An adopted child’s time in an orphanage deprived him of his vital need for love, touch, and nurture, which serve as the blueprint for forging healthy relationships. When human connection is absent in the early days of life, the effects last a lifetime. There are three ways to support adoptees and their parents.
Here are the stories of one dozen children with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) and how their families found the answers to stop the fighting and the violence. Amazing loving parents, that never gave up and fought for their sick children to heal, offer their stories for
By elementary school, Zoe seemed either sad or moody most of the time and had few friends. While Zoe had some good days, those didn’t last long. One Mother’s Day, Mary and Zoe walked to a park near their home. They had fun together at an event that day, walking around to vendors selling crafts and food. Mary was happy to see Zoe happy. But as they walked home, Zoe grew more and more quiet. Mary asked if something was wrong when they got home. “You’re not my mom,” said Zoe. “I’m going to go inside and think about my mom.” Zoe was struggling. And Mary’s love alone couldn’t take away Zoe’s pain.
My youngest sister gave birth to a baby boy in 2008. She has had a substance abuse problem and has always been more concerned with what guy will pay attention to her rather than love her own son. For 18 months we watched as this little boy was always sick, always angry, and never cared for the way he should have been.
My now husband and I got him for a couple months in October 2009 and had made leaps and bounds with him but unfortunately nothing was legalized so when she wanted him back we had no choice but to turn him over to her. From then until January 2013 (he was 4 at this point) she stayed clear of me so I only heard stories from my mother about how out of control he was.
My husband and I were asked to keep him for a week and I went with temporary custody papers and a plan. We sat down with my sister and begged her to straighten up. We offered for her to live with us, to help her with school, to take her to her job, to give her a home with her son. There was no structure or stability in his life at all. She promised to take the help. During the next year we tried everything to get her, and even the father of my RAD, to step up and take care of him. She visited maybe 5 times in this time. I have a huge folder of every conversation.
Documentation is everything. In 2014 my husband got a job that would move us out of state. All hell broke loose. Letters were sent to the judge about us keeping him from grandparents, kidnapping him, etc. So we filed a petition to adopt him. We spent all summer locked in a battle with lawyers, ad lidem, visitation supervisors, and therapists. My sister went to the first, and last visit. That was it. She signed her rights away after that. She has since had another boy and is due any day with nother child… the other boy is worse than my RAD from what I hear. So, no change in her.
Then comes the grandmothers. They enabled their own children to be crappy and then blamed me for taking him away. They have never supported us and in fact have gone behind our back multiple times and allowed visitations, phone calls, letters, etc. Even taking my RAD to a prison behind my back. We had to cut off communication with all of them.
Now to my RAD, he turns 10 this coming week. Biologically My nephew and has despised me from the jump. We didn’t know about RAD until a year ago… too late…. he has harmed my other children, animals, has a fascination with fires that could have ended badly, steals, lies, fights me on everything. Peeing is his way to control and get back at us. Hundreds of times. We tried every kind of parenting trick. Nothing worked. Therapy? Nope. Still no support from family who say there was nothing wrong with him. We are too hard on him. He’s perfect for them. Etc.
The bottom fell out. In December we started looking into treatment facilities or boys home. We wanted extensive counseling for him but couldn’t find it. Either he was too young, no financial help, or the facilities were full. So, we had purchased a door ALARM for his room because he was up in the middle of the night and to us, that’s a safety issue. I made the mistake of telling my mother whom I was trying to repair my relationship with. Mistake. She called the other grandmother and they called CPS. I was drug tested, children were interviewed, pictures taken, the whole nine yards. I prayed and prayed and spoke the truth. CPS closed the case and I was done. The last 4 months have been the worst of my life. My RAD stepped up his peeing game and I threw in the towel. I called the paternal grandmother and we signed custody over to her. She is the lesser of all the evils in this.
