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Reactive Attachment Disorder in Adopted Children

27 Jun 2014 – 07:23 PM EDT

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Adopting a child is usually seen as a joyous occasion to those looking in. Parents are complimented for “giving a child a chance.” The adopted child is called “lucky” and the family dubbed “blessed.” However, for those dealing with reactive attachment disorder (RAD), the praise often stings.

What is RAD?

According to the Association for Treatment and Training in the Attachment of Children (ATTACh), attachment is the “give and take” relationship between parent and primary caregiver. It is central to healthy development for a child. Early childhood trauma makes it difficult for children to attach.

Most children who have been adopted have suffered trauma in some form. Even if the child wasn’t abused or neglected, being removed from the biological family is traumatic, no matter the age of the child.

Reactive Attachment Disorder is a serious condition in which the child struggles with forming emotional attachments to others. A child with RAD often has trouble living with common expectations for other children their age. They have often been hurt by caregivers in the past and are desperate to keep their new parents from penetrating their emotional walls as a way to protect themselves. They do this through a long list of behavior that is often bizarre, constant and serious.

Is it treatable?

Families should seek the assistance of a team of highly qualified mental health professionals specializing in trauma and attachment. Unfortunately, this isn’t always available. Traditional therapy doesn’t typically work with children with attachment disorders because they lack the trust to allow the process to work. Likewise, traditional parenting methods often worsen the condition. Medication is frequently used to help improve the child’s mental health status, curbing issues including insomnia, aggression, anxiety and impulsiveness

Where do families find support?.

Building a strong support system is crucial when raising any child with special needs. Beyond Trauma and Attachment (BeTA) is a support group for mother’s of children with emotional and behavioral special needs stemming from trauma and attachment disorder. The group offers resources, education, advocacy and support on trauma and attachment through a website, private Facebook groups and weekend retreats around the United States.

If you’re family is struggling after adopting or becoming foster parents, you aren’t alone. Adoption is complicated, but finding a tribe to help you through it makes it much easier.