Category: Resources

Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE


BUT, HE SPIT IN MY COFFEE
WINS 2022 INDIEREADER DISCOVERY AWARD FOR BEST NEW BOOK IN NON-FICTION

June 1st, 2022 – On Wednesday June 1st, IndieReader, one of the original review services for self, hybrid and independently published authors, announced the winners of the eleventh annual IR Discovery Awards (IRDAs) for 2022. BUT, HE SPIT IN MY COFFEE by KERI WILLIAMS OF NORTH CAROLINA won in the BEST FIRST BOOK in the NON-FICTION category.

IndieReader launched the IRDAs in 2011 to help notable indie authors receive the attention of top publishing professionals, with the goal of reaching more readers. Noted Amy Edelman, author and founder of IR, “The books that won the IRDAs this year are not simply great indie books; they are great books, period. We hope that our efforts via the IRDAs ensure that they receive attention from the people who matter most. Potential readers.”

Past and present sponsors for the IRDAs include Amazon, Reedsy, Smith Publicity and NY-based literary agents Dystel, Goderich & Bourret. Judges have included publishers (from Penguin Group USA and Simon & Schuster), agents (from ICM, Dystel), publicists (from Smith Publicity), and bloggers (from GoodeReader).

BUT, HE SPIT IN MY COFFEE received was the following verdict by IndieReader’s reviewers:

“BUT, HE SPIT IN MY COFFEE, Keri Williams’ gripping memoir of adopting a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), is a heartbreaking portrait of a family in crisis—and the child welfare and mental health systems that fail them again and again. Presented with raw, unguarded candor and masterful storytelling skills, BUT, HE SPIT IN MY COFFEE is a harrowing and unforgettable reading experience.”


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Online support groups for parents of kids with trauma

Are you parenting a child who came to you from hard places? If your child is suffering from the effects of early childhood trauma, also called adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), they may have extreme behaviors that seem impossible to manage.

Unfortunately, you may not fit into typical parenting support groups. Your child’s behaviors and emotions may be so extreme that other parents can’t relate. As their parenting-101 and common sense advice falls flat and over time, their lack of understanding can feel an awful lot like blame.

You may be feeling:

Developmental trauma (often diagnosed as Reactive Attachment Disorder) is a very serious disorder that requires specialized and specific treatment. You’re unlikely to find the support you need in typical mommy-and-me, ADHD, or other types of parenting support groups. The approaches to those parents use may not be effective with your child.

First, know you are not alone. There are thousands of us going through the same things. It’s just difficult to find each other and connect for support.

So where can you find the support and community you so desperately need? One fantastic option is a private online support group. Here are the two I like to recommend, and am most active in. (Tell them Raising Devon sent you!)

These groups are for parents and caregivers only and have strict confidentiality rules. They are a great place to ask for advice, vent, and feel understood.

You don’t have to do this alone!

Don’t miss out on these resources as well:

Post-Adoption Support
Recommended Books
Mental Health
Trauma
Blogs to Follow
Handouts
Quotes and Shareables

Christmas Gift List for kids in Residential Treatment Facilities (RTFs)

It can be challenging to Christmas shop for kids who are living in residential treatment facilities (PRTFs, RTFs, or group homes). There are almost always restrictive rules about personal items along with special rules for Christmas gifts. For example, in most facilities electronics, candy, and hardback books are not allowed.

So what can you give your child for Christmas? Below is a list curated from parents who have successfully navigated the holiday season while their child is living in an RTF.

But first, here are some tips.

  • Gifts deemed inappropriate or against policy will likely be thrown away and not returned to you.
  • Most facilities do not allow wrapped gifts because they need to approve the items.
  • Often gifts must be dropped off on a specific day.
  • You may not be allowed to open Christmas gifts with your child. If this is important to you, ask their therapist about doing so during a family therapy session or home visit.
  • Kids in higher level facilities aren’t allowed to have “dangerous” item which may include shoe laces, belts, hard back books, calendars with staples, etc.
  • Ask the facility if your child will be getting additional gifts from local charities or the facility. As you shop, it can be helpful to know if you are supplementing gifts or supplying all your child’s gifts.
  • Plan for the gifts you buy to be lost or destroyed. Shop at Walmart and don’t give expensive gifts. Label what you can with your child’s name.
  • To successfully navigate Christmas gift giving with the least amount of frustration and waste, email your child’s therapist your planned gift list ahead of time for approval.

