

Sarah said...

I believe Melanie did an amazing job trying to seek help for Alex and I am shocked at the negative comments some people feel they have the right to make.

I grew up in a situation very similar to what Melanie's family went through. I have a brother who has repeatedly been diagnosed with A.D.H.D. when my family is convinced he suffers from Schizophrenia or a similar mental illness. His violent outbursts and extreme paranoia have been ignored and discarded by Mental Health and he talks psychologists into believing he is sane. My family has fought tooth and nail to seek treatment for him but to no avail. Unfortunately his outbursts continued into adulthood and still untreated and misunderstood, he is serving a six year prison sentence.

My heart goes out to Melanie and her family. I loved your book. It is a shame these poor souls will never know how much we truly cared and tried to love them.