This is part to of my Adoption Attachment Resources series. Read Adoption Attachment Resources – Blogs here.
***So, I totally blew it and the “few days” I mentioned as a timeline for my next post, became 23 days. Mea culpa. I am a terribly inconsistent blogger. A situation I plan to remedy soon. I hope you will find this worth the wait.***
As I alluded to in When Love Is Not Enough, my late husband and I knew in the very early days of my youngest son’s joining our family, we were in over our heads. We began to look around for a practitioner who understood attachment disorder. So three months after returning from Ch*na, we found ourselves sitting in the office of a psychologist who had some experience in attachment disorder. It was by no means his area of expertise, he didn’t claim it, but he was the father of two boys adopted domestically. He spent a few sessions observing our son’s interactions with us, and proclaimed, “I don’t think you have anything to worry about. He seems to be attaching to you well.” I don’t really blame him for thinking this way. My son absolutely manipulated the whole situation. My son, who never once came within two feet of me willingly, spent one entire session leaning on my lap. He gave total eye contact to the therapist. At home he would barely deign to answer our questions, yet with the therapist, he chatted with openly, freely giving answers to questions. False answers, but answers. We couldn’t refute the behavior because our son had the therapist completely bamboozled and we knew it. We left our third session frustrated and dejected. We had not found the right professional. And thus began a three-year journey to try to find the right help.
We struggled along for the eighteen months he was with us before Paul died. Paul had a way with him, he was learning to connect with Paul, though we always had to be on our guard at home that he (my youngest son) not be left too long alone playing with the other children. Someone always ended up in tears or hurt, and it was not him. After Paul’s death my son just spiraled downward. I didn’t see it immediately, but Paul’s death seemed to be the last straw for him. He didn’t want to be adopted and leave Ch*na (though he would not articulate this for several years), he didn’t want a mother, he started to think Paul was OK, maybe even began to trust him, and then Paul was gone. Forever. learn more about TBRI, and to see some teaching videos from Dr. Purvis, you can go to the Empowered to Connect website. If you do nothing else on this website, please listen to Dr. Purvis’ audio talk “Precious In His Sight.” It is worth the 20 minutes of your time, and if you are like me and have a child with RAD, you will go back to it again, to remind yourself that this child, too, is precious in His sight. As I mentioned above, the reason it worked (and continues to work) for three of my four, is they are wired to connect pretty quickly. It is very intensive, you will need to have a source of respite to get re-charged periodically, but it really works if you give it a chance. In addition, Dr. Purvis and her colleague, Dr. David Cross head the Texas Christian University Institute of Child Development. I had the privilege of being able to watch several DVDs regarding TBRI (Trust-based Relational Intervention), attachment focused parenting, and playful interaction with children. These videos were provided to me by one of our attachment therapists but they are available for anyone to purchase from their store under the “healing families” category. Finally, it was through their TBRI Practitioner directory that I found our wonderful attachment therapists in our town. The listing is ordered by state and then city. All practitioners are TBRI certified, meaning they have gone through the professional development offered by TCU Institute of Child Development. This website is a gold mine of information and resources.
Nancy Thomas’ Families by Design website was the website I first went to when looking for a local attachment therapist. There was only one listing for Oklahoma and she was not accepting new clients at the time. However, depending on the state you live in, you may find a good therapist on her website. She also has parenting camps, webinars, and other online resources. Nancy Thomas’ approach has some similarities to Dr. Purvis and her colleague, Dr. David Cross. She understands brain development and how not meeting a child’s needs in infancy leads to attachment disorder. She, like Drs. Purvis and Cross, she promotes the need to “regress” a child in their development to retrain their brains and create new, healthy neuropathways, which includes keeping the child close, constantly meeting needs, and limiting choices. In fact, the way her program was described to me last year, by someone who has attended her camp and utilized her methods with an adoptive child, I would need to take all choices and options away from my son. He would make no decisions. I would tell him what to eat, what to wear, what to do… basically give him no options until he was to a point where he was sufficiently attached to be trusted to start making his own choices. We would limit our outside activities, he would be with me 24/7 (within 3 feet at all times) except to attend school if homeschooling wasn’t an option, and my other children would have to forgo their own activities. No TV, no electronics, no going to the movies, etc. I flat-out told the guy that I could not commit to that at all. I was already dealing with kids who resented their brother for the way he “ruined” their lives, I was not going to further alienate him by saying “by the way, we can’t do Boy Scouts, basketball, track, playdates or any of they many outside activities they are a part of outside of school. Never mind the fact I had no respite caregiver to give me breaks when I needed them. However, I acknowledge that many adoptive parents have had a lot of success with her program.
Attach.org is the website for the Association for Training on Trauma & Attachment in Children. This website has a tremendous amount of information for parents and clinicians on attachment. There is a clinician directory (scroll down a couple of pages and you will see a state-by-state listing), parenting dvd training, links to conference notes from their annual conference, and much more. Looking through the 2016 conference sponsors, you will see links to several residential treatment programs.
Deborah D. Gray, author of Attaching in Adoption, has a website as well. I read her book, though I admit I haven’t used her website for very much. However, it is worth noting here she has an excellent article called “Ten Tips for the First Year of Placement.” I wish I had seen this article when we were at the beginning of our adoption process because I would have done things a lot differently from the beginning. Please understand what I am about to say, I love each of my children dearly, but I think the fact that we adopted so many children so closely together, really hindered our attachment process. We were barely through the beginning stages of attaching to one child when we began paperwork for the next. Looking back, I think we could have done things differently and better. Then again, I might not be mother to the four children I am “Mom” to now.
This is by no means an exhaustive list but it is a list of websites I found particularly helpful or think would be helpful to foster and adoptive parents who are struggling with a child who has not properly attached to them. Although there is no website with a comprehensive listing of residential treatment programs, I found a number by typing “Reactive Attachment Disorder Residential Treatment” into my search engine. In addition, I contact our DHS Post-adoption Services department. Although we did not adopt through our state and were therefore not eligible for any services through DHS, the case worker was very forthcoming in providing a comprehensive list of treatment and residential programs in my state. Do not be shy about reaching out to this department for assistance. Your state may have different policies and you may be entitled to more services through the state.
I hope you have found this post helpful. Please comment below if you have questions or would like to further dialog on the topic of adoption or attachment disorder.