Couple say adopted son beyond their help

December 6, 2009

The scrapbook pages show a smiling 8-year-old boy on his first day of school, opening Christmas gifts and hanging around with new friends.

Melissa Westcott's hand-written messages next to the photos shower affection on her "little man" and "baby."

The pages don't show the turmoil that started brewing months after the adoption of the child from the custody of the state Department of Human Services.

The Tulsa resident and her husband, Tony, love the son they adopted two years ago, but now say he is too much for them to handle.

After the adoption, the boy became violent toward other children and nonresponsive to adults, hurt and killed animals and ran away regularly, requiring law enforcement help, they say.

Within a year, he received diagnoses including reactive detachment disorder, disruptive behavior disorder, major depressive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and fetal alcohol syndrome. He has frequented in-patient therapeutic facilities.

"We were told he was a normal boy who would have the normal adjustment issues any child in foster care would have," said Melissa Wescott. "We have been his biggest advocates and strongest fighters. But we are scared of him, and that hurts us."

The Wescotts are among a group seeking changes in law to allow adoptive parents to return custody of foster children to the state in specific circumstances.

A legislative Adoption Review Task Force is evaluating issues involving adoptions of children in state custody.

DHS takes the position that adoptive parents are the legal guardians and should be treated as any parent with a biological child.

Some say it is unfair for adoptive parents to be legally punished for not being able to care for a child if severe disabilities not known or disclosed are discovered.

"Do you know how many times we grieved for him? Grieved the loss of him?" said Wescott. "We want the best for him, and that is not in this home."

'Out of options'

The couple understand abused and neglected children will have some emotional issues but requested a child not experiencing severe trauma, said Melissa Wescott.

"We knew what we could handle and what we couldn't," she said. "We had to say no to children who were violent or acting out sexually. We have had experience with children facing physical disabilities and that didn't scare us. But severe mental health, emotional or behavior problems are more crippling for us."

In 2007, the couple found an 8-year-old boy who had been taken from his parents, who had chronic substance abuse problems. By then, he had spent about three years in DHS custody. The World is not disclosing his name to protect his privacy.

DHS disclosure documents call the child "well-behaved" and "polite and well mannered." He is described as "respectful toward authority" and "makes friends easily."

"He has no difficulty with attachments and he knows right from wrong, " the documents state. "He does not demonstrate any significant behavioral problems which would be considered abnormal for a child his age.

"(The child) has not received counseling services and these services have not been indicated as a need for him at this time. (The child) is developmentally appropriate."

While challenges arose the first few months, the couple considered it typical. But problems intensified after signing the DHS disclosure agreement, which states the agency gave all information available to the couple, and final adoption.

It became a daily battle as the child isolated himself and started a pattern of lying, Wescott said.

Several knives and fire-making materials were found under his mattress, and a trash can in his room had been set on fire. He soon was caught killing frogs by throwing them against a barn, and he hurt the family's pet dogs. He attacked a neighbor child with a board, and running away became common, she said.

"No discipline seemed to work," Wescott said. "It's like he had no sympathy or empathy for anything. We tried everything to bond with him, and it's like he's not capable. He has so much rage, anger and hurt."

The foster mother claims she informed DHS of the child's violent behavior, Wescott said. No DHS records reflect any claims made.

DHS officials do not comment on specific cases.

After he ran away in freezing temperatures and three law enforcement agencies were called to search, officers suggested several therapeutic facilities.

"They knew we couldn't do this anymore," she said. "We were out of options. I was scared to death for him and for us."

The Wescotts fear their son's release from in-patient care in mid-January, saying he has made little progress. They would prefer DHS regain custody and place him in a group setting.

The only options are to sue DHS, which they say is too expensive, or risk a felony abandonment charge.

"I believe every child should have a home," Wescott said. "But not every child does well in a mommy-daddy type home. It hurts us to see him like this, but he doesn't want to be with us. We didn't do this to him. This happened before us. We just want him to get the help he needs."