Christmas Gift List
(For kids in RTF)

  • Clothes
  • Pillow
  • Stuffed animal
  • Pajamas
  • Markers and coloring books
  • Dot to Dot books
  • Playing cards
  • Family Pictures
  • Art Supplies
  • Basket ball
  • Soccer ball
  • Foot ball
  • Journal
  • Hygiene supplies
  • Hair bands
  • Stickers
  • Pillow case
  • Picture book of “happy” memories
  • Paperback books
  • Crayons
  • Teddy bear
  • Gloves
  • Hat
  • Shoes
  • Puzzles
  • Funky Socks
  • Magic 8 Ball
  • Comic books
  • MP3 Player/iPod Shuffle with no internet access
  • Stationary
  • Legos
  • Crazy Aaron’s thinking Putty
  • Blanket – burrito etc
  • Posters
  • Calendar (no staples)

Please let me know your additional ideas so I can add to this list!

A few thoughts about realistic expectations…

Kids with developmental trauma, especially those diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) are likely to turn any situation into a power struggle, including their Christmas gifts.

Even if you give them a gift they’ve been asking for – that you know they’ll love – you can expect them to:

  • Tell the therapist they know you aren’t planning to give them any gifts because you don’t love them.
  • Complain to staff about the gifts they do get, and say they don’t like them.
  • Destroy the gifts even if they love them and desperately wanted them.

It may feel personal, but it’s simply how your child relates to the world because of the lasting effects of early childhood neglect and abuse. Unfortunately, you may end up feeling manipulated, lied about, coerced, and judged. It can be tempting to withhold gifts because of these behaviors or because your child is not cooperating with treatment, but that’s not a good strategy.

First, keep in mind that it will be very difficult to execute. Staff will likely compensate by giving your child extra gifts creating an opportunity for triangulation.

Additionally, your child’s therapist will almost certainly see your lack of gifts as a sign you are a cold, and unloving parent – and the focus of your child’s treatment will be side tracked.

Most importantly, your child will internalize feelings of rejection and this will not be a learning lesson no matter how well-intentioned you are. Jessie Hogsett, who was diagnosed with RAD as a child, reminds us that our child’s actions aren’t necessarily reflective of what’s going on inside. He says “I remember being in an RTF during Christmas. So lonely. And I felt totally unwanted. Horrible times. A gift would have made me feel wanted, special, and thought about.”

So, plop on your Christmas hat, sip a peppermint latte, and go shopping.

The Special Needs of Adopted Children – Bible Verses

Whether you are religious or not, this list from Sherrie Eldridge is a powerful tool. She’s included Bible verses for those who would like them.

EMOTIONAL NEEDS

  • I need help in recognizing my adoption loss and grieving it. (Ecclesiastes 1:18)
  • I need to be assured that my birth parents’ decision not to parent me had nothing to do with anything defective in me. (Proverbs 34:5)
  • I need help in learning to deal with my fears of rejection–to learn that absence doesn’t mean abandonment, nor a closed door that I have done something wrong. (Genesis 50:20)
  • I need permission to express all my adoption feelings and fantasies. (Psalm 62.8)

EDUCATIONAL NEEDS

  • I need to be taught that adoption is both wonderful and painful, presenting lifelong challenges for everyone involved. (Ezekiel 17:10a, Romans 11:24)
  • I need to know my adoption story first, then my birth story and birth family. (Isaiah 43:26)
  • I need to be taught healthy ways for getting my special needs met. (Philippians 4:12)
  • I need to be prepared for hurtful things others may say about adoption and about me as an adoptee. (John 1:11)

