Where Does Reactive Attachment Disorder Come From?

It’s really shattering when I read about parents’ rights to raise their children when the child has to be placed in foster care, which can last from days to when the child turns 18 and ages out.

Twenty years ago, I worked with an advocacy group that was hired to review and offer suggestions on how to change the foster care system in Utah. The requirements of the program were that every file would be read and evaluated according to set rules.

I supervised three other social workers. We spent one or two days at each assigned state office reading files for six to eight hours a day. I lost count of how many files I read, but there were times I would go home emotionally drained from reading those cold, hard facts of the children’s lives.

Right now, it’s difficult for me to write about my experiences there. I saw mankind at its worst. The things biological parents and yes, even foster parents, did to kids who have absolutely no control over their lives would make any loving, caring person cry.

Foster care is not an open book. There are coverups throughout the systems all over the country. There are those who will disagree with me and I’m fine with that. But, when you read about a revolving door where the child is returned to the parents, gets put into foster care again and again, it causes so much damage to the child that it’s no wonder they have RAD. The adults do not care.

The worst word in my dictionary is “reunification!” It destroys young lives as much as anything in this world. I saw it back twenty years ago and I see it still happening today.

Whenever a child is removed from its biological parents, it causes trauma to the child. This is the truth, there’s no getting around it. In most cases the child goes to an emergency foster home for a day or more while a foster home is located that will take the child long term. Anybody keeping track of homes (so far, we’re up to three)? That number is if the child is lucky.

The number of placements can reach extreme amounts, like 10 to 20 placements depending on a myriad of issues. Juvenile court judges are part of the problem. They will give the biological parents several months to a year to get their act together and if even one little effort is tried, the judge will give them more time.  In the meantime, the child is living the foster care regime. Foster families often do foster for a limited amount of time. When they find the child is doing RAD-like behaviors, they may request the child be placed elsewhere. That could be number 4 or more while the child is in limbo waiting to return to the biological parents.

The thing is, no one seems to care enough for the children. All the system wants is for that child to be reunified with the parents. There is a real lack of empathy for the children.

The fact of life for many kids adopted from the foster care systems in the United States is that many of them who finally get adopted will be eventually diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), ADHD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and/or PTSD.

What happens then? Well, the power people (doctors and therapists) prescribe artificial drugs to make these kids good citizens. The meds do not cure the child, they’re there to manage the child’s behaviors. Unless the child has true ADHD, giving him a stimulant drug doesn’t work very well. Covering up the symptoms, does not cure the problem for children with RAD.

My opinion is that the whole system needs to be turned upside down and totally revamped. However, as optimistic as that would be, I know better. When we turned in our report to the state of Utah, we were assured all the changes we recommended would be addressed.

The changes were essentially promised in order to make the state look good to the court, but six months later, it was business as usual. The recommended changes were quietly shelved or trashed and never addressed. It’s still business as usual twenty years later. Nothing has changed.

I’m often asked if I could change anything, what would it be? Here’s my list. If anyone would like to add their suggestions, please email me.

  1. Hire people that would go to the home daily and help the families with life planning. That is work with them to find good employment or training. Move them off the poverty level.
  2. Arrange counseling for the whole family and attend it with them, so what sounds workable is implemented and all attend.
  3. Advocate for safe housing and drug rehab if needed.
  4. Show that the family is valued and cared for.
  5. Determine the needs of the whole family, not just the adults.

The money spent on foster care would be used for good, not warehousing. There would not be a need for foster care except in rare occasions, nor would reunification be that much of an issue. Yes, there will always be a need to protect the children, but if done right, that need would be diminished and might keep the cause of RAD in check.

I feel that the lack of understanding of the issues of RAD or early trauma by the professionals, i.e. social workers, foster care workers, judges, medical personnel and therapists exacerbates the trauma induced RAD to extreme levels, which in turn is blamed on the foster or adoptive parents, when much of the problem is perpetuated by the professionals.

The opinions expressed in this blog are mine and mine alone.

Thanks for reading this. Please email me at lamp1685@yahoo.com

N. Ann Lamphere, MSW

Published by annla1441

Adoption Social Worker. Lived in Utah

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