Underground disruption adoption network-alive and well in the US

Underground network moves children from home to home
By Wendy Koch, USA TODAY
TRENTON, Tenn. — At the end of a long tree-lined driveway, amid 18 acres that include a greenhouse and gazebo, sits a historic plantation home where, a state indictment says, children were beaten and forced to sleep in a totally enclosed baby crib.

Tom and Debra Schmitz, with 16 of their 18 kids, face trial Jan. 30. They deny the child-trafficking charges.
2002 file photo by The Jackson (Tenn.) Sun

Tennessee is charging the owners, Debra and Tom Schmitz, with abusing some of their 18 children, most of them disabled. The state says Debra Schmitz threw a knife at one child, held two children underwater for punishment and forced five to dig holes in the ground that would be their graves.

The couple, whose trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 30, are also charged with child trafficking for moving a girl to Arizona without permission from state child-welfare officials.

The Schmitzes strongly deny the charges, which stemmed from complaints by the children and nurses who worked in their house. "The children were our entire life. They were our everything," Debra Schmitz says.

What they don't deny, and what the trial may help spotlight, is their role in a largely unknown aspect of the nation's beleaguered child-welfare system: an underground network of families that takes in children others do not want. Some families do so legally, and eventually adopt the children, but others may violate child-welfare laws by failing to notify authorities, according to interviews by USA TODAY with families, officials and child-welfare experts. (Related story: No state fully compliant with welfare)

"There are homes all across the United States that transfer kids from one place to another. No one's keeping tabs on this. ... These kids just come and go," says Sheriff Joe Shepard of Gibson County in rural northwest Tennessee, where the Schmitzes live.

"Dump and run — it happens all the time," says Ronald Federici, a neuropsychologist in Alexandria, Va., and author of Help for the Hopeless Children who has adopted seven children. He says one adoptive family abandoned a child in his office. He says there are hundreds of e-mail chat rooms in which people who adopted children are trying to find new homes for them outside the public system.

"They don't want to sell the kids. They just want to get rid of them," he says, explaining the children may have health problems the adoptive parents never expected. "It's not the merchandise they bought." He says many of these parents are looking for the cheapest and fastest placement.

Yet, many couples who take in large numbers of children "are incredibly well-motivated," says Kent Markus, director of the National Center for Adoption Law & Policy. He says many view caring for special-needs kids as a "calling."

Some of these families know each other because they practice so-called attachment therapy (AT), a controversial regimen of discipline. Adherents such as the Schmitzes say attachment therapy helps kids develop bonds with their new parents, but one critic describes the techniques as "fairly brutal." If one family has trouble with a child, it sends him to another home practicing this therapy.

Debra Schmitz says 80% to 90% of her Internet network revolved around attachment therapy. Other self-described practitioners include Michael and Sharen Gravelle, an Ohio couple who, a judge ruled in a custody hearing last month, had abused their 11 adoptive kids by making some of them sleep in cagelike bunk beds.

The Gravelles face a hearing today that could determine custody of the kids, now in foster care. (Related story: Enclosed beds cause controversy)

"A lot of people do it (take in children) for the money," says Federici, referring to government subsidies that can exceed $1,100 monthly for a child with disabilities. "Others collect kids."

Yet many of the families in this private network say they don't do it for the money but to save the children, especially those with special needs, from bouncing around the public system. "These kids will rot in the foster-care system," says Charlene Stockton, a Tennessee adoptive mom of 17 children, several of whom have Down syndrome, congestive heart failure and dementia. She adopted a girl from Vietnam via "someone who knew someone who knew someone."

The Schmitz network

State officials say the Schmitzes lacked legal custody of at least seven of the 18 kids in their care, who ranged in age from 1 to 17, says Didi Christie, an attorney with the Tennessee Department of Children Services. "They were operating under the radar. No one would know what was happening" to these kids, says Christie, adding that some of them were home-schooled. A Tennessee law requires all parents or guardians to notify authorities if they place children with a non-relative for more than 30 days.

A biological daughter, Melanie Schmitz, recalls the family piling into a motor home to pick up a child at a truck stop in Illinois about five years ago, one year before they moved from Wisconsin to Tennessee. "It was kind of a secretive thing," Melanie, now 21, told The Jackson (Tenn.) Sun, a Gannett paper that has tracked the case.

