Friday, January 25, 2013

Why the Littles are STILL not in Awana, gymnastics, little league, etc....

Our littles are fabulous! They are smart, funny, affectionate, creative . . . I could go on and on because they're really that awesome! We cannot wait for our extended family, friends, church, & community to know them and love them like we do.

The kids can't wait for it either. But their reasons are different than ours. And that's a problem.

See the Littles are RAD. Not rad as in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles rad, but RAD as in all four Littles have been diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder.

And even though, TMNT may be born RAD, children most definitely are not! 

The Mayo Clinic gives the following definition for Reactive Attachment Disorder:

Reactive attachment disorder is a rare but serious condition in which infants and young children don't establish healthy bonds with parents or caregivers.
A child with reactive attachment disorder is typically neglected, abused or orphaned. Reactive attachment disorder develops because the child's basic needs for comfort, affection and nurturing aren't met and loving, caring attachments with others are never established. 
Nancy Thomas, Therapeutic Parenting Specialist and author of When Love is Not Enough, elaborates on the disorder below:
Attachment disorder is defined as the condition in which individuals have difficulty forming lasting relationships. They often show nearly a complete lack of ability to be genuinely affectionate with others. They typically fail to develop a conscience and do not learn to trust. They do not allow people to be in control of them due to this trust issue. This damage is done by being abused or physically or emotionally separated from one primary caregiver during the first 3 years of life.
Our children learned to survive neglect, abuse, and abandonment by controlling who they could, what they could, when they could, however they could. 

Their toolbox of skills is impressive.
  • Superficially engaging & charming
  • Lack of eye contact
  • Indiscriminately affectionate with strangers
  • Destructive to self, others, & material things
  • Lying about the obvious
  • Stealing
  • Persistent nonsense questions & chatter
  • Inappropriately demanding & clingy
  • Presumptive entitlement issues
  • Deliberate & defiant disobedience.
  • Triangulation (playing one adult against the other)

Whoa nelly! That's quite the list! 

Having spent 1/2, 3/4, or ALL of their lives in Foster Care, which was 100% out of their control by the way, and being jostled from home to home, also 100% out of their control, has created the perfect storm of no concept of stability, consistency, or love. Although they may not present all of these behaviors all of the time, every one of our Littles has struggled with EVERYTHING on this list at one time or another. This is how they establish control and order in their world, by controlling any and all adults in their lives.

Experiencing an unwavering, unconditional love for the first time not just from one person but from two parents and two older siblings has made them feel completely out of control. The very thing they have longed for, prayed for, and now actually have drives them insane! 

Not because they don't want it, but because they don't know what to do with it.

Remember when you wanted to swim with the big kids? You hung out on the pool's edge; you'd put your feet in and splash a bit. Maybe if you were really brave, you'd walk out into the shallow end some. But then panic kicked in, and you immediately knew you were going to drown and die! 

You thrashed your way back to the side & clung to the edge refusing to let go. More than likely, a parent, a family member, a friend, somebody convinced you to give it another try. They told you they knew it was scary, but promised not to leave you alone. 

Or maybe you had the silly uncle that pushed you in with no warning! But he was still there to make sure you were safe and rescue you at the first sign of trouble. 

Now think about how a drowning person responds to their rescuer. An underwater battle is waged. Elbows are thrown, heads careen wildly, and bodies collide as the terrified swimmer desperately clings to their savior and simultaneously pushes them away because they are too afraid to believe this salvation is real. To be rescued means to surrender their need to control, their need to save themselves.

Adoption has thrown our littles into the deep end of love. No life guards, no floaties, no tippy toes touching bottom, and they think they are drowning. They see themselves flailing, fighting for their very lives, trying to get to the edge so they can escape what they believe is imminent death. Because its THAT scary to be loved when you have never known love.

But we ARE in the pool with them. They are not alone.

We have fabulous days where we get to swim alongside the littles, hard days where they cling to us so tightly it feels as if they will pull us under, and heart-breaking days where we pursue them while they hold their breath hoping to sink to the bottom. These are the days when they pull out all their tricks to sabotage the family bonds they have started.

