RAD Reputation

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Adoption / Foster Care / Wrestling with Angels

Last week, as I got home from an evening meeting at church, I bumped into my next-door-neighbor, A (who happens to be my landlord’s ex-wife). He had told her about my adoption plans, and she was supportive. At first. Then the warnings, dire predictions, and scary stories began.

Her son, J, was adopted at age 7 from foster care, and seemed to be a good, adjusted kid until he hit his teens. Then things went down hill, and he received a diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). He hasn’t been in jail yet, but he’s been close. He steals from his mom. He runs away. Right now, he’s back at a residential facility, and receiving neuro-feedback.

A is part of a RAD moms support group, where she hears terrifying stories that, even with the problems she has with J, make her relieved her kid isn’t like theirs. She threw out a statistic: 75% of kids in care have RAD. The warnings were things about feces, and stealing, and hiding the knives, and locking up anything I care about and don’t want damaged or destroyed, and how my landlord was preparing for the holes in the walls, and “well, hopefully you don’t get a screamer.”

Um, yikes! Ok, so on the one hand it’s good to know my landlord has an awareness of kids coming out of foster care, so if stuff does happen, he won’t be taken totally off guard. On the other hand, I really felt like A was blaming lots of stuff–the high crime rate in our city, for instance–on RAD.

What I learned in my required state adoption class, from some clearly experienced and knowledgeable social workers and parents, is that RAD is both an umbrella diagnosis, and at the moment, one of the diagnoses-du-jour. Yes, they said, almost all kids in care have some attachment issues. Of course they do, given the trauma and loss they’ve experienced. But most of them don’t have RAD.

A disagrees. She thinks most of them do have RAD.

I’m a little freaked out, I have to say. I don’t want to assume the worst of any kid that I bring in to my house, but I also don’t want to wake up with a knife at my throat, you know?

I think I need to do some research. The book I’m reading, borrowed from my social worker, has a good argument about bonding vs. attachment, and ways to encourage and develop attachment–something I know A didn’t have access to, and probably could’ve helped her avoid being where she is now.

Then again, who’s to say it’s not just who J is? I have a friend who’s also a great parent, with her husband 30 years, and her biological 20 year old son is having all kinds of issues.

Sigh, so much to think about…

The Author

I'm a pastor. I believe in radical love and ridiculous grace. I love to sing and sew, and have a shop on Etsy. I'm trying to make my ecological footprint smaller. I have chickens who provide endless entertainment. Oh, and I'm a formerly single mom by choice, son E (born 6/00, placed 11/23/11, adoption finalized 11/21/14) and now making a life with The Dude and his two kids, Girl-E (12/02) and C (9/04). Baby Bumpy due to arrive around 5/25/15! This blog chronicles my thoughts on faith, family, and the wild adventure we call Life!

1 Comment

  1. Kelly says

    I’m an adoptive mother of 2 girls. You will face all kinds of different things going thru this process (both during and after) but I must tell you that whatever negative things may/can happen they will never outweigh the profound life changing effects of being an adoptive parent. There are no guarantees on anything but then again if you conceived a biological child you would have no guarantees there either. I haven’t read your entire blog just one post so I hope this isn’t outdated. People will always be ready to tell you the negative but not the positive. Take a deep breath and trust YOUR instincts. Trust what I am telling you. It will all be okay. Promise 😀


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