Debra Schmitz denies she picked up a child at a truck stop. She says Melanie, from whom she's estranged, was an "angry teenager" who wanted to run away from home. Her attorney, Barney Witherington, says the Schmitzes notified state authorities when they took each child and retained an attorney to adopt each one.

The children, removed from the Schmitzes' home in June 2004, are now in foster care. District Attorney Garry Brown says some may testify against the Schmitzes, who were accused of child abuse in 2000 when they lived in Wisconsin. An extensive investigation followed, but no charges were filed then.

Also testifying will be Brenda Filkel and Sherry Dvorak, licensed practical nurses who worked at the Schmitz home, Dvorak says. In an affidavit attached to a search warrant, they say Debra Schmitz was often drunk "by suppertime." They also say they saw six children — ranging in age from 8 to 14 — being thrown into "the cage" by older kids at the Schmitzes' instructions and that, as punishment, kids were deprived of leg braces, eyeglasses and a walker.

Filkel says she saw "records of swapped, traded and interchanged children" in the Schmitz home and that Debra Schmitz told her she could get a child through a website within three weeks without having to go through the Department of Children Services. Filkel and Dvorak took in some of the children after they were removed from the Schmitzes' home.

Children may testify

Five of the children will be subpoenaed to testify for the defense, says Tom Schmitz's attorney, Frank Deslauriers. He says he'll also seek testimony from the two nurses and neuropsychologist Federici, who says he was initially hired by the prosecution to examine the kids.

Federici says seven kids say nothing bad happened at the Schmitzes' and they want to return. He says the others talked about being spanked and about Debra Schmitz's drinking.

Federici, who has reviewed the Schmitzes' financial records, says the couple eventually received subsidies for each child, taking in $8,000 to $9,000 monthly. The monthly subsidies ranged from $364 to $817 for nine of the children, Christie says. She says one adoptive family helped pay for an addition to the Schmitzes' home after they took in a child and another paid child support.

Karen Sue Tolin, an adoptive mom in Michigan, says she didn't pay the Schmitzes for taking her daughter Erin but only provided supplies for incontinence as well as other materials. "This is not a money thing," Tolin says. "They had resources we didn't," she says, including mental health care that Erin, who has fetal alcohol syndrome, needed.

Debra Schmitz, a stay-at-home mom, says she didn't receive a penny for the last seven kids she took and spent everything on the children. "I wore rags, but my kids always looked wonderful," she says. Tom Schmitz works for a firm that rents and sells portable bathrooms.

No data exist on how many children are moved from family to family outside the public child-welfare system. Yet the Schmitzes, who took in children from at least seven states, are not the only people in this private network:

• In 2000, Denise Thomas of Littleton, Colo., was put on probation for a year after attempting to sell her daughter, adopted from Russia, on the Internet. She has said she was simply trying to recoup some of her adoption costs.

• In February 2004, Diana Groves of Bloomington, Ind., a single woman who had taken in 13 children, was charged with child abuse, in part for duct-taping some of the kids to a wall and hitting them with a tennis racket. Brad Swain, a detective in the Monroe County Sheriff's department, says Groves acquired the kids by "loose word-of-mouth" and received financial support from private individuals. Groves, who has three separate, unrelated felony convictions, has pleaded innocent and is free on bond while awaiting trial.

• In December 2004, Frances Ellen Matthews of Kenton, Tenn., was found guilty of a child-abuse charge. She says she took in children through private arrangements. She was caring for 16 children, many with severe disabilities, at the time of her arrest. Ten have been returned to her home.

Disrupted adoptions

Like many large adoptive families, the Schmitzes took in children adopted abroad by other people. Parents who no longer want an adopted child may seek a word-of-mouth placement because they may not get placement help from adoption agencies or they may want to avoid paying child support, which may be necessary if a child enters the foster-care system.

