Saturday, March 27, 2010

Adoption- The New Track

The process of adoption standardized in this country has all but imploded on itself. The adoption of a newly born infant with a same race female mother/parent and same race male father/parent with unknown birthparents who are healthy, free from addictions and who live in the same country is so rare I would guess it to be the least occurring of all the ways to create a family by now.

Brenda, at Living With RAD put up a request for bloggers who might have something to add to a series she is presenting on her blog about adoption. I had been thinking about this for a while, and now seems as good a time as any to explore some of my thoughts on the subject of adoption, how it has changed.(Note to Brenda, you don't have to use this, I just used your post as the jumping off point for my own thoughts!)

Adoption today is nothing like it was 20 and 30 years ago. Therefore there are almost no applicable theories or models to work from.

Most research prior to 1990 is useless.

Adopting a child from a traumatic and stressful past is with good intentions, another trauma and stress. Therefore, adoption should be viewed as a process involving treatment of trauma and healing, and bonding should never be assumed.

Children are not universally resilient. They are harmed by the evil done to them. They can recover in the way that they will never be the person they could have been had harm never come to them but they can have a good chance.

Most children will struggle with all the implications and applications of adoption therefore attachment disorder (not necessarily RAD), once considered rare and obscure, frequently occurs in non-newborn adoptions and families should be prepped with this.

Qualified attachment therapists are hard to find and often self-taught. Because this phenomenon is new there is no training in colleges for it.  Relevant professionals have learned from the old research and inapplicable methods.

Not only has adoption changed dramatically, so has the world. The internet was largely unavailable prior to say, 1995, with most people becoming regular internet users in just the most recent 10 years. A typical research study on non-infant adoption can take years to develop and come to a conclusion. The internet allows everyone to exchange and learn as life is happening.

Lastly, we are it. Those on the internet right now, reading, writing, lurking and commenting, we are it. People who are on message boards, putting up websites, writing their stories. We are the research, the evidence and the hope. At the speed of light we float our hypothesis, test test and retest, publish test and test again. We prove and disprove our own ideas every single day and our progress and our failures are the strategies for healing. We document and learn from each other. Several of the best and most current books available used message board posts and individually developed websites to collect and interview members for information and coincidentally those tend to be the most useful and accurate.

Am I that important? OF course not! It may read like I am making grandiose, sweeping statements but I am only trying to be general in concept. Also these are my thoughts from my experience and possibly apply to no one else.

Before we adopted my daughter I had no idea, NONE. The research, it just isn't there. The treatment, there is none. Answers? There aren't any. That still astounds me. It never occurred to me that I would be it. My only resource- me. And then, a computer full of people who had no research or evidence based treatments to turn to either but who understood and could help.

Adoption radically changed and no one kept up with it. Now, here we are.


  1. I agree with everything you shared here and ditto to that. At first I thought Miss was so young that she would bounce back from her early traumas. In a loving and stable home she'd do just fine in time. When that theory clearly wasn't working out we got the professionals involved and most didn't know what to do with her either and the ones who got it pretty much said that healing was a crap shoot at best and good luck with that. I did not comprehend that tiny little children could be that messed up because I didn't comprehend what wicked things others could do to them and I certainly didn't get that there was no one with the magic fix it combo. It's a good thing I didn't get it because I would not have signed up for it, that's for sure. I thought Nancy Thomas was wonderful and amazing and nuts! I was thinking why the heck would anyone do this on purpose and take these kids on knowing what you are taking on? I get how rewarding the healing process is now, when we get to help them through it, but at that point The Hubs was just trying to talk me down off the roof! lol

  2. You said it right, Essie. Not all children are resilliant. Resilliancy is a skill and not all children have enough of it to truly heal. I adopted teens and believed professionals when they told me "kids heal every day." What they should have said was "your kids will struggle for life and dont waste your time with attachment therapy. Instead teach the kids the skills they will need if they have any hope of being successful adults."

