Tag Archives: child trauma

can a hurting child make choices? (adoption & foster care)

can a hurting child make choices
Decisions, decisions, decisions. When a child comes from a traumatic past, they consistently need decisions made for them. Even months and years after their adoption or placement in foster care, a hurting child will need others to help guide them more than a typical child would. But sometimes too much control is taken away from them, and they feel like they can’t make any decisions in their life.

The child who has attachment issues isn’t capable of making difficult choices, yet, they need to be given the chance to make choices occasionally so they don’t feel so out of control. Plus, when a child makes choices, they naturally learn about consequences, either positive or negative.

If you have a child who has recently joined your family, it’s good to give them choices in small increments, and as they do, you will be able to identify when they’re ready to have more responsibility.

I came across this great video on the Autism Site. Below, Rob from Autism Spectrum Therapies, talks about ways in which you can give a child more choices. The video is less than four minutes long, and gives some excellent tips on allowing your child to make decisions in their everyday life. Although Rob is talking about Autism, it relates just as much to your adopted or foster child.

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attachment in adoption & foster care: the first things we need to know

attachment in adoption- the first things we need to knowThis is a post I originally wrote in April 2013. Many of you are new here, so I thought I would bring back some of the basics in the following weeks. Hope you enjoy.


In Chris Cleave’s novel Little Bee, he writes Little Bee’s thoughts, “Take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means I survived.” This makes me think of our adopted children who struggle with attachment issues because they have scars. A scar also means they’ve been through a traumatic experience. Our child may not have wounds that mark their skin, but they have scars, usually many, that are revealed in various ways. One of the ways our children deal with their hurt, or scar, is by not attaching to us.


To help our children with attachment issues, we need to first understand the basics of what it is, and why our children are not forming a bond with us. The website childtrauma.org says, “The attachment bond has several key elements: 1) an attachment bond is an enduring emotional relationship with a specific person; 2) the relationship brings safety, comfort, soothing, and pleasure; 3) loss or threat of loss of the person evokes intense distress.” I believe that attachment issues are on a spectrum. Here’s a graph that explains: attachment issues spectrum No two people are alike, and the same goes for adopted children. Some may not exhibit any signs of an attachment disorder, yet it’s very important to be aware of your child and look for signs that they are struggling in an area. Behaviors that you think are positive; Johan eats everything on his plate at every meal, or Lily is a leader, in charge and always trying to help everyone around her, may be indicative of a much larger problem.

Now to address Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). The ever helpful Wikipedia says, “RAD is one of the least researched and most poorly understood disorder in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).” I agree. When we hear the word RAD, a bit, or a whole boat load of fear settles in our heart. Often the stories we’ve heard about RAD are the scariest. We hear about children with RAD setting fires in their home, chasing their parents with a knife, or hurting their siblings. These scenarios are extremely rare, yet so many children are being diagnosed with RAD. (Note that my daughter was diagnosed with RAD.) The Mayo Clinic lists the following scenarios as increasing the chances of a child developing Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD):

  • Living in an orphanage
  • Inexperienced parents
  • Extreme poverty
  • Postpartum depression in the baby’s mother
  • Parents who have a mental illness, anger management problems, or drug or alcohol abuse
  • Forced removal from a neglectful or abusive home
  • Physical, sexual, or emotional abuse
  • Prolonged hospitalization
  • Extreme neglect
  • Frequent changes in foster care or caregivers
  • Institutional care

www.attachmentdisorder.com adds a few more to this already lengthy list of causes:

  • Traumatic experience
  • Maternal depression
  • Undiagnosed, painful illness such as colic, ear infections, etc.
  • Lack of attunement between mother and child

Attachment issues are difficult, both for the one suffering, and for the parent who is pouring their life into their child. But, let’s remember how Chris Cleave so eloquently phrased it,

they have scars because they survived.

So, let’s treat our children as survivors, remembering their suffering, but gently guiding them to wholeness and out of pain. Let’s help them heal their scars and bond.

Here are some links to simple strategies that will help get your family on the track to healthy attachment. – rocking: a simple first step to bonding (and it doesn’t just apply to infants) – let’s bond already: creating attachment with an adopted child – play = bonding time You can receive each post made to Lovin’ Adoptin’ by subscribing in the upper right corner. If you’re on a mobile device, this can be done on the web version. You can also follow me on FacebookTwitter, and Pinterest.

trauma focused equine therapy (adoption/foster)

I found this information in an email from The Child Trauma Academy on Spirit Reins Equine Therapy:

“Participants learned that the brains of “prey” animals, such as horses, are organized much like that of a traumatized and hypervigilant children who are constantly scanning the environment for threat. The horse, for one, senses a child’s hypervigilance instinctively – and demands that the child learn to master internal regulation, but also the horse will not tolerate “bad behavior” in the same way that humans or dogs will.  However, unlike humans, horses remember past bad behavior but “forgive” it if the child is currently behaving better in the moment. By responding to and rewarding what a child is doing in the present, rather than remembering and responding to what he or she did in the past, the horse provides immediate feedback to the client that the new social skills the client is practicing are effective.”

Spirit Reins is located in Texas, but if you are not in Texas, there is a good chance you can find an equine therapy center near you. You can find out more about Spirit Reins here.
*I have not experienced Spirit Reins first hand.