Hope for Children with Reactive Attachment Disorder

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I have been so touched and saddened by the Reactive Attachment Disorder blogs I have read lately. The struggles and absolute heartache are quite evident.

These are people full of faith in God and their children. And yet it hurts. It is harder than anything they’ve ever done before.

I know this road. I’ve been there.  I want to be an encourager tonight. To give you strength and courage for just one more day.

Some of our history is scattered throughout my postings but our basic history is we have two biological kids, now 20 and 16, and three adopted siblings, now 19, 11, and 10.

Our oldest adopted daughter B came to us when she was 10 1/2. She had spent 7 1/2 years with her birth parents, years full of abuse and neglect. After 4 years with us and finally discovering a RAD therapist, she divulged that she had been se*ually abused.

We spent four years lost and hopeless before that trying to get her help and find out what was wrong. As we discovered her abuse she started unveiling all the ways she had tried to hurt us.

We knew nothing of RAD or any adoption issues when we got the kids. We were so ignorant and trusting and that cost us dearly. We would have protected all of our family and gotten B the help she needed immediately.

There was overwhelming heartbreak for all of us. I was the object of her anger and she acted out in passive aggressive ways until we started RAD therapy. And the truth came out.

I became afraid when our therapist said we needed help beyond her abilities. Many people would say we bailed on B. This godly therapist helped us cope because we had four more children at home to protect and to nurture.

We found a group home for se*ually abused kids and B “worked the program” but never came home to us. Eventually her new therapist convinced her that our morals and values were far too high and she could never live up to them. That put a wedge in our relationship that could not be repaired.

A couple of years later she accused us of abusing her. Social services investigated us for five months and came to the conclusion that her allegations were unfounded. I don’t know what the real truth was in her life before us. I only know we couldn’t fill the hole in her heart.

We have spent the last 5 years since B left putting the pieces of our family back together. Her younger 2 siblings have RAD and they have acted out all their grief, anger and fear of being abandoned and thrown away.

It has been years of therapy, intense supervision and absolute trust in God to sustain us.

But all of this is to say that there is still hope. M and S are not B and there is hope for them. Their parents’ drug addiction and abandonment have done a job on their brains, and we struggle every day with school and attachment issues.

But things have gotten better. They have a chance at a good life if they will continue to work and allow love to do miracles.

Last night S apologized in tears to me again because she had so much anger towards me. Pitching fits, screaming, biting, all directed at me. But she worked through it. And now she knows that I will never leave her, no matter what.

She still battles her thoughts and feelings of unworthiness, but there is hope.

We have moments when our family time is good, not sabotaged by my RAD children. Times when they allow themselves to be happy and not scared. Genuine feelings of love without manipulation. Yes, there is hope.

I don’t have great advice on raising your special needs child. I will say to take care of yourself. You can’t fill up your family from an empty vessel.

You have been given an amazing task, of raising wounded children to learn to love and trust again. God knows the depth of our abilities and strengths so much more than we do. When you’ve reached the end, that’s when God’s grace and power is most evident.

S asked me if I regretted adopting them. Not for a minute. Do I wish I had known nine years ago what I know now? Absolutely.

Has my heart been broken for these children? Every day.

Did I think things would ever get better? Not when I was in the middle of the worst moments of my life. But there is hope. And healing.

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59 Comments

  1. Homeschooling my son for a year we lived abroad was the worst experience of my life. I was so depressed ! Are there any parenting groups you can share teaching responsibilities with?

    1. Hi, Kelly. There are usually community homeschool groups with classes and activities. I would just ask on Facebook or ask your other homeschool friends. Then there’s always online school. Hope you get some help!

  2. how does this happen? It seems there are so very very many aspects of our lives that have regulations on top of regulations without true follow through on all sides of individual situations. Ia it ignorance neglect or what ??? How do we make these things right ?? It is almost like there are so many of these things we never even hear about so we cannot even pray about them. thank you for making this known so we can pray about it. God bless you.

