If you’re part of an adoptive family (or know one), I highly recommend checking out https://www.reddit.com/r/Adoption. The community has almost 4500 members (birth parents, adoptive parents and adopted children are all welcomed).
This is a recent interaction I had with one of the members. If you have experience with RAD, please chime in!
How long did it take to bond with your child before she started to really see you as parents? What are your current struggles?
I’ll be honest; if we had to do it all over again, I would ONLY do it if we were guaranteed to end up where we are today with these two kids. We went through hell on earth the first two years, and year three wasn’t much better. If/when we do it again, we will probably open our home to teenagers at risk of aging out of the system who truly want a family. That will likely happen after these two are grown, but we’ll see.
The last two years, we’ve seen steady progress in both kids; our son has PTSD, high levels of anxiety and may be on the autism spectrum (think Asperger’s, even though that’s not technically a diagnosis anymore). Our daughter has RAD and has been a tough nut but we’re seeing a few cracks.
We’ve had them almost 5 years; our three-year adoption anniversary is this month. We saw glimmers of hope throughout the last year; I’d say she’s 80% “with us” at this point. Prior to that, she was very angry at their bio mom (they’re siblings) and took a lot of that out on me.
If you and your wife are each other’s best friend and can work together as a united front, it’s possible you can beat RAD. It’s difficult to separate RAD from the child; you have to remember that the real enemy is the illness. If you can rescue a child from RAD, it’s a beautiful thing. We’re starting to see it.
On the other hand, RAD is tough; getting a diagnosis can be very difficult (we went through several counselors who had no RAD experience and accepted her “angel” act). Her goal (stated verbally) was for everyone to see her as “sweet.” We finally found a play therapist and an in-home counselor who both recognized the situation and gave us great support. Good counselors are necessary and a support system is key, as well.
She actually called us Mama and Daddy within a very short time, which we thought was a good thing. Looking back, we realize she made superficial attachments very quickly, but real attachment didn’t come for years. A few weeks after arrival, she shouted at me, “You don’t know me, and you WON’T know me, because I won’t LET you know me!” She spent a long time keeping that promise.
We still have some struggles with her inability to allow me to be close to her (she does better with Hubby), but I think our greatest struggle is preventing her from hurting herself or doing anything possible for attention. She will tank her grades, trip and fall, make her whole class wait for her, wear dirty clothes, create a rats nest of her hair, walk into furniture…there’s a whole list. I have serious concerns about her teen years, when she realizes other ways to get attention.
Every single day is a challenge. Sometimes I envy parents who have “easy” kids, but then again, they don’t get to have days like today. They don’t get the honor and joy of the amazing summit experiences. Someone said nothing worth having is easy…and I believe it. I would go through the last five years again just for the last 48 hours.
(I wrote this one today, if you’re interested. https://hypervigilant.org/2016/05/08/happiest-mothers-day/ ) You can also find stories about our family in other posts. I started the blog specifically for other families starting the process, because we had very few resources. I wanted to make the blog a place for individuals to find hope and know they’re not alone.
You’re not alone. You can save a life (or maybe more than one). It will NOT be easy. But it will be worth it.
Join the conversation on Reddit!
Photo Credit: Ben Becker
Our boy has had some great days in recent weeks. Happy, fun-filled, laughter-ringing, group-hugging kinds of days. Snuggly, wiggly, tickly kinds of days. “Really proud of that kid” kinds of days. Can’t-get-better-than-this kinds of days.
Today was not one of them.
For the last few weeks in particular, he has been generally well-behaved, even at school. Our girl has continued her pitched battle for freedom and control on every possible front. On this particular Tuesday, he’s joined her. Well, to be fair, he hasn’t actually joined her.
Part of the problem of late is a “wish-I-had-no-sister” attitude. Considering how she goads him, we understand his thought process but he’s still not allowed to be mean. Call it normal sibling rivalry if you like, but we don’t allow it under this roof. (She’s not allowed to be nasty to him, either—sis is just sneakier, so we have to really pay attention to catch it.)