When I told him he was going he was sad. He said she is the one who told him to lie to us so that’s why he did it. There is nothing I can do. Since he has been gone my home is completely different. We are happy again. 5 years living in chaos had taken it’s toll on me and I’m healing slowly. But it’s not easy. My younger boys miss their brother but know that it’s for the best.
We have been judged and outcast by family and friends, he continues to lie to us about certain things, and all I can do is document and report to our attorney. My own sister is looking for ways to stab me in the back.
They are bribing my RAD with gifts to be good and of course right now he is behaving perfectly. Everything is my fault. They aren’t doing anything for his mental health. All I can do is collect the information and thank God I am in a different state. He was put back into the same enviornment we tried to save him from, this time he is with his father who can’t even be bothered to take a paternity test or spend any time with him.
I think about what type of man he is going to turn into and my heart breaks. They have never taken the time to listen to how he has behaved in the last 5 years. They don’t believe in RAD. It’s going to turn out bad.
I wish it could have been different. I wish my sister would be a good mother. I wish I had kept him at 18 months. I wish that when we got him at 4 years i would have taken on the mother role instead of trying to try make my sister do it. I wish I had support from the grandparents. I wish that mental health programs were better. I wish I had been strong enough to keep him. You all know how a RAD brain works so you know all the obsticals we have faced.
Now we are trying to decide if he will stay where he is. He wants to come home. Now that he’s had a taste of what he’s been asking for he doesn’t want it anymore. But for the safety of my family, I’m not ready for that. And he’s only 10. I can’t imagine what he will be like at 15 or 20. Well I can, and it’s not good.
As Anastasia grew older, her behaviors had Allan and his wife worrying all the more. They began to get calls home from school. She wouldn’t do her work or listen to her teacher. At home, she’d wake up in the middle of the night, eat, and leave all the lights on. And she continued to run away from home.
Since I was about 16, I have wanted to adopt children. Not babies, children. I really felt God had called me to it to help fill a niche. Most people want babies so the kids get left behind. I helped my husband get hooked on adoption after I married at 32. Well, before that. He knew that was how it would be well before the wedding. Heck, we had a fundraiser for it at our reception.
I had this incredible dream where I felt I had seen my daughter. It was so different from any other dreams. I remembered details. I still do. She was in Russia. She was 6. She had a little brother somewhere else. He was 2. I found out later that toddlers would be in different orphanages from older children in Russia. But Russia didn’t pan out. It was closing after that lady sent her son back there alone on a plane. I worried that by looking elsewhere, I was turning my back on God’s plan. Others assured me I was not.
Our children came in a way that looked like God had worked in it. Now we see it as dishonest. We heard about an agency that works with Poland. We set up a time to talk with them on the phone. But our cat died that day. So we talked the next. It was Monday. By Friday we had a referral. By the end of the year we were traveling. We only had to make one trip, though Poland is a two trip country. They asked us day 1, if we were sure we wanted to go through with this. The kids we small for their ages. They were 8 & 9 but looked 5 & 6. The boy spazzed out in tantrums. He hit us or his sister. We had heard of R A D. Still, I think anyone might be naive when they first face it. We thought it would get better.
It never got better. He got more violent. Daughter seemed okay by comparison. We were so busy putting out proverbial fires with him, we didn’t see her issues. We finally had him booked for assault when he was 12. He’d been hospitalized 5 times by then and spent six months traumatizing my older sister when she offered to take him in. He broke probation and was removed from out home.
Long story short: group home for delinquents, mostly truants. Got violent there. Very. Detention. MO Baptist Children’s Home. Violence. Hospital. MOBCH. Violence. Hospital. Level 4 security residential. Instigated other boys to attack staff. Fights. Safe rooms. Eventually, he decided to stop being violent. He moved closer to home. A couple different group homes then a residential with a transition program to transition him home. Family therapy with that was a joke. The therapist said just let both kids be verbally abusive to me and lie. At Christmas, he admitted to setting my sister’s house on fire two years before. Still he came home Good Friday of that year. On Mother’s Day, I awoke to him being violent. He went to the hospital and did not come home again.