"Most agencies in the U.S. won't take a child from overseas, so families are stuck on their own," says Susan Meyer, a Florida adoptive mom of 28 children and founder of the Foundation for Large Families. She says states, burdened with U.S.-born children, also don't want to take these children into the public foster-care system.

Meyer adopted an autistic girl from the Ukraine, whom she found "through friends" after the child had moved from family to family following a disrupted adoption.

Similarly, Madeline Lynch, an adoptive mother in Auburn, Mich., has taken in four girls from Russia, the fourth of whom she heard about "through a friend of a friend." She took the girl more than a year ago and plans to adopt her.

Deslauriers, Tom Schmitz's attorney, says his client took in two Chinese children unwanted by the adoptive father — an attorney — who said they were not smart enough. The Schmitzes had four other foreign-born children — two from Russia, one from Vietnam and one from Mexico, state officials say.

Therapy is debated

The Schmitzes also took in kids from families sharing their interest in attachment therapy, which may include extensive chores, strict discipline and holding kids while looking into their eyes and feeding them chocolate and other treats.

The Schmitzes advertised themselves online as AT experts, says Christie, a state attorney.

"There was a support group," Debra Schmitz says. "It was not anything untoward or illegal. We just all talked." She says parents asked: "Can you take my child for a week? Pretty soon, they can't handle them at all, and the kids stay."

Many of the websites she used disappeared after her arrest in June 2004, says Shepard, the sheriff.

Debra Schmitz says many of her kids had reactive attachment disorder, an inability to trust, empathize or bond. Federici says only two or three do. He says most suffer from severe brain damage or psychiatric disorders that make them inappropriate court witnesses.

Federici says Schmitz's "overzealous discipline" was not formal AT, but he argues most of the criminal charges against the couple are false. "It was a zoo there, but the state of Tennessee allowed it," says Federici, citing the numerous home studies state officials had done.

Twice, for short periods, the Schmitzes took in Marianna, an adopted girl from Matthews, who also espoused AT. Matthews also took care of at least one Schmitz child. "We help each other out," Matthews says. "I've had quite a few people say: 'If you don't take this child, I'm going to kill her. You're my last resort.' "

Theresa Showell of Phoenix, who's studying to become an attachment therapist, took in a girl, Bethany, from the Schmitzes because they had trouble dealing with her. She plans to adopt Bethany. She's also taken in four children from Russia and a fifth child who initially came for a two-week stay. She believes AT's cuddling and intensive structure help her children.

Critics say some AT techniques amount to child abuse. "It's fairly brutal. It's like turning a home into a boot camp," says Larry Sarner, legislative director of the non-profit Advocates for Children in Therapy. His group says some families "swap" children in part to keep them "off-balance."

"Attachment therapy is a young and diverse field," says a new report by a task force of the American Professional Society on the Abuse of Children, a non-profit group based in Charleston, S.C. "The benefits and risks of many treatments remain scientifically undetermined."

Markus says children with severe behavior problems may cause some families to cross the line of acceptable parenting. "I've heard lots and lots of cases where parents have to take extraordinary steps just to (physically) protect them selves," Markus says.

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Anyone know Todd Kolarik, atty who works in disrupted adoptions?

I have some friends who have considered disruption after many years of therapy, consults and respite. The issues will be long term the children have and the couple is beginning to believe that their home situation is not the best for these bio brother and sister. This attorney deals in domestic and international disruption adoptions. Anyone know what the results have been?

A Child's Waiting

Todd Kolarik's law firm is essentially the continuation of the notorious adoption agency A Child's Waiting, which closed last year after repeated and numerous violations, such as placing a child in an uncertified foster home and not documenting background checks.

Crissy Bessemer-Kolarik one of the founders of A Child's Waiting is married to Todd Kolarik. Her sister is Jennifer Bessemer-Marando, who was also a founder of A Child's Waiting. Jennifer Bessemer's home address is listed as a branch office of Todd Kolarik's law firm.

