We’d like to thank this brave mama for sharing her story as a member of our greater RAD community. The more we join and advocate together, the stronger we become.
My husband and I expected help after we adopted our son. After all, they had offered to help before he joined our family. And we believed them because they had done it before. Friends and family embraced our girls after we adopted them. Our local school principal and teachers made adjustments to help our family feel welcome. We found a great therapist who understood adoption and helped us all to settle in. We thought it’d be the same for our son Tyler.
But we didn’t know before we adopted Tyler (and neither did “our village), that our son had developmental trauma (a.k.a. reactive attachment disorder or RAD). Because of his disorder, everything changed. Our village didn’t have warm feelings for a boy who ran away from home and had violent outbursts at school. Some of them wanted to help and had the best intentions. Even if they wanted to help, however, many didn’t know how to do so (including professionals). We realized quickly that we were in this on our own after Tyler joined our family.
Here are 5 surprisingly unhelpful people for our child with RAD:
1. Educators – Tyler’s behavior escalated as soon as he moved from elementary to middle school. During the first six months of 6th grade, we lived from one outrageous episode to the next. We received regular calls from the principal and the school counselor. Of course, the school wouldn’t tolerate his behavior and he had to leave school. We were given no other options.
2. Police officers – The sheriff continuously called us when he had a problem with Tyler. Every time I hung up, I felt bewildered. Who do you call when the police complain to you? We didn’t get the handbook on how this works.
3. Mental health hospital clinicians– When his school couldn’t tolerate Tyler any longer, a local mental health hospital took our son away in handcuffs. The hospital chatted with Tyler, evaluated him, and put him on medication. After two weeks, the hospital said he had to leave. We went home with the same issues.
4. Counselors—While at the mental health hospital, counselors with the county mental health service arrived. As they evaluated Tyler, I waited in the lobby. I remember feeling relieved that someone would finally help us. Again, I was shocked by the lack of help. The counselor handed me a parenting book and said, “He’ll be okay. We recommend you read this book.” My son had threatened to kill himself and his family and they told me to take him back home and read a book. Again, we felt isolated.
5. Our pastor—While we love our pastor, he simply didn’t know how to help either. In a conversation with our pastor about our struggles with Tyler, he asked, “So do you think you’ll give him back?” Give him back? Give up? On our son? If we didn’t help him, who would? We felt like we were on the losing side of the battle.
And then, relief…from the very first telephone conversation with Executive Director Forrest Lien at the Institute for Attachment and Child Development, we felt hopeful and relieved. He listened to us and told us he thought he could help. He opened his schedule and made time for us right away. An immediate short-term plan was made and a treatment parent met us at the Institute for Attachment and Child Development office the next day. There were people who understood. There were people who could help.
I know there are a lot of other parents just like me still searching for help. And I know not everyone can go to the Institute for Attachment and Child Development. But don’t give up. Don’t accept feeling belittled by people who don’t understand.
To overcome the effects of trauma requires specialists and loads of help. If your child were to break his arm, you wouldn’t attempt to piece together materials in your home to make him a cast. Just like a broken arm, broken attachment requires specialists. It’s far from easy, but I urge you to find people who can help. Parents—you cannot do this alone, despite what most people tell you.
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