Daughter: With him gone we could now see her issues. She lied, manipulated, triangulated, left her sanitary napkins in her underwear in the wash or threw them behind the dryer. She got worse with puberty. She stole and binged our food. We’d go to make dinner and find it missing. She is obese but told the school social worker that we didn’t feed her. She stole money, makeup, my underwear and other clothes. She shoplifted at least three times but none would press charges. She cussed us out almost daily, told us what to do, didn’t do as she was told. Didn’t do her homework. Looked up father/daughter porn on her phone and tablet. She was hospitalized twice. The last time was in October. She’d been refusing to go to school. I had to get up and watch her leave. Had to call the cops a lot to get her to school. She snuck back in after I went to work. Police were called to look for her. Found her at home. Said she was looking for something to kill herself with. She got new dxs: ODD and Severe Mood Disregulation Disorder.
In MO, you can legally move out of your parent’s home at 17. She decided in November that she couldn’t wait until April. She wanted to go live with my older sister (same one). She was occasionally violent and she was that day. She was going to be as bad as she had to be for us to say yes and let her go.
Of course now that sister says we threw our children away. That we were too strict and didn’t love them. She forgets that she kicked out my son before she knew it was him who set the fire. She forgets that she kicked my daughter out last month (she let her come back after 3 days). Brother and sister-in-law are adopting our son. Blames me for both their behaviors. Says we kicked son out. He forgets telling me, early on when son was still small, that we should give up, he was a lost cause. We didn’t then, still hoping. Now I’ve lost my brother.
So here we are, no kids at home (that’s the good part) but the loss of a dream, a calling, at least half my siblings. The fall-out is still falling. I lost my job and part of that can be indirectly attributed to our daughter. The trauma she put me through bled into my work.
On the plus side, I’ve gained safety and peace in my home. The only chaos is caused by kittens now.
I will only adopt cats from here on out. They’re my children now. I hope to host foreign exchange kids in the future. Other than that, I want to have only very limited contact with my kids. Son is doing better right now. But I can’t trust he won’t go back to violence as he has before. The wounds from my daughter are still too raw. She’ll be 17 in April. I hope she never moves back home again.
Today is Alexandra’s 12th birthday.
Over the last 16 months we’ve had people reach out asking why she isn’t in pictures etc. I have also posted a few times about reactive attachment disorder.
Alexandra no longer lives in our home. And she will not return to our home. That’s a powerful statement isn’t it? It’s definitely not one I ever thought I would make.
I’ll try to make this as concise as possible. Alexandra has always had issues…and that’s ok. No child is nor can they be expected to be perfect. We searched for help and continued searching when things didn’t work. We tried every therapy we could get involved with. I’m not going to get into our insurance and the joke of what they cover when it comes to mental health issues.
Alexandra was officially diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) when she was 9. RAD is hard…soooo hard to live and deal with. She was also diagnosed with early onset conduct disorder due to her destruction of property etc.
After her diagnoses she began to get more violent. Yes, I said more. We had many instances where one or all the kids were hurt. Both dogs had been hurt by her. She began really destroying property and making more threats. We continued with therapy. When our insurance wasn’t doing enough we went to the county. I sat in offices crying, begging them to help her, help us. They did. We finally got to where we were doing therapy 4-5 days a week, up to 7 sessions in a week including therapists in our home for hours at a time.
She would tell me that the day I died would be a great day in her life. She would remind me that she was getting bigger and stronger and I was getting older and weaker. I’ll never forget the look in her eyes.
When Alexandra shared her very legitimate plan to kill me (and apparently the rest after I was dead) I knew things had taken a very scary turn and more needed to be done. She shared her plan with one of her therapists and they stepped in. We spent 13 hours being observed in an emergency room before she was admitted to a psych hospital for a week. Her threats to finish the job when she got home, along with the documented history of behaviors, got her admitted to a residential facility.