A Child's Waiting apparently is no more, so instead of a licenced pseudo-non-profit, the business now runs through a for-profit law firm, which doesn't have to abide by all those pesky ethical requirements.

the problem with these stories and real life

one can sign the child over to social services; in fact any person can sign their child biological over to social services in an entrustment agreement; in some areas of the USA a fair amount of children come into foster care this way

problem is they in many areas treat adoptive parents more harshly than biological parents over these issues of mental health, etc....

the other route parents have for older children ages 8 -12 and up depending on the area the juvie criminal system is supposed to help in these situations

also in the USA there are due to federal programs in every area community services boards for mental health services with many different names throughout the country... and between that and asking the courts for CHINS hearing (child in need of services) any parent with a child with significant mental health needs is supposed to have access to help

odds are one of those programs or adoption sub has paid the treatment this child has had the past few years...

and actually in the USA even the public school system under special education or 504 plans should and do in many areas help children get services

it is also legal to place your child with any one person for care as long as that person comes to your state; picks up the child; and you say that person can care for the child.... but when they re-home the child to another state or more money than care for that child is exchanged... well then they break the law

you can read back through past blogs on for more info on the mess with the system

the problem comes when social workers are ass holes, refuse to fund things; require children get higher level of services and refuse to address more pressing needs or the real problem... (like in my son's case the problem was he was treated like shit at school... instead of having the school provide safe school day other things happened...)

I hate how attachment disorder is listed as the problem with these kids (not the drugs they were exposed to or currently being made to take; not the abuse in birth home; not the abuse by the foster care system; not the shitty system....)

all that being said... the best thing for the people to do is either contact; call up the agency the child was placed through if it was public foster care; or call up local social services and beg for help.... or call the police every time the child breaks the law....

but it is very true that the system often lets birth parents of mentally ill children sign them over.... in some areas they are very much harder on adoptive parents... in some places; like here we had United Methodist running a state funded program called adoption preservation services and everyone that went to them for help had their child taken away; United Methodist made a great deal of money this way :(

seems like everyone is out to hurt children and screw money out of the government....

A Child is Waiting

took great advantage of people trying to re-home their child and people trying to adopt from them

they charged a lot of money to both

they didn't place many kids that way either from many reports; for example at least 2 of the kids on their old list ended up with the mega family in California with the lady who adopted now 50 boys...  after their adoptive parents paid a bunch of money to re-home them through that agency they were then placed by the parents with that lady

they also managed to piss off the state of Ohio which must be hard to do as it is one of the mecas for attachment therapy


"A Child Is Waiting" :headdesk:

After the adoption, the boy became violent toward other children and nonresponsive to adults, hurt and killed animals and ran away regularly, requiring law enforcement help, they say.

Within a year, he received diagnoses including reactive detachment disorder, disruptive behavior disorder, major depressive disorder, post traumatic stress disorder and fetal alcohol syndrome. He has frequented in-patient therapeutic facilities.

Did the people who gave ACIW its name never see that movie?

Psychologist Dr. Matthew Clark is the head of the Crawthorne State Training Institute, one of the first boarding schools for developmentally challenged children. Dr. Clark is sympathetic but demanding of his teachers and students. His approach of tough love is controversial. He takes a chance at hiring former aspiring concert pianist Jean Hansen as the school's music teacher, Miss Hansen who has no background in nursing, teaching or dealing with the developmentally challenged. She herself is trying to find her own place in life. She immediately bonds with autistic student Reuben Widdicombe, who she sees as needing special attention in light of his parents having not visited him since they enrolled him in the school two years earlier.

The Widdicombes divorced shortly thereafter because of the pressures their relationship faced in dealing with Reuben. Dr. Clark sees Reuben as the type of child the most difficult with which to deal: Reuben understands just enough to realize that he is different and is often being rejected. Miss Hansen and Dr. Clark disagree on how best to get through to Reuben. Although Dr. Clark admits that his methods have not worked with Reuben, he also does not believe that Miss Hansen's approach of undivided attention is the answer. Through getting to know the Widdicombe's reasons for not visiting and she herself seeing the life of the adult disabled, Miss Hansen comes to an understanding of how she feels she can best help her students, Reuben included.


