Parents of Children with Reactive Attachment Disorder

Often the most overlooked people caught up in the typhoon of Reactive Attachment Disorder are the foster or adoptive parents. The fostadopt parent has done nothing but try and bring a child into their home with the intent of caring for and supporting that child. The fostadopt parent has had nothing to do with the child's previous experiences which were often brutal and neglectful. These experiences have twisted the behaviours of the child into strange patterns that bear little resemblance to a normal child but have to do with the child's survival mechanisms.

So what does this do the parent? Parents of the RAD child usually appear angry, rigid, emotionally distant, and rejecting. Friends and family may feel that the parent(s) overreact to the child's behaviour. What they don't know is that these parents almost never have a break from the child's behaviours which can include:

  • Aggression and violence
  • Eating issues including stealing and hoarding food, food refusal, and gorging
  • Emotional issues including superficial charm with strangers, the ability to read other's emotions and push buttons, theatrical displays of emotion, and the incalbitly to give or receive affection
  • These kids can display anti-social behaviours like stealing, pathological and nosensical lying, they can destroy things for no reason, and they can be cruel
  • These children can show sexualised behaviours like seductiveness, they can act out with other children, they can engage in bestiality
  • Often their conscience appears broken with the child denying and blaming others, they may avoid eye contact, they often can't accept responsibility, they can show little remorse, they often will be verbally abusive
  • RAD children sometimes display bizzare behaviours like peeing on things and peeing themselves, they will sometimes smear poop, eating non-edible things, talking to themselves, hitting themselves, they may not sleep well, they may show fascination with fire and blood.
  • RAD kids are often sufferers of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and will present with dissociative behaviours, they will repress traumatic memories, they engage in self preservation activities in appropriately, they have trouble seeing cause and effect.
  • Often there are problems maintaining friends and they will make poor peer relationship choices.

This goes on day in and day out 365 days of the year. Parents themselves experience trauma from their child.

These parents find themselves feeling like rejecting the child. Sometimes there are abusive thoughts. Parents will find themselves feeling incompetant and inadequate. This can lead to depression. Finally, parents of Children of Trauma can feel like they are blamed and responsible by their child.

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I read all these comments and

I read all these comments and I think......did I get on here and right about my life and I didn't even know it. It is amazing to hear that we are all going through the exact same thing. RAD has such marked symptoms no different then cancer or any other disease. It was wonderful to read the comment by a person who had struggled with RAD and is now counseling RAD children and their parents. There is no one better qualified than that. I do have to say.....the moment that you stop trying to change, fix, and save your RAD child you will not believe the burden you will be relieved of. Can you make a Down Syndrome child normal? No, you learn how to parent a child that will always have Down Syndrome so that they can have as much of a happy and productive life as they can have. Even when you first start devouring all the literature on RAD you will find it hard to parent in the way that is advised. It seems to be so foreign, cold, and unloving, but what we truly don't understand is that truly loving someone, is loving them based on what is best for them, not how it makes us feel. I am learning to: Stop asking and expecting. Remove all personal offense and feelings of betrayal. Throw all guilt and anger out the window. I hope this helps someone.

My husband and I have three

My husband and I have three biological children and 4 adopted, three of which are my husbands niece and nephews. All four of our adopted children have RAD. We fostered for approx. 15 years and almost all of our foster children had RAD, also. It has taken me 15 years to finally understand, accept, cope, and begin healthy parenting my children with RAD. Unfortunately, my youngest biological daughter and I did not escape without being totally traumatized. What finally clicked in my (our) brain that is now helping to direct us down the long road to health, is characterized by one foundational word, EXPECTATIONS! I can no longer be tricked by the voice in my head that wants me to parent based on everything, but what is right in front of me and real. I no longer parent based on bitterness, doubt, anger, guilt, fear, and family and peer pressure, which all resulted from my expectations! My husband is totally involved and in complete agreement, but (as we all know is the case for fathers most of the time) he has not suffered as my daughter and I have. This can be one of the most debilitating and loneliest journeys a person can be on. I used to feel this was a punishment from the Lord, now I know he is doing a work in me through them.