I drove 6 hours round trip weekly for family therapy sessions. She would either ignore me or she would (and most often chose this) yell, scream and curse at me. In front of her therapist she would threaten to hurt and/or kill the other kids at home and said it was my own fault she wanted to kill me. While there, she treated them as she did us (stealing, lying, disrespect etc). She attacked other children as well. After 6 months they told us there was nothing more they could do for her. The county stepped in and Alexandra was transferred to another facility that was closer. I then spent the next few months driving 3 hours round trip weekly. Her behaviors didn’t change. She began making false allegations against staff and threatening to kill them.
Finally her therapist told me that Alexandra would continue to attack our other children if she came home. Social Services told us that if Alexandra attacked the other kids they would be taken out of our home because we couldn’t keep them safe.
Alexandra was given options. She could do her therapy and work on behaviors. We did not expect perfection but she was not allowed to attack or try to physically hurt the other kids. She had to make attempts to try to do better. She refused. She did not want to live where there were expectations and rules.
The professionals did not feel or believe Alexandra could be successful in what’s considered a normal home environment, definitely not one with other children. Through a lot of phone calls, emails and meetings it was “decided” that Alexandra would not return to our home. Being in such an environment triggers her behaviors and aggression.
We continue to pray for Alexandra. That she heals, that she gets the help she needs. We have told her repeatedly that when she is in a place where she can call without screaming at us we encourage her to do that. We want to celebrate her successes with her and if possible help when she needs it.
I know this is a lot for everyone to read. And before people wonder how we could let this happen I feel it necessary to be very clear.
Alexandra planned our murders.
Alexandra planned to make attempts on our lives until she was successful.
Alexandra physically and emotionally/psychologically attacked her siblings.
Alexandra never apologized for her actions.
Alexandra never said she wanted to come home.
Alexandra never stated she would even try to do better and never made any attempts to show us through her behaviors at the residential facilities.
We are heartbroken over her choices. So today on her birthday please pray for her…for her safety and for her healing.
I adopted my three cousins six years ago. Mom and dad of one boy died of drug overdose, other lost custody and is in and out of jail. I knew they were “naughty” but did not realize the brain damage that trauma can cause. They were taken from my cousin their grandmother two years after their mom died due to abuse and neglect. I have worked in groups homes my whole life, was a foster parent, my parents were foster parents, my brother was adopted and my cousins were adopted. To me it was a wonderful thing and I thought I could it take them and make “it all better”. I feel I have secondary trauma at this point. We had to give up jz , bm, incontinence , sexual behaviors, home and school. He was in pull ups still at age 11.
He threatened to kill me.
We put him in residential care. Bm smearing. The other two boys are doing better oldest is pretty independent, 16 year old is addicted to porn, he cannot have drivers license , does “crazy lying” no internet access at home, phone taken away, not independent in daily living skills. I have had NO support whatsoever from Cmh, esd or the school. Cmh refused to take him in public. School told me it was my imagination and he needed to learn to be normal. He would hide from staff, Harrass kids, sexually touch kids. One year to next they would not tell next teacher or recess aides, no special ed help whatsoever!!! I could go on forever…
Rewind to five years ago. (Don’t I wish I could?) My then husband and I have enjoyed an empty nest for about 3 years after raising one daughter and two sons now 28, 29, and 30. I begin to push my husband toward my life long dream of fostering, and the adventure begins. After mounds of paperwork, fingerprints, and physicals, stacks of jammies and undies, toothbrushes and toys fill our hallway shelf in anticipation of our first placement.
So anxious, so naive. Foolishly, we accept a placement for a young sibling group of three. Sure that’s a bunch to take on at once, but hey, we had our own three in three years. We’ve got this. Plus, we’re told there are no reported problems with these kids who have been with an aunt and uncle for the year since their removal from their bio mom’s home. Are you laughing yet, dear reader?
Fast forward past the kids’ removal when our youngest bio son nearly dies when an infection ensues after a nasty spider bite. A few months later the youngest foster, Ashlee, then 4 1/2, returns to us. She has tantrums that can get pretty intense, is bossy and demanding, but we fall in love. Mom’s rights are terminated and despite being 56 and 57 with no prior intention of adopting, we can’t say no to this little sweetie who has won our hearts.
