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Parenting Adopted Children With Challenging Behavior

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!


first what is a success? A lessening of behaviors? Secure attachment? Do you have a savvy attachment therapist? You can’t do this alone and regular therapy doesn’t help.

Have you read Parenting the Hurt Child by Keck? Are you ready willing and able to change your responses and parenting?

Most kids wit RAd do not start fires. Some do. Most kids with RAD can get better some don’t.

I have worked with these kiddos over 25 years and no dead parents.

Some do get better. Some go to residential and never live in a family.

Some go to jail, some go to college, some have jobs and are raising families successfully.

The range of severity is different. Parent’s willingness to change is different, ability of child to change is different.

Many are responding positively to neurofeedback training. What resources will you have? What financial help to pay for said resources?

They are not going to risk attaching if they might move. The question is, I guess do you want to take this on? There may be wonderful changes with the right help. If you adopt and they do not change what is your commitment?

Tough decision.

Who diagnosed them? Does that therapist have training in RAD and maybe could help you make a choice?

Posted by Regina on Oct 09, 2017 at 7:49pm

They might improve with treatment and stability over time, they might not. Either way it will be a hard road.When making your decision I think it’s best to hope for the best but plan for the worst. If the behaviors don’t improve and things stay as they are now, could your family handle it long term? If

Posted by rn4kidz on Oct 09, 2017 at 8:02pm

I have found that with mine, twins adopted at age 8 and now 12, that therapy and counseling was ineffective.  What has been effective is to engage them in environments where they have strong social and family skills role-modeling, particularly at the peer level.  They attend a small, private school, have lots of activities which interest them (heavy on the sports as they are very active and athletic) and we do a lot of fun family activities.  Mom does not attend sports practices (out of band-width), but I attend ALL games (and other events, school etc.) except when there is a schedule conflict between the two - they look for that re-inforcement and the behaviour does deteriorate if that re-inforcement is not there.  We are not perfect by any means, but compared to where we started the transformation is incredible.  What this means for me is I have no life beyond my twins, working (which is piecemeal these days), and helping my immediate family, who live across the country, when I can.  There are days that I long for more for me, but those feelings quickly dissipate when one comes for a hug and says “I love you mama, I have an awesome mom!.”  Best wishes in your journey, it is not easy and does require sacrifice and trade-offs - only you can determine which trade-offs are acceptable and which are not.

Posted by Anne333 on Oct 09, 2017 at 8:50pm

Anne I am glad the children are improving.

Therapy for a child with RAD should be family therapy with the parent(s) in the room or observing. Definitely a part of it as the issue is building an attachment between the child and parent. In traditional therapy the therapist tries to build a relationship with the patient.

The therapist should also understand the dynamics of adoption and help the child understand and accept their story.

Posted by Regina on Oct 09, 2017 at 11:21pm

God bless you for your willingness to help these children! I think as you are seeing from the comments here, success for these kids with severe early trauma is in how you define it. Can they attach? Yes. Will your children - maybe, maybe not. The upheaval you are experiencing might get better but it might get worse. If you choose to adopt, I think it best to do so with the expectation that it could not get better - but with the hope that it might. It’s not an easy decision.

Posted by TriMom73 on Oct 10, 2017 at 10:16am

My wife and I adopted a sibling group of three. The girls, 4 and 5, have had minimal issues with attachment. Their older brother, 10, has had extreme difficulty with attachment. He continues to hold out hope that his birth parents are going to show up at the door and take him “home.”

We work with a well-known attachment social worker. His behaviors at home are far different than school and in the community. His desire to attach is minimal. It is all based on his ability to manipulate and get material things. He tries to triangulate and cause extreme chaos in our home. It is driving a huge wedge between my wife and I.

He mostly targets myself as I am more likely to follow through on the rules and not give in to him. We have tried point systems, behavior charts, family rules, behavior plans, coping skill charts, and every service out there. He literally sabotages everything.

He was placed into foster care at age 7 and has no desire to hear that we didn’t take him from his parents. He also blames us for his parents not visiting or contacting. He doesn’t live in reality and was addicted to video games.

We aren’t sure what to do at this point.

Posted by radmom9 on Oct 31, 2017 at 2:29pm

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