His actions—at home and school—have not been stellar. He’s sort of acted like a Gremlin. Not the fuzzy ones, either.
Her consistent struggle to control is wearing; add his craziness and I’m edging toward the ledge. Hmmmm…should I jump?
Food issues are common among children of neglect. Our little guy fluctuates between eating healthy and eating everything in sight—in the middle of the night.
On one hand, yes, I could not buy unhealthy food, and I’m working on that. In fact, during today’s shopping trip I filled a cart with yogurt, milk, fruits and veggies. The only sweet item was my pumpkin spice coffee creamer mmmmmmmm.
But sometimes (like when we go camping and want to make insanely awesome S’mores using dark chocolate, marshmallows and cinnamon Pop Tarts instead of graham crackers) I buy treats. And then we have leftovers in the pantry.
Other times, I have a craving for Edy’s ice cream, when I’m missing my grandfather. I enjoy a bowlful, after which I forget it’s in the freezer.
This morning we found the empty tart boxes. This afternoon, while cleaning out the freezer, I found two empty ice cream cartons. Likely a direct result of sugar intake: two horrible-not-so-good-rather-bad days at school for the boy.
The silver lining?
I started researching attachment issues again. I found a pretty cool blog called Last Mom. The North American Council on Adoptable Children (NACAC) website showcases some phenomenal articles like this one by Dr. Bruce Perry. More articles are available here. Dr. Perry is with The ChildTrauma Academy.
If necessity is the mother of invention, desperation is the red-headed-step-mama of education. Sometimes I forget how much information is available, if only I’ll take the time to find it.
For the time being, I’ve scooted my rear end away from the ledge. Reading good information is emotionally settling; I highly recommend it.
And now I have to go check to be sure my little Mogwai is enjoying sound sleep. No snacking after midnight, or we’re in big trouble tomorrow…
Coming soon: resources for parenting RAD kids.
Just as soon as I kick this migraine.
So, Friday we went for a CT scan for the girl. Hopefully this will give us more information about what’s going on in her head (literally).
She’s always had academic difficulty, and last year we held her back to repeat second grade. It was the best thing we could have done for her learning; through the first part of third grade, she excelled. She exhibited pride in her work and seemed infinitely happier than we’d ever seen her. Once the class moved past reviewing second grade information, though, she’s had a lot of trouble grasping new concepts.
We have some additional concerns (confusion and tremors, for example), so the doctor sent us for a CT. Actually, the pediatrician, CT tech and her manager all agreed that what we actually need is an MRI, but insurance will only pay for the MRI if we do the CT first. Evidently the MRI is more expensive and they want to know that we’ve exhausted all other options. Never mind exposing a 10-year old to more radiation than necessary.
Not knowing how much of her academic struggle is a result of RAD or defiance, and how much is a result of possible missed connections in the wiring of her brain has been very frustrating. If a child has a brain deficiency, you can’t fault her for not being able to do school work. If a child is pretending not to know how to do something simply to get attention or be oppositional, that’s a completely different issue.
Either way, she’ll need something, but the remedy will be different.
If there’s a problem with her brain thanks to any number possible of factors (bio-mom’s drug habit, pre-natal difficulty, problems during birth, etc.), we’ll likely be looking at additional therapy, more help in school, stricter adherence to routine and checklists, as well as a bigger dose of patience. We won’t allow her to use it as a crutch–in fact, if there’s something wrong with her brain, we don’t plan to tell her–but knowing there’s a weakness, we’ll give her some leeway.
If her brain is running fine with perfect wiring, we’ll rely more on behavior modification and work harder on practicing the concepts that she appears not to cotton. If it’s RAD, she responds very well to tighter boundaries and expectations, because they give her a level of security. She knows how far she can go. As odd as this may sound, she likes to know there are consequences for her behavior.
However, we don’t want to give her consequences for something she can’t control.
Really hoping the tests will give us the answers we need. She needs.
Just a note: if your child needs a CT (aka Cat scan), you may want to prep for the absence of cats. She was somewhat disappointed there were no felines involved.