I am so glad I found this web

I am so glad I found this web site. It is very difficult being a parent or step parent of a child with this diagnosis. I have a step daughter with this diagnosis. My husband and his family have been less then supportive. They seem to think that an adult should be able to handle any child. They don't understand the manipulation that happens in these relationships. I have watched my step daughter sit happily in the middle of the whole house crying and arguing over something that she manufactured. I found the only way for me to survive was to take myself out of her triangle. I seem to be her target. I have had poop on the walls, pee dumped out of a 2nd story window on me, she lets my dogs out of the backyard i Had to sleep with our twin sons until they were old enough to tell her to leave them alone due to her trying to touch them inappropriatly. My step daughter is 18 and 6 feet tall she is 2 times my size. So again I took my self out of the triangle and it seemed to work. It stopped the arguments and the instability in my house turned around,This lasted for 5 years. She can't manipulate if you arent a willing participant. Thats what I thought.....WRONG. My step daughter recently was put on a 5150 hold due to suicide thoughts. Now I have a social worker telling my husband that all my stepdaughter wants is a relation ship with me and I won't even say hello. Why won't these people listen? I am really afraid for my life. I don't know when this ends or how to get the help she needs. I am tired.

I understand

I am in the same kind of situation. It's hell!! Get the social workers out of your life! Trust me they wi not believe you! I was accused of abuse. Protect your other children, she will hurt them out of jealousy and just to hurt you!


I also have a RAD step child and am currently looking for a support group with other step parents/parents who have RAD children who have little support from the biological mother/father. Do you know of any that might help the both of us?

Support for step parents

if you've found something I'd definitely be interested in hearing about it!

Anything Positve about RAD

First of let me apologize for being chipper and sounding motivated. I am and I only recently figured out what our child's challenge is. Your right I haven't been worn down yet and I have only been dealing with this for 1 1/2 years. I am sure everyone starts off motivated and ends up just barely surviving. I am a realistic person and have a pretty good idea what is coming.

I am hoping to here some positive attributes about kids with RAD that parents have successfully diverted there RAD kid into doing.

I have experience much of the same. And have recently found out my foster to adopt son has RAD. We are in it for the long haul. But frankly this is scary stuff and to here you talk like it never ends is really sad. I hope we will find the help we need and luck out with the severity of his RAD. I dont think we are going to luck out but things are constantly getting a little better.

We are looked down on by most parents and the system as being to quick and short with him. For me that has been the ticket. No warnings for stuff he knows is wrong. And having the conviction of following through every-time. Sometimes getting my but off the couch ten times in an hour is more than exhausting, but I am committed to helping him break through this.

Also do any of you know about any classes for child restraint that I can get certified for. CPS said I cant restrain my child even though he is hurting himself or others. That I should try talking and more counseling. They actually encouraged me to build a safe room for his 4 hour fits of rage. When I can simply restrain him and have him through it in 10 minutes. Anyways I know they are going to tell me I cant do it anymore as he is telling them he cant breath. When he is in restraint he is constantly yelling and screaming at me to let him go. No real breathing problems, my ears can attest to that.

I am hoping to here some positve attributes about kids with RAD that parents have successfully diverted there RAD kid into doing.

Positive things about my son
Creates wonderful things out of nothing
He paints amazing things
Recognizes beautiful things no matter how big or small
Can hike and hike and hike. Like me.
Loves the outdoors
Loves to build things
Loves to paint and sculpt and carve
Really good at school
Really smart, this is borderline bad thing.

At least we can say we are Rad parents, even though we dont feel like it most of the time.

Has anyone found a home were we are safe to talk our problems as Rad parents and get some ideas on new things things to try on our Rad kids.