    1. Hi, Brenda. Thanks for commenting on this post. I just now saw the comment. It’s really hard when you adopt out of the foster care system (or even adopting overseas) because much is often not known about the children you adopt. When bad things happen to children they are usually not forthcoming out of fear and shame and it may take years and even decades for abuses to come out. We believe God has a plan and a purpose for our lives and our adoption and adopted children are all part of it and we are to live our lives out of obedience, trusting His plan. Thank you for your prayers and blessings!

      1. Hi Marty, I was wondering if you could share how you found funding for your son’s group home? We are trying to figure out how to find residential treatment for our adopted child who does not have Medicaid. Thank you.

        1. Our son (and daughters) were on Medicaid so they paid for the treatment for both our son and daughter. I would try finding a Facebook group of adoptive moms and put out a request for help. Often they know different places that might be affordable. If he’s in trouble with the law then you’ll have social services, juvenile and others involved. Our son was never in that kind of trouble. Hope you get the services you need.

  3. Thanks for the encouragement! It’s always good to know we aren’t the only ones and it will get better!

    1. I’m glad I could encourage you! Homeschooling kids with RAD is definitely difficult and exhausting. If you read more recent posts of mine you’ll see we are still struggling with our 16 year old son. I hope you continue with the fight because our kids are worth it!

  4. I am putting together a daily parenting book of encouragment for parents of children with RAD and would love to pick your brain on a couple things. Please feel free to contact me. I wasn’t sure how else to get a hold of you.

    1. My husband and I went on a 9 yr journey with our adopted son with RAD when he was 4 1/2 yrs old. We didn’t even know the term of Reactive Attachment until about half way through. Had we been educated as to how dangerous and challenging life would become, and that NONE of it was his fault – in other words that he couldn’t control it, it wasn’t a behavioral problem, it was a problem in his brain due to severe abuse and neglect – It would have alleviated a lot of the pain and guilt thinking it was our fault, which is what most of our friends and family believed to be true. Because our son ultimately but chemicals in our food and water he had to go to a therapeutic foster home almost a year ago.
      The program is working for him and for us. Our son apologized for some of the vandalism, stealing, and breaking and entering. We all three are using new coping skills and trying to expand and grow. My husband wants him to come back home but I’m more cautious. I’ve gotten out my trauma by writing a book about it and plan to start my own blog as well and stress management program for parents of RAD children. I would love a copy of your parenting hand book. Please let me know how to obtain one. Thanks so very much!

      1. Hi, Kelly. I understand your situation well and I’m so glad you’ve got a good support system in place going forward. I haven’t written a handbook or anything. My kids are adults now and I don’t write a lot to protect their privacy. But there IS hope and I pray things will continue to get better for you!

      2. Hi Kelly, I was wondering if you could share how you were able to get funding for the therapeutic foster home. Was this through your county juvenile justice system? We have an adopted son who is can be violent, but he doesn’t have Medicaid, so he isn’t eligible for many residential treatment facilities. Thank you!

        1. Hi Sharon! We lucked out. Everything is covered through State of Massachusetts via Medicaid and Dept of Children and Families. Same agencies we adopted through as foster son. I think living in a liberal state literally saves us in this situation. I know most other places aren’t as generous. If we take him back home and he acts out again he can go back into program for rest of high school. They can’t make parents keep a child they don’t feel safe with. But he could petition to be adopted into other family if we don’t all agree. Time will tell. Have you checked into all avenues? If child is danger to you or himself there should be legal options.

  5. Thanks so much for this! My husband and I are prayerfully considering if foster to adopt is something that God is calling us to do. You hear many of the “warm fuzzy” stories about it, once you start looking into it, but we know what a challenge this might be and want to walk into it with our eyes wide open. Hearing about the struggles and the rewards in a very real way is so needed! Thank you for sharing your story–and if you do start a blog dedicated to this please let me know!

    Also yes, thank you so much for answering God’s call and serving Him in real, ugly, hard ways–the ways He calls all of us to if we truly want to live for Him! <3

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