    I might have to write about this too. I hope you wont mind. I have more to say than can fit into a comment. :)

  3. You're right on! When we signed up for this deal, no one told us about RAD or PTSD (PTSD especially.) Even when we did hear about attachment issues, they were the horror stories of kids that were beyond hope. I knew very quickly that my kids were not that, though I also had no idea (and still don't) about the real horrors they had lived through and how immensely damaging those horrors would be to them.

    I never got a honeymoon with my kids. My older son came to live with us 3 weeks before we came home from Ukraine. I saw within the first hour how truely TERRIFIED he was. It still breaks my heart that he had to stand there in court and tell the judge that he wanted to be adopted by us, not knowing if this was going to be a good thing or if he'd just signed his death sentence or not. Come to think of it, I did the same thing!

    I saw the issues immerging with my younger son long before we took him out of the orphanage. Everyone tried to convince us he was young and he wouldn't remember and he'd be just fine. I was the only one who saw through it. Even though it was my older son's behavior at the time that nearly cost us our adoption, I was the only one who could see through all the garbage and smoke screens to see that it was really my younger son who was going to have the most severe, long term issues.

    At that point, I had to make a choice. I had to choose to proceed with the adoption anyway, knowing this was going to be hard. How truely HARD it was going to be, I knew not. I did, however, know that something was dreadfully wrong, but I didn't know what it was. Neither of my kids seemed to fit the worst case RAD scenarios (most don't) I'd read about and I had never heard a thing about PTSD in kids. I also knew I was going to need help, but I had no idea where to look for resources for help, what resources were really going to be needed, or how I was going to pull it off. Very literally, the only thing that saved my adoption at the time was the book "Building the Bonds of Attachment" by Daniel Hughes that I'd purchased at the last minute on the recommendation of other people on message boards and had happened to throw in my luggage.

    Or my other choice was that I could have disrupted the adoption even before leaving Ukraine. My older son would have been sent back to the intnernat and would have been beaten to death that night by the drunk director - and none of the rest of the kids would have ever known about it...but none of them would have ever had a shot at adoption, either. My younger son would have been moved within months to a mental institution, never again to be reunited with the brother he had previously been separated from and would have been left there to rot out the rest of his days, sinking further and further into intstitutional autism. I couldn't do it.

    While I have no regrets about adopting my kids, and seeing them heal IS amazing (and worth it!), I still have to live with the consequences of that decision. In the process of all the craziness, my daughter has been traumatized (not a word I toss around lightly as I know what it REALLY means), our marriage has hung in the balance at times, and I currently have no idea how normal people live. My life is no longer my own as every minute of every day and night (notice the time stamp on this comment) is owned by my kids. It's also nigh near impossible, except over the internet, to find other people who get it, too.

  4. well said, sadly I am too exhausted from my adopted child's behaviour to form a string of well thought out sentences and rational thoughts...

  5. You preach it sister! My bachelors degree is in human development with an emphasis on children. I was a caseworker before my son was born. I was prepared as humanly possible, and I was STILL caught completely off-guard by how. much. damage. can be done before a child is three. And, even WITH an unbelievable supportive therapist familiar with RAD, I seriously would have jumped off my roof into a self-dug dirt hole and covered myself up and died by now if it weren't for blogs. Seriously. I am not kidding. In fact, that's why I started writing my story too- hoping it would reach more floundering mothers.

  6. Essie, This is the single most important piece I have read about adoption and trauma. (And I just said so on my blog and sent everyone here to read it.) It should be required reading for all pre-adoptive parents so that they (we) have SOME concept of what they are getting into. I know we didn't.


  7. Wow... this is so right on the money! I was lucky that I discovered the amazing bloggers before I adopted my daughter. I went into it as prepared as I could have been but was still shocked at the extent of the damage that had been done to her and the fallout it brought into my home. I can't imagine how things would have turned out if I'd gone into this with no other information than what I got in the four hours of adoption "training" my agency required!

