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Opinion & Essays - Mar, 2001 Issue #79 

When Love Is NOT Enough
How one family met the challenges of living with a RAD child:
The Founding Of A Foundation 

By Elaine Rising
Spokane, Washington

An old biblical proverb states, “A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken.” As parents of children with reactive attachment disorder (RAD), that sense of brokenness often extends beyond the child to include all family members. How each family responds to this challenge differs depending on family dynamics, educational level, financial resources, faith system, and available support services. 

This article describes how one California family dealt with the challenge of raising an adopted daughter with RAD, which among other things led to forming a foundation. Terri and Bill Adams had been foster parents for several years. They decided to adopt their third foster child. She arrived at their home when she was 18 months old. The adoption was finalized just before her fourth birthday. 

Terri stated, “We were told to just give her love and a stable home. When I called our social worker and asked what books could I read as I knew there was something not ‘right,’ her response again was just love her. We always loved her and still do, but what do you do when love is NOT enough? 

From the challenges Terri faced with her daughter, she has learned some important lessons. “I’ve been married for 18 years and have two biological children, 17 and 8. Our adopted child is 15 and doing much better. But, we still have a way to go. I have learned to change my expectations. I now hope that she graduates high school, obtains training from a vocational school in something that she will enjoy, and stays out of jail. I know that these are all choices that she has to make. My job, as her parent, is to provide her the tools she needs to help her along the way.” 

“One of the hardest times I had, was facing the fact that we were not able to keep her in our home. She needed a treatment center. For me, it is a feeling of failure and intense grief. That feeling does pass when you find yourself living in a “quiet” home. Getting used to that and finding joy and laughter took some time, but we healed. For us, the first three months that she was gone was our healing time. Then I got educated. I learned all about attachment disorder and the ways to prevent a child from having to be placed out of the home. For some children, it is too late and they need to know that living in ‘Moms’ home is a privilege – not a right.”

“A good respite home can help them learn this, or they may need a residential treatment center (RTC). While my daughter was away in RTC, we set up our own support system for when she returned home. This is how and why we started our Foundation.”

“From my experience, there are very few RTC’s that really know how to treat RAD children. They all say they know how but they do not really know how. That is why having someone like Lon Woodbury is important. I hope that our upcoming conference will not only help parents but also train therapists and facilitators of RTC.”

Her first step in forming the Heal the Heart Foundation involved starting a parent support group. Terri said “I went public with our story through our local paper, the Press Enterprise. That article “At Arms Length” currently appears on our website www.healtheheart.org. As a result of that publicity, 27 people showed up at our first meeting. Since then, we have had monthly meetings. We brainstormed about how to raise money for treatment and came up with the idea of starting a non-profit group. It has taken numerous hours to put this together. For the first year, I pretty much did all the work, now in our 2nd year, we have a wonderful board with 2 secretaries. That has eased the load off of me.”

Currently, Heal the Heart Foundation has their California tax exemption status and are still waiting to receive their Federal 501(C) 3 identification number. To date, the foundation derives their funding from planned workshops/conferences. They are planning a conference, Stopping the Insanity, Treating and Parenting Children with Attachment Disorder on March 26-28 in Riverside, CA. For additional information see their website, www.healtheheart.org, or call (909) 789-4400. 

As of February 2001, Heal the Heart Foundation has 20 active members. They predict that number may grow to 200 by year’s end. For interested individuals, families, and organizations, Heal the Heart offers the following services: 

1.)  A local, monthly support group 
2.)  Information resources through phone or e-mail 
3.)  Low-cost school advocacy program 
4.)  Advocacy program for Aid to Adoptive Parents Funding 
5.) On-line bookstore for materials relating to RAD 
6.) Conferences/workshops (local or in your area) 
7.) Critical Care Parenting Program l A semi-annual newsletter, “Restore”

Terri summarized that “our Critical Care Parenting Program involves home visits in order to help you work with your child at home. We give parents some fresh ideas and tools that they can use. We also offer them some respite. We also have 2 trained families that will provide respite care in their home up to 30 days. We try to help parents set up their own support system, which includes training a respite care provider near them. While our organization is based in Riverside, California, we have an affiliate in Las Vegas, Nevada and plan to expand.”

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