Read this book "little Sugar Addict"

I have found with my own daughter that sugar & food coloring have been a big role in my daughters behaviors. Please check this book out it is worth a try. I adopted three girls whom they said all have RAD!!!!!!!! My husband & I have been through a lot we adopted the girls when they were 6, 12 ,15 & yes we have been through A lot, thank god our faith has kept us strong. My daughters are now 10, 16 & 19 our 19 year old is now living back with her bio family & our 16 year old has been in intensive treatment program & my 10 year old well she has a good foundation because she was living with us since she was 2 1/2 but she acts like she is 3 to 5 with her temper tantrums but they mostly happen when she has gotten into sugar & food coloring. It is the hardest thing to find foods without sugars but we work really hard at it & I know people don't understand but she gets angry & talks back & is very nasty hen she gets her fix of sugar & it doesn't come from us, she goes to public school & even though we pack her stuff & school knows that she cant have it she seems to find away to get her hands on it, but the school has really been helping in stopping these stealing behaviors because its more then the stealing it the fact that she doesn't even think right when she gets hold of the sugar. I have been told its like a addiction for her. All three girls where born drug addicted, so maybe this is just a addiction. Regardless it affects her in ways that is so hard to explain. Please if you are struggling in this area it cant hurt to try to see a difference with your child off the sugar for awhile & see if this helps, I bet it cant hurt to try, but yes it is a hard diet. good luck, and GOD BLESS

What do you do?

I am a step mom to a RAD daughter. Her mother was depressed and neglectful for the first 6 months of her life and left shortly after for another. She has been in my daughters life sporadically since. Meanwhile my husband worked grave yards entrusting the primary care to his parents who he also lived with until we met and got married when our daughter was two.
She is now almost 7 and we are burnt out. At first I thought the possesive behavior over her father towards me and her fits were the need to get used to me. I thought her commands to me "Stay out of Daddy's room (also mine) were the result of her grandparents giving into her every whim. I realized 2 years ago there was a problem when she could not handle a simple disappointment and broke down for 2 hours, kicking, fighting and screaming.
My husband takes care of both of our children, our daughter (my step, honestly but we have full custody so she is my child) and our son (4), while I work to provide for them. We no longer derive any joy from our relationship with her. All I see is how she is lying to me, manipulating her brother, and acting in many different ways to different people, being fake. Her teacher sees an extremely intelligent and respectful student. Her mother sees a little girl who is sweet and concerned about others. However her mother is starting to see some behavior that we have dealt with for years.
She recently threw a fit in a restaurant becasue she couldn't play with the claw machine. Her mom took her out and had her calm down and return to the restaurant where she got her favorite foods and dessert. We would not have done that. For years we have given her a consenquence when she acts like that whether it is a time out, no dessert, no movie or fun project. Obviously she perfers her mothers to our home which kills us because we love her and we have done so much to protect her and try to help her. Knowing that she was diagnosed with RAD destroys my husband because he feels he should have done better to protect her.
Is her mother, who I find to be repugnant, grossly irresponsible and manipulative (she has paid child support to my husband 3 months out of the last 18), handling our daughters condition better than we are? (Her mother told me recently that our daughter gets to do more with her, but that is because she makes her "earn more". I don't see a screaming fit in public as "earning" anything.) Should we give in more often or will that simply reinforce our extremely inteligent daughters manipulative behavior, as I think it would?
What would you have done? Please, any one, I need help. I am tired, frustrated and am sure, appear as Cinderella's evil step mother with my "harsh rules". My husband has lost hope for her to ever be better and of him ever having the bond he thought they had. Thank you.

The evil step mother

Its awful being the evil stepmother.My Stepson is 15 and manipulated everyone. We had him 3 years ,and our life is miserable. I love him ,but know he loves no one. I get punished by organisations ,blamed when I,m truly trying to get him help. I very worried he will go on to seriously hurt some one.


