Myths about RAD

If you have adopted or are considering adoption, you may have heard it before:

“I adopted from X because children from the country of X don’t have Reactive Attachment Disorder.”  Adoptive parents perpetuating the myth

"Children adopted from Y might be strong willed; they need that to survive, but they do not have Rad.” Agency specializing in adoption from Y

“I don’t want to adopt from Z because all children adopted from Z have Rad.”
Prospective adoptive parent- has never met anyone who has adopted, or works with adoption from Z

Unfortunately these are common statements, often heard within the adoption community. Adopted children often have early obstacles to overcome, but each country has it’s own unique strengths and weakness. Immunity to Reactive Attachment Disorder is not one of them. If you do a Goggle search you will find support groups for families who have adopted from many countries. Groups like Attach- China; while only one example of, many, clearly would not exist if Chinese children were immune to RAD.

Any child in an orphanage; regardless of country, is at risk for having problems with attachment. (Even biological children can have attachment issues.) An adopted child that has lived in an orphanage or in foster care has almost certainly experienced breaks in the cycle of attachment, trauma, grief and loss, abuse or neglect. Adopted children, even when coming from orphanages that are considered to be “cream of the crop,” experience a degree of trauma. Loss of control, language, favorite caregiver, friends, and everything familiar can all adversely affect children, and can be contributors to RAD. 

My son’s Russian orphanage is a perfect example. At age three he knew his numbers and colors, and spoke in complete sentences. At the baby house, the children had an exercise room, and they swam in indoor pool/tub, and drank hot herbal tea afterwards. He knew the orphanage director and was clearly fond of her, and was well prepared to come to live with us. But even he, in what I consider an optimal orphanage setting, experienced a degree of anxiety, and trauma. Each time a child experiences trauma or breaks in their cycle of trust, the more difficult it is to overcome early obstacles.

Realities, not myths, must serve as the foundation for your adoption. It is important to make informed decisions, based on research that includes adoptive parents who have adopted from the countries you are considering, and adoption experts experienced in working with, and placing children for adoption from said country.

If you took the most healthy, well rounded 2-year- old, whisked him away from everything he knew, and cared about; you would except that child to experience trauma. He would have to go through a transitional period of rebuilding trust because there was a break in his cycle of attachment. We as adoptive parents get to pre-attach to our child, but children rarely have that luxury. As a parent you must be aware of all possibilities so that you can “prepare for the worst, hope for the best.” 

The myth that one country is better than another or immune to attachment issues is a disservice to adoptive parents. Adoptive parents who are not prepared to parent a child, who may have attachment difficulties, are simply not prepared to parent there adopted child.  Your child needs you to assist them with any obstacles that might impede attachment. You can not so this if you are not aware of the possibilities.

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