places around here they could go to give away a child


sure sounds helpful right?  they promote attachment therapy and you can visit to see how wonderful that is




Not that easy to give up child(ren)

This woman is having issues with 2 children that are biological siblings. It is to the point where multiple therapy per week isn't working, they cannot let the kids out of their sight for 2 minutes. There have been issues of chronic lying, fear for their lives and their animals, etc., etc., it is not an easy situation. We are talking about APs that are well-educated and have tried, and tried -reaching out everywhere they can.
The state they live in will not allow a relinquishment unless they pay $5,000.00 per month and living in a home based therapy is about $120,000 per year.
Many people don't have much options left and that is why they go to these underground disruptions or respites.
This attorney might be fulfilling a need that so many APs need, I haven't walked in their shoes, but I understand to live in fear of a child that you cannot bond with or feel much love toward has got to be hard. This wasn't decided overnight, has been going on for almost 3 years.
Whatever marriage a person has is being destroyed.

if in the USA they are being lied to

and some dumb ass social worker is jerking them around

do the kids get special education services at school?  if not why not? if they are that bad off.....  first place to stop is there

second if the children are over age 7 she can call the police everytime they do any little thing considered a crime.... start making police reports

is she wealthy?  apparently so because of the high child support charge you are quoting; they can only make you pay 45% of your income

she can also have a relative get custody of them for access to services

she can always play the show up at DSS crying saying she can't deal with her kids and beg for help card...

is there a family history of this?  she can play that card as well

and who am I to speak...  because I have not had any such luck getting services either....  because of what I do for a living any charge of child neglect for abandonment would have ment loosing my job ....

in home services usually cost less that residential though, but sadly they usually send out someone without any qualifications who just makes things worse (children in my home have had required inhome 3 different times.... )  it always sucked

biological parents not getting any type of state or federal money can re-home their children

you can go to any local family lawyer and ask for suggestions on how to get help; but remember just cause someone is a lawyer does not mean they can help (many just want money)

what we are trying to say is that particular lawyer has worked with an agency that has been shut down by the state of Ohio...  things have to get pretty bad for a state to do that... probably not your best pick

there are programs in place already with federal government money for families in need of services; but like you even said good luck getting them the system is screwed

I will say though when I was a foster parent the only children in my care who had a mom charged child support was someone working at a local Christian college; they really had it out for those people...  they didn't make the Navy guy 3 kids, or the drug addict with 14 kids, or the dental hygenist with 2 kids, not the parents working at Wal-Mart with 4 kids, nor the teen mom, nor the homeless people pay one bit of support while their kids were in care....

the system picks and chooses what it wants to do

are two links

both go to UMFS... I live in Va Beach; I have know 3 families to go to them; one was very happy to get rid of the child; the others were very sad that their child was taken from them

sadly I thought this program had shut down but it has not

both FACES and UMFS both are big advocates for Attachment therapy; and where your tax payers money goes folks... :(


I think it is worth noting what Rinda is saying about kids being overdiagnosed with RAD. So many kids coming from the foster care system and overseas orphanages have had prenatal exposure to alcohol and other substances and this of course impacts behavior and ability to function. Not to mention the completely pathological environment found particularly in EE orphanages which is more reason to improve and increase opportunities for children to remain with their families from birth.

We have a child who is emotionally disturbed adopted from EE. I can't tell you how many counselors we went to who told us it was RAD--a diagnosis I disagree with given his obvious attachment to us. But still we were told if we didn't do x, y and z therapies that he was doomed to become a sociopath and never bond with anyone. We were told we were not acting in his best interest by not doing attachment therapy 24/7. If you have a child with such problems you will find little help out there I am afraid to say, even though these kids need more care and help than the average child.

RADical thinking

We have a child who is emotionally disturbed adopted from EE. I can't tell you how many counselors we went to who told us it was RAD--a diagnosis I disagree with given his obvious attachment to us. But still we were told if we didn't do x, y and z therapies that he was doomed to become a sociopath and never bond with anyone. We were told we were not acting in his best interest by not doing attachment therapy 24/7.