hi my name is cheryldee. I am a 42 year old rad. I was adopted 40 years ago. I am doing something most rad kids wont do but I have gone into the psychology field dealing with rads. I feel that the best advice can only come from someone who has or is experiencing the situation. who better than a rad kid themselves. I have so much to offer to parents and kids dealing with rads. first thing is this is not the kids fault nor is it yours. unfortunately all the sadness and frustration you as a parent are feeling is all a rad kid knows. we were put in a crib without that beautiful voice we heard for nine months. our needs are only met to keep us alive, food and diaper changes. no "oohs and ahhhs" at the beautiful new baby. so every time we cried we got no relief no one came to our rescue yet we heard the voices of people but we were never acknowledged. so we trust only ourselves. we have learnt to comfort and protect ourselves. we don't trust adults to save us. I have to say your daughter is only some what behaving for her mother because she probably feels she is not a steady figure in her life and knows soon enough she will leave again. as for temper tantrums, don't do time out... do time in... keep her by your side you both need that. rad kids prefer to be alone so time out is what we want. don't do it. we do not understand consequences as other children do. there is so much to be said and learnt by the parents and sadly you guys are not ever given enough information or you guys are misinformed. my advice to you is to be her hero. and please do not fall into a rad yourself. be loving and caring and love your husband and children. be open and honest with your husband. if anyone wants to talk or just ask questions please feel free to email me at

Cheyl Dee

I just have to say you rock. Thanks for sharing your wisdom.

thank you. I wish I could do

thank you. I wish I could do more. but I am glad to know people are reading and hope it helps.

First off, there can't be any

First off, there can't be any guilt about the situation your kiddo has found herself in. Your husband isn't to blame.

Secondly, you are NOT alone. There are many folks who have and are experiencing the exact same things you are. Parenting kids with RAD takes a great deal of patience and understanding. It can feel impossible and out of control at times. Kindness and compassion paired with consistency helps and will eventually show results. This doesn't mean just giving in and letting her always have her own way.

Does your step daughter have a good psychiastrist and therapist?

how do i deal with her acting out?

what i wanna know is how to react appropriately when the child is acting out. i try to be caring and say i understand they are angry about whats happened and tell her that its ok to be mad but we still need to be nice but that approach just doesnt seem to be working i could really use some ideas on how to go about her acting out when she is angry..... i feel so stuck. :( please if anyone has any information about it email me at thank you

Honestly, the only way to

Honestly, the only way to move along is to be very patient. You might not see immediate results, but little by little it will trickle into the back of your daughter's brain. Does your daughter have a good therapist?

Adoptive parents of two teenage RAD children

Thank you so much for creating this website. I finally feel like my husband and I are not alone. 6 years ago we adopted two siblings who suffer severe RAD. This article of RAD symptoms is exactly who and what they are.They have sucked our family dry and we are so very worn out. Our families don't ever understand and often blame us for poor parenting. We constantly live in fear for our biological daughter's future as both children make false allegations against us. More than once we have been at risk of losing our family, careers and home. At this time the oldest adopted child (18 years) has run away and goes back and forth living with families of friends. The youngest at 14 years has run away for his 5th time and has been gone for 3 days. We have no clue where he is but live in constant worry for his welfare and what is to come of our family when and if he is found.


Understand ,my stepson runaway 20 plus times in last 3 years ,missing at present time. He,s got us stressed to hills ,life seems very bleak


Understand ,my stepson runaway 20 plus times in last 3 years ,missing at present time. He,s got us stressed to hills ,life seems very bleak


Have your kids had therapists and, if so, have you been documenting these issues and problems with him/her? That should provide you with some level of protection against false allegations.

Adopting an 8 and a 12 year old is an amazing thing to have done. So often kids of that age group simply move from foster family to foster family and finally age out of the system at 18. this leaves them with next to zero support.

Know, especially when you are going through rocky times, that you almost certainly have had a positive impact on these two.

Hang in there.

I adopted an 8 year old with

I adopted an 8 year old with RAD last year and didn't know what I was getting into. Seriously. I have aged a decade in the past two years. CPS has visited my home because my daughter charms people at school and tells lies about me. She has even gone so far as to put bruises and scratches on herself and then tell others I hurt her. We quit psychotherapy because it was just being used as an opportunity to lie and charm for an hour every week. My friends and family have taken two giant steps away from me, because either they think I am a rigid and abusive parent or they are afraid of my daughter. So I live isolated in a home where things are destroyed and a child pees on everything and all I can do is just keep surviving each day and hoping that one day she will learn that I am genuinely loving and gentle and want so desperately for her to learn a better way to live. Also, I have started taking antidepressant medication. In fact, we are both on the same med because we BOTH suffer from her past trauma.

