Most parents who are considering residential treatment for their children with reactive attachment disorder (RAD) feel depleted. After years of therapy and countless other measures, they often feel as though their children are worse off than before. These families are close to running out of money, time, and support. The people in their lives don’t recognize what truly goes on in their homes. They just don’t get it. The parents themselves know, however, that their entire household suffers as a result. They need help.
The decision to send a child to a residential treatment center (RTC) is difficult (although sometimes that decision is made for parents which is an entirely different topic). To add to the difficulty, most parents are struggling with secondary PTSD as a result of raising children with PTSD. They are in “survival mode” themselves. If you or someone you support is in the midst of making such a decision, consider the following.
Pros to residential treatment centers for children with reactive attachment disorder:
- Time for parents to take care of themselves and refocus. We consistently urge parents to find respite care so that they can parent to the best of their abilities. Most parents are in dire need of self-care. We realize that, in reality, professional respite care for kids with RAD is incredibly hard to find. Placing the child with RAD in an RTC is sometimes the only way to find respite.
- Keeps children with RAD and other children safe around the clock. Children with RAD require constant close supervision in order to keep themselves and others safe. This reality is not always possible given the demands of life with multiple children and work schedules. RTCs provide this peace of mind, if only temporarily.
- Time for parents to reconnect with other children and one another. Again, respite care is vital not only for those raising children with RAD but also for the entire family. Other children also feel the effects of living with a child with RAD. Marriages suffer as well. Sometimes, a break to repair those other relationships is necessary.
- Time to seek legal counsel of rights in regard to adoptive subsidies and other help. Families in survival mode while raising children with RAD are quickly depleted of time, money, and energy. Placing a child in an RTC can buy time to find those essential resources before it’s too late.
- Current resources may cover costs. Effective therapy and other professional services specific for children with RAD is expensive and difficult to find. Insurance companies and Medicaid typically don’t recognize such services. However, they often recognize traditional residential treatment centers. While RTCs are actually more expensive than effective services in most cases, at least a portion of the costs are covered by available resources some parents may have.
Cons to residential treatment centers for children with reactive attachment disorder:
- Residential treatment centers won’t help children with reactive attachment disorder. In fact, RTCs can make matters worse in the long-term. They aren’t family environments. Therefore, they don’t effectively address the attachment problems between children and their families. Residential treatment centers have a revolving staff schedule so children don’t learn how to develop close relationships. In fact, children often develop superficial relationships with staff in order to manipulate them and are extremely skilled at doing so.
- Residential treatment centers often give false hope for those raising children with RAD. Many RTCs use behavior management, an ineffective technique for children with RAD. Children with RAD know how to manipulate such systems to meet their own needs. Parents often feel hopeful that their children are recognized and rewarded for “good behavior” while in the program. Unfortunately, those behaviors don’t continue when the children return home.
- Children with RAD socialize with other children with their same distorted thinking alone. Residential treatment centers often reward children for “good behavior” by allowing them to spend time alone with the other residents. The children who spend time alone validate one another and make matters worse.
- Residential treatment centers are often more expensive than effective therapies in the long-term. Time and co-pays are valuable resources that one can not get back. Although insurance companies and Medicaid may help pay for various residential treatment centers, they do not help with long-term positive changes. Those raising children with RAD who want real changes for their families should carefully consider how and when they spend their time and money.
Yes, the decision is difficult. Whatever decision those raising children with RAD make in regard to RTCs, however, they always need support. If they do decide to utilize RTCs, they need support as they make more difficult decisions for when their children return home. If they decide against RTCs, they need lots of support to find quality, alternative options in the midst of “survival mode”.
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