It starts with a dream to add a child to the family. Yet, I get calls from desperate and hopeless adoptive parents everyday. At the Institute for Attachment and Child Development, we’re here to support families struggling with reactive attachment disorder. One of our primary roles in that regard is advocacy for change to the foster care and adoption systems. Here’s why…
5 ways the system traps adoptive parents (followed by tips to begin to overcome it):
1. There’s not full disclosure of information. The problems begin before parents are even aware. Caseworkers are under pressure to get kids into adoptive homes and close cases quickly. Therefore, many public welfare agencies don’t reveal information about kids until after parents finalize adoptions.
2. Parents lack help. Once parents learn the truth about their children’s trauma, they don’t get much help. Public welfare agencies aren’t typically prepared to adequately train and support parents of children with reactive attachment disorder. At home, people who adopt often try parenting techniques that work with their biological children. However, those techniques don’t work for kids with reactive attachment disorder. As a result, parents feel exhausted, full of despair, and “crazy”. This is especially true for the primary caregiver, typically the adoptive mother.
3. Things get worse and parents are alone. Adoptive parents lives’ quickly spiral out of control. Kids with reactive attachment disorder often run away from home or have trouble with school and the law. As adoptive parents are alone and don’t have resources, their problems build and they have little patience and strength of their own to help their children.
4. Many helping professionals don’t fully understand reactive attachment disorder. They don’t understand how trauma impacts the brain. Kids with reactive attachment disorder easily manipulate and control their environments. When parents turn to professionals for help, kids with reactive attachment disorder often lie and manipulate those adults. As a result, the police, school employees, or therapists often believe children’s accusations of child abuse or neglect. In-home services can make matters worse for children with moderate to severe reactive attachment disorder. At residential treatment centers, kids with reactive attachment disorder work the system so that they falsely appear to have improved.
By the time parents find us, they’re relieved to finally find some answers and people who understand them. They are often out of resources and feel emotionally depleted themselves. Unfortunately, their insurance agencies often don’t cover specialized programs such as ours.
5. Parents can’t afford treatments that work. After parents adopt, they often receive a small subsidy and a Medicaid card from their adoption agencies. However, those resources deplete quickly and Medicaid resources are typically ineffective. I advise parents to turn to the county where they adopted for additional financial assistance. However, counties often deny payment for specialized services. Instead, their counties help them find yet another Medicaid provider who lacks the expertise to treat reactive attachment disorder. Parents are back in the same predicament as before.
Ultimately, the system hold parents hostage. If a parent makes the decision to remove their child from the home due to safety reasons, the system often files abandonment charges against them. Parents are left scared, hopeless, and alone.
If you’re a parent in this predicament or a professional working with parents, here’s what you need to know:
- Reactive attachment disorder is a preexisting condition.
- Parents have the right to hold adoption and public welfare agencies accountable to help them.
- Parents should learn what to look for in therapy for kids with reactive attachment disorder.
- Parents have the right to educate their insurance companies. Read 7 Steps to Get Insurance Coverage for Your Child with Attachment Disorder.
- Parents can go to the following advocacy website to explore a case of wrongful adoption and demand support services. Here’s the website: http://www.fpsol.com/adoption/advocates.html
- There is help. Read testimonials to keep hope alive and don’t give up.
- Invite Forrest Lien to speak at your parent or professional group, nationwide.
- As our voices become louder, awareness and help will grow. Share our blog with friends, family, neighbors, doctors, and therapists.