Its depressing

Its very depressing with these children ,no one understands how much effort you put in ,and how your life can be peed and trashed on'

Its depressing

Its very depressing with these children ,no one understands how much effort you put in ,and how your life can be peed and trashed on'

I am the aunt of a 10 year

I am the aunt of a 10 year old who has done a lot of the same stuff. She has gotten a lot better with therapy and medication but I am beyond repair emotionally and physically. My sister did many horrible things while pregnant and she herself has MANY mental health issues and my niece has ended up with a lot of the same problems. I know this is the most difficult thing to deal with, I am 24 and my mother and I have had custody of both my nieces and nephew since I was 12, all of them are ADHD, ODD, one is bipolar and the other is severely depressed...I know none of this is helpful to you, but just know that you are not alone out there. All you can do is know that there is help out there, finding it is just the hard part....

Thanks for your story. I

Thanks for your story. I think it *does* help people a lot to know they aren't the only ones out there.

Surrender her to the Foster System

You can't do this anymore. It will only get worse. It will not get better. You need to surrender her to the foster care system before she completely destroys your life. You cannot fix her, but she can completely ruin you. Put her in foster care. Yes, they will probably charge you with child abandonment. But whatever punishment that entails will be better than the punishment this child will deal you over the next ten years. I am the voice of experience. I adopted a seven-year-old child who is 15 now. I am just living for the day he is 18.

I just found this site after

I just found this site after googling why my RAD kid only gives ME problems.
As much as your comment might sound cruel to others..... Totally true! If I knew then what I know now about this child,,,,,never would have adopted. Ever. To make the situation even marriage of 16 years was ripped apart. This was 3 years ago, I just most recently gave dad the chance to have custody of this perfect charming child, so he thinks....he never saw the issues. She likes men, so she's absolutley perfect for him. Horrible for me, to the point I swear she's possessed by the devil! I totally agree with your post. There is no getting better or fixing....I have spent hundreds of hours trying to get this girl better. She doesn't care. Counseling, psych evals, dr appts, she manipulates.

absolutely not

Are you crazy? So if you have a child that has an issue you are just going to get rid of them like a dog that you don't want anymore? You are one sick person!

Absolutely Not

i'm sorry to be rude to you as you are entitled to your own opinion but it is clear to me, by your reply "Absolutely not", that you have no idea what it is like to live with someone with RAD. We are desperate people trying our hardest to look after children with severe issues day in and day out. Do you live in a house with a child where there is absolutely NO JOY at all? My RAD foster daughter gjves me nothing but heartbreak every waking moment. She was 13 last week and now smokes both cigarettes and pot, is having sex and wants to be out walking the streets all day and all night. She won't go do school, basically, she will not let up unless she gets her own way. I wake her in the morning with Good morning darling, its time to get up - and her reply to me is F*** Off you F***ing Fat C**t. Day in and day out that is all i cop except if she is asking for something then she will say - "Mum i will love you forever if you let me ". Its exhausting, overwhelming and depressing to be treated with such contempt when all you do is try your hardest. We cop this every waking moment of our lives. Imagine how hard it would be to live like that day in and day out.

Dumping a child is not moral.

Do you have any residential treatment centers close to you? It sounds like your kiddo's underlying issues still need resolution.

A place like Tennyson's residential program might be a good fit.

Another option might include The Post Institute: - I believe they have a residential program too that is focused on kids with RAD.

I *do* understand the abuse you are describing as I've lived with a child who has RAD for the last 8 years. It is exhausting. You are experiencing secondary trauma and it really sucks. The point here is, you don't just abandon the child once you've committed to him or her. You seek out the resources that can best help them heal not dump them back into Foster Care where things will just get worse for this young person.

This is ill conceived advice

This is ill conceived advice that will harm the child and the parent.