    Well said Essie!

  8. I have found that a lot of professionals have never even heard of RAD! Our daughter, adopted from Russia at age 7, currently 16, RAD, PTSD and possible Borderline Personality Disorder, was in the ER again yesterday for cutting and suicidal ideation. The MH/MR person they sent over from Crisis Intervention spoke with her for 30 minutes or so and told her "I don't think you have RAD." I'm not joking! She voluntarily checked herself in at the Psych Ward, so we get three days of respite -- but what we get after that is probably more of the same until the next time she runs away, cuts or talks about suicide. Sigh.

  9. I researched adoption disruption and dissolution last semester for a course, and what I found was that a lot of the research seems to follow federal legislative trends. For instance, there was a lot of research on disrupted adopted placements in the late 1980s to early 1990s, when some of the first state and federal legislation to support adoptions from foster care came out. Every time the statutes force child welfare personnel to expand their assumptions about who is "adoptable," you do seem to get some papers a few years later (and it's not all bad news). The thing is, even those studies are nearly all descriptive. In other words, they try to look at which characteristics of children, families, and social service agencies are most associated with which outcomes. The research involving actual interventions, though, simply doesn't seem to be there (with a few exceptions).

  10. This comment has been removed by the author.

  11. Very well said. Thanks for posting this. Corey is right--every parent who wants to adopt should read this.

  12. yes, yes and YES!!!!

    this is so poignant it is almost tangible.

    thank you for putting into words what all of us adoptive moms think, feel, live, grieve and struggle through every single day.

    throw into that mix the fact that the professionals still consider the layman's point of view from experienced parents as inconsequential and you've got a recipe for disaster.

    if this paradigm is not significantly altered within the next decade, adoptions will cease to occur because the word will be out that it's too d@mn hard to raise damaged children without significant support. The foster system will be burgeoning and in one generation, the streets and jails will be filled with unhealed, uncorraled RADishes, wreaking havoc on society.

  13. IRL know of a lot of very positive older-child adoption stories....most from the region of Russia where we adopted from, and quite a number from China, and a few more from foster care.

    Most of the horror stories I know are from blogs - and oh! I agree! Thank heaven for this form of support!

    I'm going to write an answering post, I think... but the thought that just came to me is about how prior to adoption, so much emphasis is placed on the "home study" and trying to make sure the PARENTS are going to be "good" parents, while little, if any, care is taken in selecting the CHILDREN who have the backgrounds and personality traits that would prepare them to grow in a family setting and benefit from adoption.

    The horrifying presumption seems to be that the qualities of the parent are critical while all adoptable children are interchangeably "full of potential". If nothing else, this makes the poor parents feel like failures from the beginning.

    In all honesty, I think this isn't a fair approach for parents and their bio kids either! Good and loving parents do sometimes end up with really troubled kids.

  14. Very well said! I so wish that more people got this. Love will never be enough for our kiddos. It's a good start, but it's not enough. We need knowledge. We need people to go into adoptions with not only their hearts open, but their eyes as well.

  15. Essie,

    Great Post!! 17 years ago, I was in the "social work" field and had never heard of the storm of RAD that I was bringing into my home. Every time I read a new post from someone living it I can't help but feel sadness for the so alone existance that we lived before the internet.

    I offer a heartfelt thank you to all of you who share, offer understanding and support.


  16. I know this seems to be a 'new' phenomena, yet, I remember my cousin who was adopted at the age of 2 (he's probably in his late 50's now if he's still alive) who exhibited RAD behavior growing up. He was born into a large family of neglect, the siblings were all separated upon the death of their mother. Of course, no one had a name for it then, nor any social services to help. He turned 18, moved out the house, married, and disappeared from my aunt's life, leaving her heartbroken and suffering from a sense of failure.

