Are you a foster parent wondering if you can provide care for a placement with an attachment disorder? Maybe you are considering becoming a foster parent but want to know what you could be getting yourself into. Here are 10 truths about Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) that foster parents need to know.
- Foster Care for Children with RAD
- Questions that Foster Parents Ask about Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) … with Expert Answers
- 1. Do all children in foster care have Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)?
- 2. Should children with RAD be in homes with other kids?
- 3. Do I have what it takes to parent a child with RAD?
- 4. Is there help for families that have children with RAD?
- 5. How do I get a child with RAD to trust me?
- 6. Can I have a life if I take on a child with RAD?
- 7. Can children with RAD be successful in school?
- 8. Do children with RAD get better?
- 9. How do I parent a child with RAD?
- 10. Does discipline work for children with RAD?
Foster Care for Children with RAD
If you are a foster parent who has the placement of a child with RAD (or is considering one), you may not know what to ask or where to begin. We can provide answers to common questions you need to know.
You might be in the situation of caring for a child that you suspect has RAD or has just been diagnosed. Foster parents often receive little information about a child, and the information you get from the caseworker may be highly inaccurate. Case workers may minimize or even intentionally not tell you about a child’s diagnosis because they are desperate for you to take the placement. While this is wrong, it is a reality of the broken foster care system.
Now you have a child in your home who is exhibiting extreme and seemingly bizarre behaviors, and you wonder where to turn for help.
You may have adopted a child who has RAD, and now you realize the depth of your child’s attachment problems. You wonder how to get the help your family desperately needs.
Questions that Foster Parents Ask about Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) … with Expert Answers
Here are questions we receive most often from foster parents who are caring for a child with RAD or suspected attachment disorder issues. If you have a question not listed here, share it in the comments and we will respond.
1. Do all children in foster care have Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD)?
The simple answer is no. Not all children in foster care have RAD. However, the rate of attachment disorders is much higher for children who have experienced abuse and neglect. Every child who is in foster care has experienced trauma.
In the general population, 4 out of 10 infants show an attachment concern. This research suggests that attachment injury is not unique to children in foster care. The difference in attachment disorders among children in foster care is that the more attachment injuries, the more likely a disorder is to form.
Children in foster care can be moved many times. Each move results in an attachment injury and makes it more difficult for the child to form healthy attachments.
The critical time in a child’s life when they need to form an attachment is birth to age 3, and attachment issues have even been noted from problems in utero, especially when mothers experience their own trauma, mental health issues, and drug use.
2. Should children with RAD be in homes with other kids?
Children with RAD have unique needs that can be dangerous to other children in the home. If you have children in your home, you need to seriously consider the risks. To varying degrees, children with RAD lack a healthy conscious.
You can minimize risks to other children by providing line of sight supervision, door alarms, and vigilant supervision, but you must be honest with yourself about what your family can handle.
Many children with attachment disorder need residential treatment at some point during their childhood. Click here to learn more about how to find appropriate residential treatment placement for a child with RAD and click here for a list of 75+ parent reviews of RAD residential treatment centers.
3. Do I have what it takes to parent a child with RAD?
Yes! Not everyone is cut out for parenting a child with special needs but you can develop what it takes. Even those of us who believe we have what it takes, need to develop our skills. If you are willing to be patient, be consistent and be open to learning, then you have what it takes.
Keep in mind that parenting a child with RAD is highly difficult and taxing. Plan now to implement strategies to take care of yourself, like time away by yourself and with your spouse, therapy, and stress-relief activities.
Consider who will watch this high-needs child so that you can get a break, because you will absolutely need one.
4. Is there help for families that have children with RAD?
Yes, there are resources available for parents. You can get help locating a residential treatment center, in home services or a number of other resources. Try contacting your county mental health services as a starting place for these supports.
You can also learn specialized parenting skills to take a child centered approach to increase chances of a healthy attachment.
If you are considering adopting a child with RAD, think carefully about what your life will look like for years to come. Take your time negotiating an adoption subsidy that includes resources for after adoption, because the long-term needs of this child will be high. Unfortunately, many adoptive families find that they receive better support for a child in foster care than they do once the child is adopted.
5. How do I get a child with RAD to trust me?
Children with attachment disorders are slow to trust, but it is possible. The first thing you have to understand is that it isn’t really about trusting you. It is about the child trusting themselves enough to be vulnerable and open up.
Trust requires a sense of safety. If you are able to develop an environment where the child feels safe and secure, they can begin to develop trust. This includes a nurturing but highly structured life situation where the parent is clearly in control at all times.
6. Can I have a life if I take on a child with RAD?
Yes, but your life will be different than it was before you parented a child with RAD. You will have to change many things. To be blunt, your life will never be the same. You may have to change jobs, move closer to resources or change your friends. You could lose family members and have to rebuilt your village, but it is possible.
If you want to have a life and parent a child with RAD, you will need support. You may need a guide, but you can develop a new life.
The hard truth is that many parents who have adopted a child with RAD (while they still love their child) regret adopting them because of the turmoil the child’s needs have caused for the family. As one mom of a child with RAD said, “I love him, but I would not wish this life on anyone.”
While it’s absolutely possible, parenting a child with RAD is life-changing.
7. Can children with RAD be successful in school?
Yes, in fact some children with RAD do better at school than at home.
While a child with RAD may be successful in school, they may also need specific strategies to remain in the classroom.
Plan to parent with teachers to work together to develop a plan for your child with RAD. Consider if your child needs an IEP, 504, smaller classroom setting or other adaptations in order to receive an education. Plan to inform the school district of the type of supervision your child requires.
8. Do children with RAD get better?
It is possible. A child diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder will have persistent, pervasive issues with healthy relationships. They can improve but they will always struggle with forming healthy attachments.
Treatment is possible but know that it is a long and often lonely road. Medication can also be a helpful tool to manage symptoms, but it is not a cure.
9. How do I parent a child with RAD?
Parenting a child with RAD requires a great deal of patience, love and skill. You can do this but it is going to be challenging.
You will have to develop thick skin because others will not understand your child’s behavior or your parenting style. If you are parenting a child with RAD, you have to let what others think of you go. Most people won’t get it because most people wouldn’t do it.
It will also be important for you to adjust your expectations. While many children can heal and make some progress, the reality is that attachment challenges are life-long and it’s not realistic to think that the child will become “normal”. Instead, make your focus figuring out how to help your child be as successful as he or she can become.
The goal is helping him become a healthy adult who functions in the world and has relationships with other people.
It’s also possible that you might do all the “right” things and still have a child with RAD who does not make good choices. This doesn’t mean you did anything wrong as a parent.
10. Does discipline work for children with RAD?
Yes, but traditional discipline is not effective for kids with attachment problems. You will have to change the way you view discipline and punishment. You will have to learn new ways and strategies.
All the techniques you thought would work, or worked with typical children you have parented or taught in the past, will not work for a child with RAD. Forget the sticker charts and reward systems and be open to new techniques.
Click here to read more about the new view of discipline that attachment problems require.
While being a foster parents for a child with RAD is highly challenging, there are methods you can use to help this child heal and bring calm back to your family. If you are considering adopting a child with attachment disorder, think critically about the years ahead and if your family is in the right place for the challenges you will face.
Are you a foster parent who is caring for a child with RAD? What is your experience and what help do you need? Share about it in the comments.
Click here for a free PDF printable checklist of the 7 steps to take when your child needs residential treatment.
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