Besides the three littles, there are two older girls 10 and 12 years old. It looks as though they will not get placed and may have to go to a residential placement. My husband and I both feel a tug to take the 10 year old but I know in my heart this is more than we should bite off. When my husband actually begins to push, I take this as a sign and we begin the process that will be our undoing. Literally.
Yesterday, Kyla turned 15. In the four years she has been with us, she has stolen food, candy, gift cards, make-up, jewelry and most tragic…our smart phone and tablet. This last item allowed her to connect with sexual predators online resulting in her sending them explicit photos of herself and even an actual encounter in the woods of our neighborhood. Police report, rape kit, therapy.
Four years of therapy, most of it with a therapist specializing in connection for adoptive families. A week long hospitalization. Numerous runaways and tantrums resulting in visits by the police and CPS. Broken walls and doors. Charges of incorrigibility ending with a 2 month stay in juvenile detention. An attempt at an alternative living situation with her older sister’s adoptive family. And, the dissolution of my marriage as my husband’s anger became too much and I didn’t feel the girls were safe.
Last summer, after her guardians let us know they didn’t feel they could handle her, I found what I thought would be our saving grace. A way to keep her safe and get her through high school. A Christian boarding school for troubled teen girls, fully funded, welcomed Kyla to Kansas to join the other 14 girls being ministered to by a wonderful and committed staff.
Kyla thrived there at first, joining the volleyball team, making friends, enjoying the animals and farm setting. Then she began telling lies (lots of prior experience with that) and refusing to do chores. Lo and behold, there were consequences….something Kyla just cannot tolerate. She pulled out her arsenal of yelling, screaming, swearing, and running off. Behaviors she perfected while at home. These things the school expected and could handle.
When she didn’t manage to get herself kicked out to come home (where she had begged to leave whenever she didn’t like what we did), she needed to escalate behaviors. And escalate she did. She sexually molested her suite mate who reported to authorities. She sent sexually predatory type grooming notes to younger girls. She pushed a staff member and threw rocks at others. Finally, she succeeded in getting expelled and on February 6th, was flown home.
After having exhausted all know resources last summer when the guardianship failed, I planned to have to do the unthinkable and relinquish my parental rights. Perhaps the state would see the need to get her the residential treatment she needs and Ashlee would be able to grow up without this dysfunctional presence in our home and without the threat of insestual molestation. Hold the phone. Not that easy.
Turns out, if I hand Kyla back to the state, that’s abandonment. I am placed on the Central Registry, lose my teaching job and worst of all, lose Ashlee…the very one I am hoping to protect. Government logic. Oxymoron?
So, that brings me to today. Kyla is enrolled in our local public middle school. I have fully disclosed to the principal, counselors and social workers who have a safety plan in place. We had to rearrange rooms in my tiny 2 bedroom condo. Ashlee sleeps with me so that I can protect her. The past three weeks have been uneventful as far as behavior, if you don’t count Kyla taking and eating an entire Whitman’s sampler giving to me by one of my students on Valentine’s Day and her refusing to come home for two hours last Friday.
I have spent these weeks going from one phone call, appt, and lead. Pounding headaches, exhaustion and frustration. I believe I am not alone in experiencing what I’ve learned is called secondary trauma. I am glad I’m not alone and yet I wish I was. I hate to think so many of us are experiencing this debilitating condition.
Not sure how to end this post or how its contents will end….
It took Jay and Jodi Bean of Alpine years to figure out why their new daughter brought anger and fear into the family and triggered maternal hate instead of love. Jodi has written a book to help others who may, unknowingly, be struggling with a rare condition called RAD.
The emotional puzzle began five years ago. That’s when Jay and Jodi welcomed 4-year-old Victoria into their family, adopted from an orphanage in the former Soviet Republic of Belarus.