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RAD Success Stories?

We are facing a dilemma, and I would appreciate feedback from this adoption community, if you can help.
    I am interested in hearing from any families who have successfully navigated Reactive Attachment Disorder.  I would love to know if any of you have seen real trust and attachment develop with your RAD kids—-and/or a lessening of controlling behaviors.
    We have been fostering a sibling set (brother 8, sister, 6) for 7 months.  We took them as an emergency placement because, after 15 months in their previous foster home, their behaviors had become more than the foster family wanted to handle.  In our home, the honeymoon has been over for months, and the controlling behaviors are in full bloom.  Brother is guarded and manipulative (lying, splitting, triangulating, gas-lighting), and Sister is overly affectionate (especially to strangers) and uses flirtatious behavior to control the attention of others, then she breaks down into angry, raging tantrums.  They are both superficially charming, but no real attachment has taken place within our family—not them to us, and as a consequence, not us to them.
    The children are moving toward TPR, and we are trying to decide if we are the right family to adopt them.  We have 5 kids at home (ages 17-9), and these last 7 months have been very stressful for them.  I’m not sure how to proceed for these two kiddos who need so much.
    I have tried researching RAD, and the internet is full of the sad stories (no attachment, PTSD among the bio kids, chaotic homes, defeated parents) and the horror stories (house fires set by RAD kids, rape of bio kids, murder of parents).  However, there aren’t really any “success stories”.  I am hoping that there are plenty of stories with happy endings for kids with RAD, but maybe they just don’t get the “press” that the more dramatic stories do. 
  Please, if you have a happy (or even a moving-steadily-toward-happy) story, would you share it?
    Thank you!


I have a happy story of sorts. But the reality is that the amount of energy and work to see progress in all the behaviors you mention is phenomenal. My daughter has made progress in 2 years, huge by all standards…but as amazing as the progress is there is still so very,very, much further to go.The toll it has taken on me, my health,my life, and the amount of support she requires, and so do I to keep my head above the tide is all encompassing, and the effort often just a hair short of terminally and completely exhausting.

She does have real trust for me (more so than for anyone) and attachment connection to me as well. She can be kind, funny, smart, vivacious, talented, considerate, and wise. But the reality is that the controlling, manipulative, nervous, out of balance,lying,sabotaging,mean, self absorbed, disturbed, resentful,raging, behaviors while diminishing, are present an overwhelming amount of the time.

Others see those positive behaviors most of the time…and I am constantly setting limits, and dealing with or the brunt of her abuse, and recipient of all the rest of the destructive behaviors…  while having her back and to hold her best interests always at heart.

Also I hate to add that the connection itself feeds her feelings of resentment, because to kids with her history, love from a mom is a dangerous thing as it will not last, and puts her at risk. So as much as she desires above all else a close connection with me,  the love and care I provide is greeted with resentment and rage…that she shows no one else.

And while her confidence,  ability to feel, self image, and ability to learn and try new things, have grown in leaps and bounds, and her self abuse lessened…in some way this has just freed her up to express her rage at me (as a stand in for the mother who abandoned her) even more forcefully.

Those I know with positive stories, ( I belong to a support group where over time almost all of us have seen healing and growth in our kids) all have similar but individual stories of many, many years of phenomenal energy and work (and love) for our kids, for essentially extremely hard won, minuscule gains, that over time add up some what….all at great expense to the mothers own health and lives. A few of the people have more than one kid, and partners….but frankly I can not imagine how one would care for a child like mine with many other kids no matter what the situation.

Hope this is helpful to you in making your choice. Of course no one can speak for you, but I would advise against going forward if you feel no real attachment to them, nor your family. Sometimes the kindest thing you can do is help them to find a family that is more suited than your own.

Posted by Happy Camper on Dec 21, 2017 at 2:58am

Happy Camper, thank you so much for taking the time to give me such a thoughtful and thorough-going response.  I really appreciate it!  I didn’t see it until today, but it was really encouraging to me in light of the decision we ultimately made. 
We didn’t end up adopting the children (actually they are still not legally free—slow moving courts), but we still see them often.  Their new foster home is a couple with no other children who have wanted to adopt for a long time.  I can see how, in so many ways, they are a better fit than we were.  I know it is going to be a long road for this family, but they are so invested in taking that road.  I’m grateful that they are willing for my family to still be in the children’s lives because we really do love them, even if we weren’t the best family for them. 
Thank you again for taking the time to answer!

Posted by Marmee on Feb 21, 2018 at 6:40pm

That is wonderful Marmee. I am so glad it is working out for the best for everyone. It does sound like you made the right decision for these kids and for your family! And it is great you can continue to be in their lives. smile Thanks for sharing the outcome!

Posted by Happy Camper on Apr 13, 2018 at 4:22pm

I hope they can find the therapy they need. Help them find resources that understand trauma, RAD and adoption they are few and far between. Traditional therapy( where the therapist tries to build a trusting bond with the client)  usually is not too helpful. It should include the parents in the therapy as well.

Yes I know loads of families whose children ended up doing well. When I ran a support group most said even knowing how hard it is they would still adopt the child

Posted by Regina on Apr 13, 2018 at 7:08pm

“They are both superficially charming, but no real attachment has taken place within our family—not them to us, and as a consequence, not us to them.”

This sounds like lots of serious problems, but why RAD? RAD is real but it is rare and not just because children don’t attach to an adoptive family.

You say that you didn’t attached to them, but that was a consequence of their behavior. Why isn’t a foster family’s inability to attach to them also RAD?

Posted by NoraT on Apr 17, 2018 at 4:44am

Reactive attachment disorder is a disorder of childhood so the foster parents can’t have that diagnosis because of their issues with attachment. RAD is a child’s response to an interruption in attachment development usually caused by events that are from prenatal to age three or so. (like exposure to drugs and alcohol prenatally, abuse, neglect, multiple moves, orphanage experience etc.) It takes two to attach so if the child is having difficulties attaching there is a problem. You are right in stating both the parent and child have to work on attaching because both need to be open. You sare also right in stating it is not just adopted children who have RAD. If a child didn’t attach securely in birth family because of abuse, drugs etc and stayed in birth family they might still qualify for a dianosis of RAD. People say it is rare but I am not sure it is rare among traumatized, abused, neglected children. I have never seen statistics on that and it is often misdiagnosed as ODD (Oppositional defient disorder)  or ADHD Attention deficiet with hyperactivity)
Attachment therapy would include educating parents about how they can be more open and make opportunities for attachment to happen.

Posted by Regina on Apr 17, 2018 at 2:46pm

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