VALIDATION NEEDS

  • I need validation of my dual-heritage (biological and adoptive). (Psalm 139:16b)
  • I need to be assured often that I am welcome and worthy. (Isaiah 43:4, Zephaniah 3:17)
  • I need to be reminded often by my adoptive parents that they delight in my biological differences and appreciate my birth family’s unique contribution to our family through me. (Proverbs 23:10)

PARENTAL NEEDS

  • I need parents who are skillful at meeting their own emotional needs so that I can grow up with healthy role models and be free to focus on my development, rather than taking care of them. (II Corinthians 12:15)
  • I need parents who are willing to put aside preconceived notions about adoption and be educated about the realities of adoption and the special needs adoptive families face. (Proverbs 23:12, Proverbs 3: 13-14, Proverbs 3:5-6)
  • I need my adoptive and birth parents to have a non-competitive attitude. Without this, I will struggle with loyalty issues. (Psalm 127:3)

RELATIONAL NEEDS

  • I need friendships with other adoptees. (Ecclesiastes 4:12)
  • I need to taught that there is a time to consider searching for my birth family, and a time to give up searching. (Ecclesiastes 3:4)
  • I need to be reminded that if I am rejected by my birth family, the rejection is symptomatic of their dysfunction, not mine. (John 1:11)

SPIRITUAL NEEDS

  • I need to be taught that my life narrative began before I was born and that my life is not a mistake. (Jeremiah 1:5a, Ephesians 1:11)
  • I need to be taught in this broken, hurting world, loving families are formed through adoption as well as birth. (Psalm 68:6)
  • I need to be taught that I have intrinsic, immutable value as a human being.
  • I need to be taught that any two people can make love but only God can create life. He created my life and I’m not a mistake.  (John 1:3)

This list is reprinted with permission from: Copyright, 1999, Sherrie Eldridge, Random House Publishers-TWENTY THINGS ADOPTED KIDS WISH THEIR ADOPTIVE PARENTS KNEW.

Tips to work with your child’s school (includes free teacher handout)

I can’t tell you how many days I’ve navigated through carline with a drink holder full of steaming hot cups of coffee. Every school year I’d learn how my kid’s teachers took their coffee. On my way to drop the kids off at school in the mornings, I’d pick up a coffee for myself and one more to go. Especially when they were in elementary school, the kids loved their teacher’s reaction to the nice, fresh cup of coffee – and I loved the good will it built. In fact, when I found a teacher to be particularly challenging to work with, I’d throw in a muffin or cookie. That’s right – kill them with kindness and generosity and 9 times out of 10 it paid off in spades.

Working with teachers and school staff can be challenging for any parent, but more so for parents of children with special needs. Parent’s of kids with Developmental Trauma and/or RAD struggle even more because of the nature of these diagnoses. Few schools are truly trauma informed and our children are often adept at triangulating adults.

I have five children and we’ve got 504s and IEPs. We’ve navigated suspensions and expulsions. We’ve been to alternative schools and been in co-taught classrooms. Below is my hard-earned advice for how to navigate the system successfully.

Behind the scenes

Like any “system” we work with as parents, it’s important to pull back the curtain and understand how that system works and recognize its dysfunctions. Many of us have become so frustrated with a teacher, school administrator, or principal that we blow our top. We feel justified because they are being so unreasonable, causing our child undue hardship, or simply aren’t acting fairly. Unfortunately, our strongly worded emails and outbursts can have long-reaching negative impacts on our child’s school experience.

  • Teachers and school staff talk. Teachers and administrators talk about students, and even more often about their “cranky,” “unreasonable,” “mean” parents. The 6th grade English teacher vents her frustration to the 6th grade history and science teachers. The 8th grade teachers give the high school teachers and administration a heads up. If you are perceived as a difficult parent to deal with – everyone knows.
  • Parents are labeled and handled. Administrators and teachers will make a determination about what kind of parent you are based on even one interaction. While this may not be fair, it’s simply the reality. They’ll often meet ahead of time to strategize how to “handle” you in meetings and conferences which can lead to the incredibly frustration realization it’s the one of you against all of them. And once you’ve been labeled – it sticks
  • You won’t win (at least in the long-term). Sometimes a “strongly worded email” or conference can seem to be effective. But it’s important to realize your child will be in school for 13 years. Winning one battle at all costs can have serious long-term impacts. Once the school labels you as a “problem parent’ they’ll strategize how to best handle you in the future. A nasty email may win the battle – it won’t win the war.

