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Attachment Issues in Adopted Children
Very early in my adoption research, information about attachment became a passion. I read everything I could about how children who have been adopted from foreign countries and foster care struggle with attachment issues. Though the reality of facing these issues did not really feel immanent, my quest to prepare myself drove me to be well versed in the subject of attachment issues.
Understanding attachment is very important
Attachment is defined as the emotional bond that typically forms between an infant and a caregiver.
What becomes an issue is when that bond is broken in one way or another. For children in orphanages this can happen as the children in the facility are left to themselves, often due to over-crowding and lack of sufficient workers.
In infants this bond is formed simply by meeting the child’s need for comfort and food. Comfort comes from being held closely, experiencing the one-on-one time with the caregiver while they are fed, and having adequate physical care. When these needs are met, the infant feels safe and connected.
When the baby becomes older, around 8-10 months, this attachment becomes associated with the caregiver(s). This is when you see children cry for a parent that leaves them. As before, the child feels connected and safe when their needs are met by their caregiver. An absent or disconnected caregiver can cause a child to have a gap in their attachment.
Educate yourself on Attachment Issues
There is a great deal more to attachment. If you feel you may have a child with attachment issues, I recommend reading “The Connected Child” by Wendy Lyons Sunshine. After reading this book, you will gain incredible knowledge on attachment issues.
Children with attachment issues need help as soon as you recognize the need. I am a staunch advocate of early intervention for all challenges in children, but I cannot express enough how important it is to seek help with attachment as early as possible. Look for these signs:
Signs of Reactive Attachment Disorder:
Attachment Disorder Symptoms According to Foster Cline MD.
Superficially engaging & charming
Lack of eye contact on parents’ terms
Indiscriminately affectionate with strangers
Not affectionate on parents’ terms (not ‘cuddly’)
Destructive to self, others and material things (‘accident prone’)
Cruelty to animals
Lying about the obvious (‘crazy’ lying)
No impulse controls (frequently acts hyperactive)
Lack of cause-and-effect thinking
Lack of conscience
Abnormal eating patterns
Poor peer relationships
Preoccupation with fire
Preoccupation with blood & gore
Persistent nonsense questions & chatter
Inappropriately demanding & clingy
Abnormal speech patterns
Triangulation of adults
False allegations of abuse
Presumptive entitlement issues
Parents appear hostile and angry
Foster Children are at great risk of attachment issues
Children in foster care are particularly susceptible to attachment issues. In my opinion, every foster parent should be well versed in and able to spot attachment concerns with children placed in their home.
It is important to understand that attachment issues can arise from any of the following conditions occurring to a child during the first 36 months of life:
Pre-birth exposure to trauma, drugs or alcohol
Abuse (physical, emotional, sexual)
Neglect (not answering the baby’s cries for help)
Separation from primary caregiver (i.e. illness or death of mother, or severe illness or hospitalization of the baby, or adoption)
On-going pain such as colic, hernia or many ear infections
Changing day cares or using providers who don’t do bonding
Moms with chronic depression
Several moves or placements (foster care, failed adoptions)
Caring for baby on a timed schedule or other self-centered parenting
Be your child’s advocate against attachment issues
A wealth of information and support can be found at https://www.attachment.org/reactive-attachment-disorder
If your foster child has suffered trauma and shows several of the above signs, make it your day job to seek an evaluation for them. There are many ways to provide help for RAD children and it is NOT about just loving them and being there for them. Treatments vary and are dependent on the child’s age and severity. Some centers will offer family therapies along with therapy for the child. Read and educate yourself on strategies you can implement. Depending on the age of your child, wearing them in a carrier may be on your list. Stick with your gut! If you feel there may be an issue, get help!