Connie Dean didn’t know anything about reactive attachment disorder when she was a foster parent. The department of human services did not provide her training in that regard—a common deficiency in the foster care system nationwide. As a current therapeutic treatment parent at the Institute for Attachment and Child Development, Connie now looks back with knowledge. “I know that many of the children in my care had RAD when I was a foster parent for the county,” said Connie. “But I didn’t know it at the time. I didn’t have the resources to help them.”
The lack of sufficient education Connie received through the department of human services is only the beginning of what made her job difficult (and what helps to perpetuate attachment issues). The very nature of foster parenting is tough, of course. Foster parents open their homes to young strangers and realize that comes with challenges. But foster parents burn out quickly when they don’t have the necessary resources—no matter how big their hearts. And the lack of resources is great.
Here are the 3 challenges foster parents experience (watch the video or scroll down to read)—
-Lack of education— The department of human services provided Connie with general training about how to parent in general. Yet, they didn’t provide education about parenting a child with reactive attachment disorder. This oversight is particularly alarming considering the cause of reactive attachment disorder stems from trauma at a young age—the very reason most children end up in foster care in the first place. Although not all children in foster care have the disorder, many do.
-Lack of community—The yearly picnic and monthly meal to which Connie was invited didn’t provide a real community of colleagues. Many foster parents feel isolated. They typically don’t have true opportunities to collaborate with other foster parents or professionals on a regular basis.
-Lack of cohesive team support—Children in foster care live among silos of care. They have school teachers and administrators, therapists, caseworkers, and foster parents that touch their lives. However, those professionals often don’t collaborate. They each with their own workload and agenda. “I didn’t feel safe, protected, or connected as a foster parent,” said Connie. “Which hindered my ability to provide the same for kids in my home.”
The foster care system—further contributing to attachment issues
Many foster parents with the best intentions simply don’t have the resources to truly support the kiddos in their care. They end up either leaving the foster care system or continuously passing children onto other families. “Foster care became more of a place to just warehouse children,” said Connie. “When I met Forrest [Lien of the Institute for Attachment and Child Development], I was considering not continuing foster care.”
Thankfully, Connie still works with children but in a different capacity. As a therapeutic treatment parent at the Institute for Attachment and Child Development, she finally feels fully supported. And she has plenty of resources to do her job—to help kids get better and stay in their “forever families”.
Our foster care system continues to fall apart in this nation for multiple reasons—from troublesome reunification laws to lack of financial resources and education. The result is human trafficking of foster children and children shuffled among multiple placements. Each time these tragedies occur, children’s attachment issues only get worse. And the cycle of abuse and neglect continues for generations.
We all need to work together for the sake of our children. Now.