While we all wish this wasn’t true, it’s human nature. For the sake of our children, we must understand the reality and become pragmatic. At least that’s been my strategy and more often than not it’s been successful.

Start off on the right foot

It’s so important to start the new school year in good faith and without a chip on your shoulder. Instead of assuming your child’s teacher is “going to be a problem,” start out by believing they’re going to be a partner. This means seeing the classroom through their eyes and empathizing with their needs. I have several teachers in my family and know it is a hard, often thankless job. Many teachers spend weekends and evenings grading papers and pay for supplies out of their own pockets. Most go into the job because it’s their passion, but can become discouraged and burnt out .

  • Be polite and act in good faith. A little genuine kindness and please and thank you can go a long way – especially with teachers who are overworked. Look for opportunities to compliment your child’s teacher. If called for, apologize and seek to make amends.
  • Be reasonable and solution oriented. It’s so important to recognize and respect the limitations of schools and teachers. Don’t lock yourself into one solution. Be an active listener and go into every meeting with a spirit of collaboration and mutual support.
  • Be ‘that’ parent. Reach out to your teacher in practical ways. Be the parent who they can count on as volunteer. Send in extra supplies when they’re requested – and when they aren’t. For example, all teachers always need extra pencils, tissues, and hand sanitizer.

Let’s not forget that as parents we find it incredibly challenging to care for our child, especially when their behaviors are extreme. Imagine a teacher trying to do that while teaching a full classroom of children. A bit of empathy and consideration can go far.

Work within the system

Fighting the system for reforms is a noble cause and one we all must support. However, the strategy for personal success is almost always learning how to work within the system. Thankfully, there are standard, legal processes to insure your child receives the educational supports they need and are entitled to. It can be a long process to obtain a 504 or IEP (Individual Education Plan), but well worth it because they are comprehensive plans with legal requirements. There are also many free or low-cost parenting advocates who are trained to assist parents in negotiations with their schools and setting up of 504s and IEPs.

  • 504s A 504 is a detailed plan for how the school will remove learning barriers for students with disabilities. Most commonly these include accommodations (how a student learns) like extended time for testing or priority seating. A 504 is easier to get than an IEP and usually the best stepping stone to an IEP.
  • IEPs An IEP is a legal agreement for a student to receive special education services. The IEP agreement can include both accommodations (how a student learns) and modifications (what a student learns). For example, it may include pull out educational services or classes co-taught by a traditional teacher and a special education teacher. An IEP requires an evaluation. Typically diagnoses like ADHD or RAD can qualify a student.

Resources

Be sure to check out this excellent resources on the ins and outs of navigating special education services for your child. From Emotions to Advocacy

Here’s a handout you are welcome to reproduce or email to your child’s teacher: Remember, approach is everything. You don’t want to come across like a patient being wheeled into surgery while handing the surgeon a diagram of the heart. Just offer this handout to teachers and school staff as “helpful information about my child’s diagnoses,” I find it’s always best delivered with a cup of coffee!

As parents of children with special needs, we’ve all had that sick feeling when we realize teachers and school staff have circled the wagons – and it’s “us” against “them.” Use the strategies in this article to make sure you are part of the team and that everyone – teachers, school counselors, principals, and you as the parent – are linking arms and circling your child with the supports they need.

Book Review: Becoming Superman

J Michael Straczynski’s (JMS) new memoir, Becoming Superman: My journey from poverty to Hollywood, is compelling, heartbreaking, and inspirational. It provides unique insight for adoptive and foster parents of children who have been abused and neglected – a portrait of how these children are impacted and can develop Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD).

JMS is most well known as the creator of Babylon 5, writer of Clint Eastwood’s Changeling which stars Angelina Jolie, and as a prolific writer of sci-fi and comic books. His new memoir shows how he built his career based on hard work and a belief in doing the right thing. What may come as a surprise is the details of his brutal childhood.

The story begins with JMS’s grandparents and follows the chilling thread of multi-generational trauma through three generations. While Joe makes no excuse for his sadistically abusive father, sexually abusive grandmother, and neglectful mother, this background enables readers to begin to understand how trauma can negatively impact multiple generations. In particular, we are able to feel some level of compassion for his mother who was kidnapped as a teenager by his father and spent her life as his captive, regularly beaten and mistreated.

Because his mother was emotionally unavailable due to her own suffering, JMS had no one to protect him. No one to love and care for him. Understandably, he suffered from inhibited RAD and struggled to form meaningful relationships and read social cues. Rising above a horrific childhood, JMS went on to become a Hollywood star. Fans and writers will enjoy the second half of the book which details his career stops and starts and ultimate success.

While RAD is not the primary topic of Becoming Superman: My journey from poverty to Hollywood, JMS does much to help raise awareness. He very effectively shows the reader the why and how of RAD. In addition, he provides an accurate and easily understood description for the disorder which will be new to many of his readers.

Pick up a copy of the new memoir here: Becoming Superman: My journey from poverty to Hollywood,

Here’s a social media shareable for you:

NEW video teaches kids about trauma and the brain

I am so excited to share this exciting new resource with you! The Brain Game is a new psycho-educational, 20-minute video, It’s designed to teach children about how trauma may have impacted their brain and what they can do about it. It was created by Family Futures, an adoption support agency based in London.

The Brain Game is designed around video game imagery and vernacular children are familiar and comfortable with. This is effective because each “level” is first played on easy mode. This sets the stage for what healthy and normal is. Then the level is replayed on hard mode and kids learn how trauma can make things more difficult for them.

Here’s the introduction to The Brain Game which will give you a good idea of the look, feel, and accessibility for children.

01: Intro

Here’s a sneak peek at the other 4 levels of The Brain Game.

02: THE WOMB
Kids learn how substance abuse, nutrition, and their parents’ stress can impact the ability of their brain to develop properly even before they are born.
03: BIRTH
Kids learn the potential impact of being sent to ICU, being born dependent on alcohol or having an inhospitable environment as an infant.
04: BRAIN BUILDER
Kids learn about the primitive, feeling, and thinking brains and how early traumas can cause “big” feelings. The also learn about fight-flight-freeze responses.
05: HOW WE CAN HELP
Kids learn that their brain is like “plastic.” It can change and grow and overcome many of their early traumas.

Why do I like The Brain Game?

  1. It reinforces the idea that children cannot control the trauma they’ve gone through.
  2. It acknowledges the unfortunate reality that kids may be stuck playing life on hard mode.
  3. It offers hope by showing how kids can help themselves change and live happier lives.
If you've been through a painful childhood there's a lot you can do to take control, to change how you think, and to enjoy the rest of your life. – The Brain Game via @FamilyFuturesUK Click To Tweet

How you can use this resource

Parents – The Brain Game is a wonderful way to help children who have experienced trauma understand what’s going on with their mind and body. It’s also a valuable tool for siblings to foster an empathetic and supportive family environment.

Groups – The Brain Game can be watched with small groups of children and used for discussion. And don’t overlook it’s value for adults either. Trauma is a complicated and emotionally charged topic and many adults will learn from this video.

Therapists – The Brain Game is an excellent tool for therapists to use with children who have experienced trauma. It will be an effective discussion starter and a good way to get parents and children on the same page.

This resource is not useful for kids only!
The paradigm shift to trauma informed is a tricky one and this video can be eye opening for adults as well.

Details

Where to buy: Online via Family Futures (be sure to tell them I sent you!)
Length: 19 minutes
Format: MP4 download

1 in 5 kids who’ve spent time in foster care are LGBTQ: Valuable resources for parents

Coming out as LGBTQ can be daunting for anyone. Many people risk losing family, friends, and sometimes their jobs or community.

Imagine with me for a moment that you are coming out as LGBTQ. This is you:

You have friends, family, and a job you love. You’re involved in the community and have a positive outlook on life. If you come out, perhaps your friend Amy will begin to shun you. It’ll be hurtful for sure, but you have Sue, Fred, and other friends to hang out with. Uncle Arnie might make the holidays tense and uncomfortable, but it’s okay. You have a large family and plenty of support.

