Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) or Attention Deficit with Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)

Which Diagnosis Does My Adopted Child Have?


When children from foster care are placed with a family to be adopted, they often come with a diagnosis of ADHD. It appears to be one of the most consistent diagnoses that pediatricians seem to use to describe the behaviors of foster children.

What about children adopted internationally? When the adoptive parents experience a child who refuses to connect with them, they take him or her to their pediatrician or Family Practice doctor.

The parents describe what’s happening and the doctors, with no concrete knowledge of RAD, diagnose ADHD. Without the correct diagnosis, the adopted child receives the wrong interventions.


  • Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD)
  • Conduct Disorder
  • Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Substance Disorders
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Mood Disorders
  • Autism Spectrum Disorders
  • Learning or Language problems
  • Vision or Hearing problems
  • Sleep Disorders
  • Brain injury
  • Childhood Emotional Disorder

At least one or more of these conditions have been diagnosed for a child prior to him/her being diagnosed with RAD.  Interventions for ADHD include medical and psychological interventions.

A true case of ADHD responds well to pharmacological treatments. The types of medications are Amphetamines and Methylphenidates. The child often responds to counseling.


Angry Kids
  • Tantrums
  • Not bonded to parents or other children in home
  • Stealing
  • Lies about everything
  • Food issues
  • Seeking attention from strangers
  • May urinate and/or defecate for attention
  • Angry
  • Aggressive towards family members
  • Manipulates people in authority
  • Does well in out-of-home situations

RAD children do not respond well to medications. They also don’t respond to counseling. Most RAD kids are masters of manipulation. When in counseling or even at school, the kids can twist the adult’s perception without the adult being aware of what they’re doing. They will tell the child’s parent how great their child is.


Early childhood trauma, which can take many forms, is the primary reason for RAD behaviors. A child feeling insecure or uncared for has no one in control of his/her life except themselves.

Children in orphanages may experience multiple caretakers or no caretakers with time to spend with them. There often are different age ranges in some orphanages, especially in European countries. Children transitioning from a younger to older child orphanage are bullied and abused by the older children.

Foster care systems remove a child from his/her home, place them in an emergency foster home, then to a longer placement foster home, then back to the biological home. This can happen several times in a child’s life.

There is anecdotal information that a baby placed for adoption can also experience RAD behaviors. This is due to the child hearing his mother’s voice in utero and having someone with a different voice caring for him.


Adopted children with RAD do not respond well to established therapies. This fact drives the children’s parents crazy. They love their children, but the story goes, you can’t help someone who doesn’t want to be helped.

Most RAD children do respond to either a move to a residential treatment facility or a new home.  If the family wants to find a new home for their child, they should do it legally. Placing a child for adoption without all the legalities being addressed is illegal in all 50 states.

Ann and Kara

Helping families with RAD children has become a lifelong objective for me. If you have questions for me about how to determine if your child might have RAD or where to look for help, just message me on Facebook or email me at

 Check out my new book

My Adoption Life: Living with a Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) Child by [N. Ann Lamphere]

(Pull it up on Amazon under my name)

Adoption agencies in Utah that I support:

Wasatch International Adoptions

Children’s Service Society

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