In an older piece, I asked the question, "Do you embrace or reject RAD as a formal diagnosis?"  I asked this question because there was a time in my life I strongly believed I had RAD... almost each and every symptom listed, I had.

By the time I was in my mid-thirties, I had been through 5 therapists and prescribed an entire alphabet list of drugs.... drugs that in theory, would help me with my nightmares, my anxiety, my addictions and my irrational fears.

After a couple of years of being heavily medicated, I gave myself a severe head injury, hoping that would put an end to the problem I called Life.

During that recovery period, I learned a significant life-lesson no therapist was ever able to teach me.

What was lacking in my life was not drugs <laugh> or types of long-term therapy. 

What was lacking in my life was something so core, so basic, it's actually painfully embarrassing to admit.

I was lacking unconditional love from a person who could accept all the really messed-up, angry and really confused parts of me.  All my life, I was missing someone else's selfless love and protection.  All my life, I was missing good consistent care that did not require money, sex or a painful sacrifice that took away from me.

Once I realized what it was I was missing, (goodness, kindness, acceptance, and patience), I was better able to see what I needed from other people.  [An odd thing to discover, considering every adult relationship in my life was as dysfunctionally toxic as dysfunctionally toxic could be.] 

Thing is, knowing all of this wasn't enough. In order to get what I was missing, I had to tell people what it was I needed.... not easy to do with a head injury that affected my speech!   In many ways, I had to re-learn how to communicate, and hope this time around, those surrounding me wanted me to be given a second chance.  I was lucky.  Ever since key people in my life were able to prove to me they would not hurt me when I was down... ever since key people in my life were able to show me they would not leave me when I needed a hand... ever since I allowed myself to believe true sweet goodness CAN exist in another human being... ever since I learned I did not have to pay someone to care about me, I have been growing and changing dramatically. 

I know there are some adopted children who exhibit really scary and alarming behaviors.... but let's consider why an adopted child might act and react in certain ways.  Some of us adoptees were born into really horrible families, and endured really horrific things before we were removed and given a second-chance. [Trauma.] Some of us adoptees were taken away from decent places with decent people and put in terrible, dangerous, scary living conditions. [Trauma.] Some of us adoptees have seen, smelled, tasted, and felt things no human in their right might would ever want to think about, let alone endure.  [Trauma.] And yes, some of us adoptees were born with brain damage caused by maternal alcohol/drug use. [Trauma, of another kind.] It really bothers me therapists are telling scared and concerned AP's their adopted child has RAD, and the only way to manage the symptoms is if the child is put through attachment treatment/therapy for X amount of time.  This one-size-fits-all-traumas-approach bugs me.  The mis-trusting suspicious kid in me thinks it's a load of crap being sold because the world is filled with all sorts of scammers looking to cash-in on another person's fear, desperation, and misery.... a very popular theme in Adoptionland.

A question to AP's told their adopted child has RAD -- what sort of neurological testing was done to help confirm the diagnosis is in fact RAD, and not something else?

Subjective testing

My word, you've hit the nail on the head--unconditional love and acceptance. It is wonderful that you came to that epiphany as so many people don't.

To answer your question, there are no neurological tests for RAD. Although some claim areas of a PET or SPECT scan show areas of the brain affected that cause inability to attach. We had these scans done which did show brain damage, but not anything that could definitively determine RAD.

I wholeheartedly agree with children having problems trusting or attaching, but this RAD label is so liberally applied to children with emotional challenges I think it is dangerous.


It's always seemed to me that kids with "attachment problems" are behaving NORMAL for their situation. Attachment problems in adptive parents also occur but are rarely discussed. I wonder how many of those parents cause or exacerbate the child's issues.

Problems coming from the AP

WOO-HOO!  Someone actually braved the subject that problems with bonding can actually be caused by an AP, not the adoptee!

Is this not openly discussed because we are all supposed to believe all AP's are without any pathological personality problems?

I grew-up in an adoptive home where my bed-ridden anti-social Amother had to be seen in public as being better than sliced bread.  [It was our job to make sure her reputation was always protected.]  In public, she was seen as some sort of savior... at home, she was little more than a chronic trouble-maker.... but these complaints were never to be known.