You decide it’s worth the risk. You may lose some connections in your life, but you’ll make new ones.

This isn’t always the case for LGBT young people who are in foster care or adopted.

According to a recent study more than 1 in 5 kids in the foster care system is LGBTQ. Their foster/adoptive families may or may not be accepting of their sexual identity. This can be particularly challenging for young people who are already grappling with the impacts of early childhood trauma.

Imagine with me for a moment that you are an LGBTQ adopted or foster child. This is you:

Coming out as LGTBQ may literally mean risking everything and everyone.

You’re already struggling on some level with attachment due to your background and experiences. You feel awkward, uncomfortable, and disconnected. This is only exacerbated by the fact that you’re acclimating to a new family You’re afraid of saying something wrong and always feel a bit like an outsider. You’ve left all your old friends behind and are in a new school. You aren’t even thinking about your future – you’re worried about just tomorrow.

Do you dare risk your tenuous connection with your adoptive mom? You rely on her for food, clothes, rides, and money. What if she kicks you out and you have no where to go? If this is the only connection you have, is it worth the risk?

The stakes can be sky high for our LGBT adopted and foster kids, but there is hope – you. Research has shown that with one accepting adult in their lives, LGBT youth are 40% less likely to attempt suicide. That one person can be you.

Regardless of religious or moral convictions, we all can agree that we want our children to be healthy and happy. We want them to thrive. To do this, we must keep their attachment issues in mind and, above all, focus on how to help them feel safe, loved, and cared for.

What happens when the adopted kids of anti-gay parents come out

Keri Williams, via buzzfeed

Here are some useful resources as you navigate a way forward with the best interest of your child in mind:

Remember – you may be the only connection, the only “safe person,” your adopted or foster child has. If they dare share with you about their sexual identity, they are bestowing an enormous amount of trust on you.

Read my article published by BuzzFeed on this topic: What Happens When The Adopted Kids Of Anti-Gay Parents Come Out?

Let’s help our kids reach for the stars.


Note: This illustration was adapted from the Providing Services to LGBTQ Youth: Building the Bridge Between Attachment and Healing session at ATTACh 2018.

Book Review | Me, The Boy, and the Monster

By Hannah Meadows

It’s hard to overstate how much I love this book. I had the joy of proofreading it for Cat (the author) in December and before I’d finished it I was telling my husband he needed to read it too. It’s one of those books that you just want everyone in your life to experience: family, friends, teachers… they all need a copy!

For me, Me, the Boy, and The Monster is up there with Sally Donovan’s legendary No Matter What in its practical, down-to-earth, reality-led perspective. Cat McGill is trained in psychology and really knows her stuff, and as an adoptive parent she is able to apply it in a meaningful way so you know she speaks from experience, not just theory. She gets it. But more than that, she lives it, just as we do. That’s what makes it so helpful. 

For example, I think most adoptive parents by necessity have a reasonable understanding of the amygdala and its function within the brain, but Cat brings our understanding of the brain to life in an accessible way, using Jane Evans’ analogies of the ‘meerkat brain’, ‘elephant brain’ and ‘monkey brain’. 

‘The Monster’ – Cat’s family’s label for her son’s trauma-fuelled behaviours –is a great way of personifying the problem and giving it an identity separate from her son, so that he isn’t viewed by others or himself as being to blame for responding to the trauma or things that trigger memories of it. This distinction is at the core of the book and is so incredibly helpful, particularly when conveying this necessary separation to family, friends, and teachers who need to understand.

I really think this should be on the shelf (or the Kindle) of every adopter, prospective adopter, post-adoption support worker, teacher… and so on. It deserves to be an adoption classic.

Get your copy of Me, the Boy, and The Monster here, and be sure to let Hannah and I know your thoughts!