Those same days are why our littles are still not involved in church & community activities. Those environments allow too much room for sabotage on the kids' part.

More than likely, they would behave beautifully. Too beautifully. 

As in superficially engaging and charming, indiscriminate affection, (sound familiar?), impromptu performances, people-pleasing behaviors . . .

Which really is manipulation and triangulation. They crave superficial adult-oriented relationships because they need you to fall in love with them on their terms so that they feel in control. When they succeed, they have robbed themselves of healing. If there is triangulation occurring, the child WILL NOT HEAL! 

And that is unacceptable. 

We cannot force them to heal, to bond, or to trust. What we can do is limit their opportunities to sabotage, halt, delay, or prolong their healing. 

And that is what we will do until it's no longer necessary. 

I wish we had a time frame. I wish we could say that after X Y Z or steps 1, 2, 3 it would all be over, but it doesn't work that way. We thought by now they would be in at least Sunday School or Awana. 

We made plans to start at the first of the year because we thought they were ready. Then in December, God exposed 2 major incidents with such a sophisticated level of plotting, deception, manipulation, and triangulation it would make a secret agent's head spin. 

We make plans, and then we realize they're not ready, and so we regroup. 

We watch, we wait, we hope, and we pray. Every day. Multiple times a day.

So until they are ready, we will keep hanging out in our little pool with our way cool, RAD kids waiting for the day we can introduce them to our ocean of family, friends, church, and community. 

Can't wait to see you there! Cowabunga, dude!


  1. Oh wow! Praying for all of you!

    1. Thanks, Erika! Praying for you guys, too!

  2. All I can say is " Wow"... I never realized....but it makes prayers are with you all, that one day we can have a " pool party" and we all can swim with you guys..Connie

    1. Thanks so much Connie! We are so ready for a pool party! Love you guys & appreciate your prayers & encouragement.

  3. Totally get it! And was perfectly described!!! Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks for reading & commenting! And I KNOW you get it! Girl, you guys are my hero! So impressed what God is doing through your family & ministry!

  4. I am so very grateful our God put these four in your home. Praying for healing and rest for them and you.

    1. We are blessed beyond measure. Thank you for the prayers! Please keep them coming!

  5. Thank God you "are in the pool with" your four Littles!! God knew just who to throw in the pool with those sweet children. So glad you obeyed. And thanks for sharing your story Deborah!

    1. Carla, its all God! The obedience, the survival, the education - it's all Him! Means a lot that one of my heroes stopped by AND commented! Thanks.

  6. Amazing article, and so very well written!! Love the insight & how you are dealing with it. May I please share this??
    We are fostering two precious boys that are suspected RAD. Any ideas for how we can help them, even though we are only fostering?

    1. Absolutely! Share away! Check out Dr. Karyn Purvis of Empowered to Connect & Nancy Thomas at They have lots of great resources. If you'd like, email or fb me with any specific questions and I'll do what I can to help.

  7. I had not heard of RAD before, but am sure familiar with this to some degree. Our son had just turned 4 when he came to pre-adoptive foster placement with us April 2011, with adoption to follow in Oct 2011. Can't wait to check out your suggested resources above and thanks to Joanna for bringing me to your post via Facebook share. Very well written and appreciated. Amy Snow

    1. Thanks so much for your kind words. Our kids have been home since March & finalized in November. Nancy Thomas' book has been a lifesaver for us!

  8. Wow. Thanks for writing this. It's the first time I've heard of RAD. Thanks for sharing your life through this blog. It's great to connect. I love you deeply. Your work in your family is so important. Love and blessings, and oodles of kudos to you, Deborah!

    1. Thank you sweet friend! Love you, miss you, and pray for you to move south!

  9. The water analogy is so helpful in understanding RAD.

    Sounds like your Littles could not be in better, more compassionate and understanding hands.

    (Here from the Linky Party.)

    1. Its all God and His grace. Thank you so much for visiting!

  10. Thanks so much for linking up this post at Death by Great Wall. Great analogy. Hoping for deep healing for your littles.

    1. Thanks for the opportunity to share and for stopping by!

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