Sunday, September 14, 2008


Attachment is a huge thing in adopting children. Usually we think of issues with attachment as only being a subject relating to children who are older when they are adopted. Often it conjurs images in those who haven't been around "these children" much of beaten, terribly treated children who haven't been given enough love. Love will cure all, right? Put them into a loving home and they will be "normal" in no time. Not in these circumstances. Yes, love will give any child a home. Love is what we, as adoptive parents turn to when reason and patience and understanding fly out the window in the midst of some of these "issues." Love, unfortunately, is not always "enough" to change the behaviors, the learned survival behaviors in some of our children.

This is a difficult topic to touch upon, but it's an important one. One that many shy away from. But you need to know and try to understand. My former foster daughter "Girlie" was one of those considered at the far end of attachment. Reactive Attachment Disorder, RAD, has already been batted around even though she is still young for an official diagnosis. While I saw the signs, and recognized the amount of work she is/was/will be 24/7, it was still a hard decision to not "keep" her. And I hear comments from friends and family about how cute she is, how love and stability would even things out, and I think of how they don't understand and haven't been around older children with these issues. In young children, RAD is managable, in older children it can mean daily calls from school, bullying, stealing, jail... I wish people did understand. Many, Many, Many children are adopted and then given up in disrupted adoptions due to attachment and then having the children reaching adolescence. Many.

Attachment issues are not just found in children having been in 20 or more placements, or children having been adopted as teens. I have a friend who adopted an infant who has RAD. He did not receive the amount of nutrition or care he needed IN THE WOMB. From the time children are conceived they are forming attachments, building trust in the world. But for children brought into hard situations, to parents not knowing fully how to parent and not finding out, to relatives who are no better and sometimes worse, to having their needs go unmet day after day, etc. These children have a hard time forming attachments.

Yesterday my friend J and I went to a foster parent training. Can you guess what it was on? :) It was a great day. One of our two trainers is one of about 3-4 specialists in RAD in Illinois. While most of what we discussed J and I already had read up on, researched, etc it was great information and nice to be able to discuss some of these issues. One topic of conversation however I found incredibly relevant and eyeopening.

For quite a while I have thought Olivia had some processing issues. I thought maybe they just weren't noticing it yet at school but that it would be only a matter of time. I had talked to her doctors about having her evaluated by a neuropsychologist. Often when I am talking to Olivia she completely mishears or misinterprets what I've said. Many times she has heard something completely negative and immediately had a 30 min or more all out tantrum over it, even though that wasn't what was said. For example, one time in FL I explained to the kids who were going to lunch with grandpa, that they should be on their best behavior and that after lunch we would go swimming if they had done well with him at lunch. She heard "You are not going swimming." and immediately started a tantrum which lasted quite a while.

Yesterday the RAD specialist gave this exact thing as an example of how children with attachment issues perceive things their parents say. They will always seek to pull out the negative, even if it's not even there in the statement. Wow. In addition, bedwetting is a huge area of control for many with attachment problems. Olivia wets the bed every single night. Every night for the past 3 1/2 years she's lived with us. I've thought for a while that Olivia has had some attachment issues, I don't know what foster child who is somewhat older doesn't, but hadn't put her perceptions of my dialogue into that area of inspection. She is my one who is happy as pie to go to a sitter's or have a sitter over or spend time with others, where they boys will sometimes be sad or just huggy for a few min before I leave. Olivia says goodbye and hugs me, but because she's learned that that is what people do when others leave. It all makes so much more sense now that I've put it together with the rest and discussed this more with others "in the know".


FaerieMama said...

Great post. I just found your blog :) Do you use the BCLC method? I'm pretty crazy about Heather Fobes myself :) Just wondering...

Rebecca said...

WOW that was realy good! I deal with it each day myself and know how hard it can be! I know with Anna there are times she seems to act up just beacuse things were going too well!

Holly said...

oh Lisa.....this is hitting home right now.
I am in awe of how you cope.

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About Me

I am a single mom to four amazing kids; each of whom just happen to have been adopted. The first three were adopted through foster care, and we just completed an international adoption from Haiti. Our family has grown through adoption and I am all the more blessed to know each of my children. I worship a mighty God, teach Special Ed, love bargains, and am inspired by Pinterest... come along with us for the ride!

Olivia - 14

Olivia - 14

Braeden - 11

Braeden - 11

Liam - 9

Liam - 9

Macy - 5

Macy - 5

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