Hannah helps fellow adoptive parents look after themselves and find the practical resources they need so that they are equipped to help their families thrive. She’s the adoptive mum of Joanna (10) and Charlotte (9), both of whom have additional needs. These include attachment disorders, PTSD, autism, ADHD and pFAS. Find her on social media @HLMeadows.

How to Start a Local Support Group

Parenting a child with developmental trauma and Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) is extremely isolating and difficult. As parents, we simply don’t fit into the typical parenting support groups. We need our own “extreme parenting” support groups which are hard to find. Finding community and support are key to our own mental wellness and providing the best care we can to our children.

If you’re considering starting your own local group, here are some tips to help you get started.

Keep it simple

  • Create a “come as you are” atmosphere with no strings or commitments. Some parents may only come once or may not be able to attend regularly. Make sure people know it’s okay to show up in their sweats, for just an hour, or only once every few months. This is the flexibility acceptance parents desperately need.
  • Don’t overcommit yourself as the leader. Start with scheduling single events or a monthly meetings rather than weekly meetings. Most parents of kids with trauma simply won’t have time to attend more frequently and as a leader it’s important to not overcommit.

Make it comfortable

  • Select a meeting place where people will feel comfortable to share. While meeting in a coffee shop can be convenient, remember how sensitive your discussions will be. Try to meet in a home, a church conference room, or private room at a local coffee shop.
  • Limit attendees to parents only. Having social workers, therapists and other professionals changes the tone and will make parents hesitant to share transparently.
  • Set ground rules ahead of time and repeat them at every meeting. Two important ones to include are:
    • Confidentiality – What’s shared in the meeting, stays in the meeting
    • Judgement-free – Parents need to be able to share their anger, frustration, sadness, and guilt without being judged.
    • Limited advice – It’s great to provide each other with ideas and resources, but the focus of your group should be to provide encouragement and a place to be heard.

Pick a format that works

Owl timer from Amazon
  • Organic Sharing. Parents are desperate to be heard and know they aren’t alone. A wonderful way to do this is to allow people to share their stories and updates on their lives. If you choose this format here are a few things to consider.
    • Make sure everyone has a chance to share. You can do this without seeming insensitive by using a fun timer – perhaps a 5 minutes – for each person.
    • Consider a talking stick for discussions to prevent interruptions and rabbit trails.
  • Book studies. Picking a practical book to read and discuss can be an excellent way to facilitate a support group meeting. Here are a few to consider:
  • Expert presentations, videos, local events, etc…. There are all sorts of possibilities, so be creative and engage your attendees for ideas.

Find parents to invite

If you’re just getting started you may not know other parents to invite. Rest assured, there are many parents in the same position as you are – and most also feel completely alone. Here’s some ways to connect:

  • Join online support groups and write a post asking who else is in your city. The two groups I like to recommend and am most active in are Attach Families Support Group and The Underground World of RAD
  • Provide information about your group to providers you work with: therapists, exceptional children teachers, pediatricians, the agency you foster/adopted through, and others.
  • Attach Families is working to create an international directory of support groups. Here’s a flyer you can reproduce to handout and please be sure to let them know about your group.

Remember, small is good – a turn out of 3-4 parents is a wonderful start. If your group becomes large – regularly more than 10 people – consider breaking into two groups by geography or date/time.

A few thoughts on logistics

  • Use an RSVP system like the free version of SignUp Genius. This can be helpful because it’s easily shared on social media.
  • Start a Facebook Group to communicate with local parents about your group and share information on other local events and resources.
  • Use name tags and provide light snacks and drinks. Be sure to have a couple boxes of tissues on hand.
  • If you are a leader and need advice on handling specific situations please reach out to Attach Families.

I’d love to support you too! If you’d like copies of my book Reactive Attachment Disorder: The Essential Guide for Parents to provide free of charge to members of your support group please contact me.

Love Never Quits – Surviving & Thriving After Infertility, Adoption, and RAD

When Gina Heumann and her husband Aaron picked up their beautifulbaby boy from his Guatemalan foster mom, the warning signs were there. Maddox hadn’t been well taken care of or well loved. He screamed for the entire flight home.

But Gina, Aaron, and younger brother Landrey had no hesitations. They were sure all this sweet little boy needed was love and nurturing. 

