Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Special needs adoption from a Jewish perspective.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


There is a stereotype in some of the popular literature of the adopted "monster child".  The child who becomes violent and destructive and destroys the family which has taken him/her in.  The child who seemed so innocent and lovable, but turned out to be a psychopath.

-But what if, what if, what if you adopt a kid and he turns out to be a big, RAD, monster kid?  What if he screams and tantrums and poops on the floor and hits me and the other kids and destroys our life?  What are we going to do? What are we going to do?

This stereotype is based on the experience of parents with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). Adopted children have invariably gone through some kind of trauma -- or they would still be with their birth parents!  They need great stability in order to heal from this trauma.  In the process, they do much more testing of their parents than bio-kids -- who certainly do their share of parent-testing!  The more abuse, neglect, disrupted placements and other trauma these children have gone through, the harder it is for them to trust and attach.  This does not make them monsters.  It makes them hurt kids.  Parents need to be cognizant of their needs in order to address them.  Younger children in the home (if any) need to be protected.  Parents need to be psychologically prepared for the extreme testing and not take it personally.  This is all very hard.  But they are still just hurt children.  Just as if they were suffering from a physical injury and we would patiently help them regain function, so do RAD children suffer from emotional injury which requires lots and lots of patience and hard work to regain the emotional competency that most people take for granted.

-Monster kids are not real, so you shouldn't be afraid of them. But even if he does turn out to be a big, RAD monster kid, maybe he wouldn't destroy our life.  Maybe we would protect him and the other kids from his scary and scared feelings, and give him the kind of stability that he needs so badly, so that he would have the space to learn to give and receive love.
-Are you sure?
-Yes, I'm sure.

(adapted from Pookie and Tushka Find a Little Piano)

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