    With my own little RADish, I find myself feeling bipolar under the best of conditions - often either optimistic or hopelessly pessimistic about his potential to heal. Not having any answers feels a little like playing Russian roulette.

  17. Bravo, Essie. You are right on. When we adopted 5 years ago (gasp! how time flies), we were not at all clued in about the attachment issues we might face, much less the behaviours that would go with them. And our province requires adoption education. So that's to say that our mandatory education didn't even talk about this! You are bang on when you say that this on-line community of parents (mostly moms) IS the research. But it's not enough. The actual research world desperately needs to catch up, for others will come after us and -- gosh how we all know -- they will need help.

  18. Shortly after we adopted I was demanding, pleading with our adoption worker for any books, websites, anything she could offer us that might have suggestions for how to manage our daughters' behaviors. She said she would do some digging. Days later she came back to me with the addresses of some blogs. She said it was the only useful info she could find. There's a reason I love that woman, and would consider adopting another of "her kids".

  19. A very insightful post. What a warm, giving person you must be.

  20. yes. yes. yes. (i just started reading your blog). both my kids are adopted from foster care. my son was 1.5 when we got him. he had 3 placement prior, one was supposed to adopt him but gave up because "he cried too much". he doesn't have RAD, he has bipolar disorder. but he did have some attachment difficulties in the beginning. like you i had to quit my job. but after a year of hard work we got the bond that he so badly needed. we still have little attachment bumps in the road popping up here and there, but nothing like full blown RAD. bipolar is extremely difficult to deal with though. and my foster care classes didn't prepare me AT ALL to deal with that. we glazed over attachment disorders but it wasn't until i experienced it first hand that i read all i could about it and actually learned something about attachment and trauma.

    and yes, young children can most certainly be damaged from trauma. and it is lifelong.

    now my daughter has a different story. it's my son's bio sister and we got her directly from the hospital. no trauma, no disruptions, no other placements. and she's the most "normal" baby ever. of course, when she's old enough she'll struggle with the thought of being adopted and rejected by her birth mother. all that good stuff adoptees have to process through. and we'll be there through all of it.

    i wish i knew what i was getting into. i might have spent more time with my DH before we got our son. or bought a house first. or went on more vacations. ah well. maybe there's a special place in heaven for us :)

  21. You remind me of our foster parent classes - the trainer did a segment on attachment disorder and went out of her way to say how really, really RARE it is....furthermore she described it the way the "uninitiated" would describe it - as having all to do OUTWARDLY with attachment. She said a child might not give you affection or want you to touch or hold him, or alternatively a child might be very indiscriminately affectionate. Now, we know, yes, there is that....but to my mind those behaviors are NOTHING compared with the other behaviors that don't "look" like they have anything to do with attachment. And maybe that is what makes it all so difficult. If the people teaching the classes don't get that, we're in a sorry situation.

  22. When we set out to adopt we were going to get a baby! (Feel free to point and laugh and call me naive fool) Instead, after three long years we finally brought our son home. He was going to be just fine since he had been in a stable loving foster home. Again, pointing and laughing is fine. I am a scientist, I do research about EVERYTHING. It drove me insane that I could not find anything written by experts on this subject. Then I found the blogs. Oh bless you fellow RAD parents! You saved us all! Now we have willingly taken on another RAD child and I feel so much more comfortable and prepared. I know when I have questions I can post it and get lots of great ideas! I know I can share what works for us and others can try it too. This whole RAD parenting thing is trial and error, but so much easier with an army of help on the internet.

    Essie, you ROCK! Best. Post. Evah!

  23. This is good stuff. I agree- the other parents have been my greatest source of encouragement & ideas & strategies (with encouragement being the most important to me!)as well.

  24. great post! i agree--everyone who is adopting should read this.

  25. I am SO glad other people find help with blogs and such!

    I wasn't sure if I should post this or not, it just seemed like a good time. I did not know if every one would be like, you moron, we already knew all that. Or, hey! You're not supposed to talk about that stuff!