Child with RAD

Dear Anonymous,

I am raising a granddaughter with RAD plus other issues. After all the mistakes I've made I've learned a few things:
Take care of your physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. This is vital in mothering your child. Maintaining a good relationship with your family and mate is very important. You all need to be educated in how to raise a child with these special needs. You are showing by example healthy living and preserving your health and wellness. Hoping things will change is not realistic. Your child needs specialized therapies with you present in the room. We are involved in several activities to help build the brain. Therapy with a trauma specialist plus neurofeedback on Tuesdays and Thursdays, therapeutic horseback riding, Occupational Therapy for Sensory Integration Disorder, piano lessons very relaxed, swimming lessons, knitting, and relaxed play with your child. This is a multi-layered approach to help build the brain and empathy. We don't do all of these things at once but try to organize life to include as many things that build the brain and healthy human interaction. Keep calm and matter of fact while setting safe, healthy and appropriate boundaries. Seek out the best specialists you can. Best of luck to you and your family.

Did you Foster First?

Hi Anonymous

Did you foster first? If so, you were in a honeymoon period to begin with if you weren't seeing these behaviors.

First off, you need to know that you aren't alone in this. You describe classic RAD behaviors. But you need real help. I think you probably ought to be seeking a therapist who specializes in early childhood trauma.

Secondly, check out Dr Bryan Post is an astonishing resource. He understands our children with trauma because he was one. I have no association with his site or services other than attending one of his weekend seminars and reading several of his books.

Thirdly, you have a case worker with CPS. Talk honestly with him or her about what is going on. Ask about resources that you have available to help you. For example, most parents who adopt through CPS can get respite care until the child is 18.

Hang in there. It is tough, I know. We're in our 8th year now. Things do get better as the child begins to truly understand you aren't going anywhere but it can be a hard trip to take.

Thank You

My daughter has RAD and our journey together has only recently (last 8-12 months) been showing signs of improvements. I adopted my daughter when she was three. She'll be six in March.

Thank you for speaking for the parents of RAD children, who are often prisoners in their own home because the chile is so out of control most of the time. Fortunately, I've been able to do a lot of coaching and re-training with my daughter and have met with great success. I believe this is because I got her at such a young age.

I would like to offer hope to the other parents of RAD children that visit your site. Hang in there and it will get better. It's, by far, the toughest road you'll ever travel as a parent to a RAD child. But it is worth the sacrifice to continue loving your child even when they are coming at you with rage and hate and violence. Don't expect anyone to understand what you are going through - they can't. But it will get better.

My pleasure. Only those who

My pleasure. Only those who are raising RAD kids really understand what other similar parents need to cope with. Knowing that there are others out there with similar experiences who you can talk to helps an awful lot. I created this site with that vision - this online community is a virtual support group.

Glad im not alone

I am so glad that I stumbled upon this site. I have just adopted a child that has attachment disorders. They are looking at. It possiblly being RAD. I'm pretty sure after doing my own research that she does have it. I found this site tonight after a really terrible night with my child. Both of us ened up in tears. Its good to know that other feel the same types of things that. I do. I was really starting to feel as if I was the problem and that I did her a disservice by adopting her. I was starting to think that I was making her misarable, when all I was trying to do was make it better for her. Thanks for taking the time to make this site.

The feelings you are having

The feelings you are having are called secondary trauma. Do a google search on the term, you'll find some good information.

You are very welcome

and you're not alone. There are many people who have and are going through the same things that you are experiencing. I'm glad the site has given you some solace.

Reactive Attachment Disorder

Reactive attachment disorder is seen most of the time in small children's. It is a very rare case affecting babies and young children due to which they fail to have a close bond with their parents or the caregivers. This conditions occur when the child is abused, at his/her childhood or if his caretakers are changed. At such stage, counseling by the psychologist helps a lot because this disorder lasts for life long.
Some of the symptoms that may be present in Reactive Attachment Disorder in babies include being withdrawn or sad, lack of smiling, not reaching out when picked up, disinterested in playing with toys, not using their eyes to follow others in a room, being calm when left alone and participating in self comforting behaviors such as rocking.

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