Because I did not see my Amother the way neighbors and superficial friends saw and "understood" her, I was seen as the one with a problem.  I was adopted, with all sort of mother-issues, so it made perfect sense I would grow to resent her, my oh-so-perfect A.mother.

One of the reasons I grew to loathe my Amother was simple... I saw her as an enormous fake and fraud.  Her inability to rise and protect her chosen adopted child cost me, enormously.

Had any so-called close friends of my parents lived my life behind closed doors, and knew first-hand the sort of demanding wounded woman my carefully pre-screened, "chosen" Amother was at home... without her applauding audience...would many really have been seen me as being the ungrateful and difficult one to please?  Would not bonding with a chronically complaining, dis-satisfied, miserable person really have been all my own (adopted-self) fault?

My unwillingness to trust (and love) others was not a natural way to be.... it was learned, thanks to really horrible traumatic [preventable] experiences.


So true, there are sadly a lot of nuts who are allowed to adopt children....this needs to change, fast!

problems coming from AP

"Is this not openly discussed because we are all supposed to believe all AP's are without any pathological personality problems?"

A few things come to mind in the mythology of adoption:

1. AP's have been vetted so we're supposed to be better than average.

2. AP's are doing something extra-ordinary in taking in "an orphan" (hate when that word is used for emotional effect). This makes us "good."

3. Even an average->bad situation is better than where the child came from - this is a huge problem in thinking of some people adopting.

4. Of course it's the child's fault because the child came from less than optimum circumstances.

Preventable trauma

WOO-HOO!  Someone actually braved the subject that problems with bonding can actually be caused by an AP, not the adoptee!

Hi Kerry - newbie poster here.

Is this a taboo topic here?

Taboo topics

Truthfully, I don't think there are any taboo topics.  (At least there shouldn't be.)

Sensitive subjects.... well, that's another story!


Though... IME, some subjects are often treated far more sensitively than others. :)

just a thought

Not discounting that some AD are troubled and have their own issues, still for the most part (unless there is abuse)...where would these oh so great and grateful adopted children be without them. Some biological parents are demanding and harsh on their biological children as well and most well adjusted adults are grateful for that imperfect, safe roof over their heads and 3 meals a day. Where is the judgement to the biological parents that put them in that situation in the first place. I guess they are ok, since they were never worried about appearance and clearly were never hypocrites. Sad.

IMO RAD is adoptoing adult created

the child does not fit into the families standard of expectation of what a child should be....  and they see all children in foster care or adoption situations as RAD now...  that is actually a big part of the problem....

when I was part of a RAD cult most of the kids there seemed just fine to me.... most went to regular school in regular classes....  if the kid has a real problem this just does not happen...

My son, who I don't think is RAD anymore since I left the RAD cult, never made it in any normal or special program not really.... he has been kicked out of everything from cub scouts, church, etc....  he has done well in a few small programs for kids ith special needs....

I often say he has locked in a room for 7 years and sent to a bad school system disorder .....  (that is his history folks, severe environmental deprevation and being in crappy school programs) 

sad thing is from has been reported the family would have been perfect for the child, only child in the home....  and they are only a phone call away from help; and they could get all lighters and knives out of their home, use plastic, etc... 

but yes, that is part of the bigger problem with RAD is that these people get together and feed off each other and complain to each other, and feel they are in a special club or in fact in many ways a cult

I was at my public library today and can happily report there were only 4 books there on RAD... 

but no "test" is given ...  some use that check list they make up like Dr. Art, some still use that RAD Q check list made up by a nurse who claimed to be an expert in treating RAD Liz Randolph I think her name was; but you know what there is not a clear "test": for any mental problem.... and most of the dx are from checklist or how the Dr. feels after seeing you and then they hand out pills....

my son has been dx so many different things it is not funny... and really sad because I know now none of them really know or care what they do... and we have had more of our share of dr. what ever they specialize in that is what every person seeing them gets dx just about anyway... 

Pound Pup Legacy