    I'm surprised no one really disagreed with this. Unless maybe they are just not commenting if they do. Go ahead and disagree, it says so right up top!

    I think that there are a lot of non-infant adoptions where the parents put on a happy smile and tell you all the greatness of it. I rarely tell people IRL how it really is because without fail they do NOT want to hear the truth.

    I did mean, btw, that this is a "new phenomena" as in, the high numbers of older, traumatized children being adopted as opposed to infants which was once more common. Not that RAD is new.

  26. Well, you know me - I disagree a LITTLE bit... just because I have had two of the "perfect" adoption experiences and one pretty-darned good one (no RAD issues, anyway) I think sometimes parents who have only adopted children with RAD can't believe that any adopted children CAN be "free" of these symptoms. If I'd ONLY had Maxim and Anastasia in my life, I'd undoubtedly be all for sitting every single parent down and giving them a serious talking-to, etc. But I'd hate to do too much "scaring people off" when there are so many children out there who settle in to be happy, thriving children in their new families, either immediately or after a normal period of adjustment.

    Additionally, having been the child of an extremely difficult birth experience, and subsequently "abandoned" in the hospital for my first six weeks in life...I ought to be a RAD candidate myself. So, I suppose I know that temperament and probably all sorts of other mysterious scientific things don't ALWAYS mean that early trauma and loss equals emotional challenges later.

    It seems like a fine line....but isn't medicine getting "up to speed" in a lot of areas?

    I was just with a friend whose son has a peanut allergy....and I'm thinking "Why didn't kids have peanut allergies when I was little?" I mean, are these allergies some completely new phenomenon? Or, like RAD, are they just being seen for what they are? ADHD, too - when I was little they were just "bad" kids!

  27. Annie, having 2 children with symptoms and 2 without is 50-50.

    I am not saying all adoptions of non-infant children will have issues. But certainly many will with trauma and abuse in their background. I never got any statistic about the % of kids who adjust without blinking an eye, but I surely was led to believe that problems are extremely rare and the implication was that a few isolated incidents got blown up in the media.

    I thought about whether my post would scare people off, and I decided 2 things. #1, the reader should probably consider the source, ie, I am no one with no credentials or professional affiliation. #2 if it still scares someone off, GOOD. Become a CASA. A Big Brother Big Sister. A volunteer tutor. Investigate further and deeper and more intensely before you decide what to do.

    But, it's all my .95 cents. You know what they say about opinions!

  28. Annie- MY BAD!
    If you had 2 with issues out of 5 that is not 50%. I think it is 40%. Sorry!!!!

  29. Ha! I was going to point that out... Also, as time has gone on it has seemed clear to me that Maxim was showing more PTSD than RAD symptoms. But, by whatever name, a lot of fun, eh?

    And this TTT of yours! I'm going about my day of churchwork, distracted by thoughts of attractive men!

  30. FYI, I linked in one of my recent posts.

    this is too good to pass up!

  31. I put a little blame on the adoption facilitators. They won't tell the truth about adoption fearing it will scare some people off, which it would. I mean, I DID NOT sign up for this. Of course I know that this is exactly what I signed up for, but 7 years ago, I'd have gone home, had crazy monkey sex and made my own baby. Done.

  32. I think it's such a win/lose situation. I agree that agencies don't want to tell the whole truth because it would scare some people off. But educating us with reality would save so much heartache for us and our children. I knew nothing about adoption, knew nothing about RAD, pretty much knew nothing about everything:) Just knew God placed 3 kids in our life and was calling us to obedience. Now I know He was calling us to a life of sacrifice. As Brenda always says, never, never quit. The blogs I read are lifesavers in a world where NO ONE understands, even those who love me and believe in me. Keep preaching the truth, Essie! We're with you!


I love comments! If you agree or disagree, comment away! However if you are a butthead about it, you may be excised.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...