It wasn’t quite so simple.

Maddox’s screaming melt downs were beyond anything Gina and Aaron could have imagined. As he grew older he became violent at school and home. The family hit rock bottom when Maddox was put on probation at 12 for assaulting a teacher. 12. It was unimaginable – and they were out of options, patience, and strength.

But Gina and Aaron never stopped fighting. They learned love alone wasn’t enough, but love was what propelled them forward to persevere in searching for healing for Maddox.

Gina’s newly released book, Love Never Quits – Surviving & Thriving After Infertility, Adoption, and RAD, tells how her family succeeded against the odds. But it doesn’t gloss over the hard times. Happily ever afters like these take dedication, perseverance, and hard work.

Frustration, pain, and exhaustion seep through the lines of the book and fellow moms of troubled kid will see themselves in Gina’s story. She tried everything – and nothing worked. It’s heart-breaking, but ultimately heart-warming because after ten years of searching for answers, Maddox was diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). Through intensive treatment at the Evergreen Psychotherapy Center, the family found real solutions and slowly watched Maddox grow and bond with them.

Love Never Quits – Surviving & Thriving After Infertility, Adoption, and RAD is the realistic happily ever after story parents of children with RAD are looking for. It’s a dose of reality, but chock full of hope too. It’s written in the compelling and casual voice of a mom that’s easy to read and entirely enjoyable.

Check out this new release and let me know what you think in the comments!

Surviving and thriving with RAD: In his own words

Jessie Hogsett was diagnosed with RAD at the age of 12 and grew up acting out of the hurt and trauma of his early childhood. Not only has he survived and thrived a childhood of horrific abuse and neglect, but he’s gone on to work in a treatment facility for troubled kids. Today he has a beautiful wife, five children, and a successful career.

Jessie understands the struggles of a child diagnosed with RAD in a way a parent alone never can.

His book, Detached: Surviving Reactive Attachment Disorder is an invaluable window into the psyche of a child struggling to overcome developmental trauma. His advice comes from personal experience and is invaluable to parents and clinicians alike.

Here’s a few gems of wisdom from Jessie:

  • You can’t walk forward if you keep looking backward. Keep helping your RAD child concentrate on the now and the near future. Keep reminding him he can do absolutely nothing about the past. Keep telling him he can do everything about the present and future though.
  • Tell him that taking responsibility for his actions makes him really powerful. After all, if he can create problems, then he can also create solutions. His choices determine success or failure. Blaming someone else for his problems saps his power because he has little or no control over other people. Tell him he can have a terrific future but it’s all up to him.
  • Drive him around to see the nicest house in the neighborhood. Tell him when he’s older, if he works hard, he could be living in that house, in that neighborhood, and enjoying a good life. tell him you can picture him growing up and living there surrounded by his own happy family.
  • Tell your child that you love him all the time. Even though love alone will never be enough to “cure” a RAD child, instilling in his mind every day that he is loved, will, over time, let him realize that someone does care for him. Keep telling him this even when you don’t get any response back and even if it seems he isn’t listening. He probably is.
  • Seek out comedies on TV, DVDs, and at the movies. Laughter alleviates stress and is clearly good for both body and soul.
  • When your child raises his voice to you, lower your voice. Speak to him in a calm reassuring “your behavior doesn’t phase me” tone of voice. He wants to hear what you are saying because he wants that attention. In order for him to hear you, he will have to lower his voice.
  • To build trust, tell the child the time frame in which you’ll be completing whatever you promised him you’ll do. Give yourself more than ample time so you can always do it within that time period.
  • Teach him step-by-step how to succeed at tasks. Write down the steps for him using numbers 1, 2, 3, etc.

These unconventional, practical suggestions are only a fraction of the 144 ideas included in Detached: Surviving Reactive Attachment Disorder.

Jessie is a huge asset to the parenting community and I’m looking forward to interviewing him soon. If there’s a specific question you’d like me to ask Jessie, please drop it in the comments.

Be sure to follow Jessie on social media for news and updates on his new upcoming book!

Find Jessie on Instagram or Facebook