When Cindy and Brian adopted their son from Russia, they had no idea about the obstacles ahead. After different medications, several hospital stays, and various therapies, nothing had helped their son to overcome the early trauma he had experienced before he entered their home. If you’ve been following our blogs for the last several weeks, you know what Cindy and Brian have experienced (to catch up, please start with their first video segment). Ultimately, they made the decision to place their son in our in-patient program at the Institute for Attachment and Child Development.
It’s not always easy for parents to send their children to live with a different family for roughly nine months. Some worry that doing so will only add to their children’s attachment issues. It’s been our experience that children do not lose their family attachments when they live with our therapeutic families. In fact, we can build on whatever desire children have to be part of their families. Many children realize very quickly in our program that their attachment problems happened before they met their “forever families” and that neither the children nor their “forever families” knew how to heal together.
Here are 6 reasons children with RAD heal best outside of their homes temporarily—
- Children learn how to develop relationships with consistent “practice parents” who care for them but aren’t their “nurturing enemies”. Our treatment parents have unique opportunities to connect with the children that their own parents and other professionals lack for two different reasons. Parents are too emotionally connected to the children. On the other hand, therapists and other outside professionals often cannot get close enough to the children to get past their manipulation and artificial charm.
The children in our program live with our therapeutic treatment parents in their own homes for approximately nine months. Over that time, our therapeutic treatment parents get to know the children, work through their resistant and manipulative behaviors calmly and professionally, and get to the heart of real issues. They are able to get past the false veneers children with RAD present to adults who don’t know them well (i.e. rotating staff at residential treatment centers). In addition, most of our treatment parents have children of their own who have gone through our program. They truly understand children with RAD. Yet, our treatment parents do not have the same emotional investments as the children’s own parents who are worn-out and often have their own post-traumatic stress disorder. The children in our program have contact with their parents weekly with the goal of returning home.
After children complete our program, their own parents often refer to us as their therapeutic extended families. Once children return home, they continue their relationships with the IACD team via Skype, phone calls, and sometimes, home visits. Children can also return for short-term “tune-ups” if they slide back into old survival patterns.
- The children are under constant supervision and care appropriate for their disorder and in family environments. We work with children based on where they are developmentally, rather than by their chronological ages. Because our children with developmental trauma (i.e. reactive attachment disorder) are behind cognitively and emotionally, they require living environments appropriate for earlier developmental stages. Similar to the safety caregivers provide toddlers, we surround our children with a close circle of security in which they are in are in our line-of-sight at all times. Realistically, the children’s parents cannot provide this level of care due to life demands as well as their own emotional exhaustion.
In our home environments, children experience critical life lessons they missed as toddlers. They learn how to follow directives and develop confidence and self-esteem through the lead of safe, calm parents who live with and guide them. We teach them to learn that their needs will get met, to trust caregivers, to develop cause and effect thinking in regard to achieving the “wants” in their lives, and to accept responsibility for poor choices.
- Our therapists and treatment parents are experts in the field of reactive attachment disorder. Children with RAD seek control of their environments. For them, control is their means of survival. They innately avoid any chances of vulnerability and the hurt they once experienced at very young ages. They have keen abilities to manipulate adults, distort realities, and gain control. However, they don’t feel safe when they can gain control of their environments. Our therapists and treatment parents fully understand these dynamics. Children with RAD do not have opportunities to manipulate and interfere with their treatment processes with our staff as they do with other traditional therapists, etc. We work with the children to feel safe so they no longer need to control their environments to feel safe on their own accord.
- The rest of the family can work on their own trauma. All people within households suffer while living with children left untreated for RAD. Many mothers of children with RAD experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), marriages often begin to fall apart, and other children in the home suffer. The time apart provides parents as well as other children in the home time to heal. We provide whole families with the education and tools they need to prepare to invite their children back into their homes.
- Time outside of their own homes allow children to learn how to feel safe in real home environments. Parents raising children with RAD are typically burnt out, tired, and angry. The frustration and anger parents typically feel through parenting further contributes to children’s fear and resistance of caregivers. Although our compassionate treatment parents care for the children, they do not carry the same resentment or exhaustion that the children’s parents often do. Therefore, our family homes give children calm living environments and ideal opportunities in which to learn, grow, and heal.
- Love alone won’t make reactive attachment disorder go away. Parents of children with RAD often do everything they can to help their kids. Yet, they simply can’t do it alone. Love and time won’t “fix” developmental trauma. Highly qualified attachment professionals are essential to help children heal.
Even though Cindy and Brian miss their son, they feel hopeful for his future for the first time. “There are times that, yes—I long for him,” said Cindy. “But I know he is where he needs to be.” They also understand that their son’s pain isn’t their fault. “’Good parenting’ was never going to solve it,” said Brian. “Seeing us as his parents, he’s always reacted differently to us…he has to be out of our home right now.”
We’re hiring therapeutic treatment parents. Read about a “day in the life”.
Watch the Parent Talk about RAD full series of Brian & Cindy: