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Adoption And Reactive Attachment Disorder: What You Need To Know About RAD

Adoption And Reactive Attachment Disorder: What You Need To Know About RAD

Adopted Teens And RAD

By: Michelle K. Forgey, LMHC, LPC, RPT, MA Crosswinds Therapist

Adoption Is a Transition

Maybe you are considering adopting a child into your family and have some reservations or maybe you have already adopted a child into your family and have some concerns. Regardless of the reason for reading this blog, there is only one place to start – adoption.


Adoption is simply when a new person is brought into an existing family unit. What does this mean for the person and the family? It is safe to say that adoption changes lives, but it’s not always the lives you anticipate. An ENTIRE family system is changed not just the adopted individual. Without using a lot of jargon, it means transition. The transition for the family because they have the privilege of getting to know this wonderful new person, growing into a larger family unit, and trying to figure out what things can stay the same and what needs to change. The transition for the new person means they are living in a new house, new rules, new people, essentially new everything. While the whole family unit is changing and adapting, there WILL BE some wonderful adventures, difficult moments, laughter, tears, challenges, confusion, growth, and life-altering moments.


How do you know if the transition is typical or there is something else going on? It is safe to say that children who have been adopted have faced hardship and transition in their short lives. Some have even faced physical abuse or neglect. According to parenting.com, “A small percentage of these kids can develop attachment disorders such as reactive attachment disorder, or RAD.”

Recognizing Attachment Disorders

What is an attachment disorder? An attachment disorder is when a person has a hard time building relationships with others. If your child exhibits some of the following as outlined in the DSMV he/she may be struggling with RAD:



  • The child rarely or minimally seeks comfort when distressed
  • The child rarely or minimally responds to comfort when distressed
  • Minimal social and emotional responsiveness to others
  • Limited positive effect
    Episodes of unexplained irritability, sadness, or fearfulness that are evident even during non-threatening interactions with adult caregivers
  • Social neglect or deprivation in the form of persistent lack of having basic emotional needs for comfort, stimulation, and affection met by caring adults
  • Repeated changes of primary caregivers that limit opportunities to form stable attachments (e.g., frequent changes in foster care)
  • Rearing in unusual settings that severely limit opportunities to form selective attachments (American Psychiatric Association, 2013)

How To Help

What’s next? You have read the symptoms above and are now thinking, “my child has some of these symptoms and I don’t know what to do”. It may be time to have your child meet with a loving professional that can help guide your family and child on a journey to become the best version of yourselves that you can be. There is help and hope only one phone call away. Treatment will most likely involve both the family and the child as a unit. It is important that the parent/child bond be nurtured. This is not simply a situation where the child can be sent to therapy in hopes of things changing without things changing at home as well. There are many families that have gone before you and many families that have received lasting change. What is keeping you from making that change today? Contact Crosswinds Counseling today to find out more about our counseling for troubled youth, and how our family consultants can help you with onsite or in-office counseling.


American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Washington, DC:

Bayless, K. (2017, October 1). “Reactive Attachment Disorder and Adoption. Retrieved from:


Already Tried Counseling?

If you have tried counseling, and you think a change of environment will help, consider Caribbean Mountain Academy (CMA). CMA is a Christian Therapeutic Boarding School that focuses on family-based counseling, relationship oriented mentoring, adventured based learning, service projects, and spiritual discipleship.


We can also help you in your search for other schools for military academies, schools troubled teens, affordable boarding schools, alternative schools, therapeutic boarding schools for girls,  or alternative schools. Caribbean Mountain Academy is a Christian therapeutic boarding school for troubled teenagers offering teen counseling. We deal with defiance, depression, post traumatic stress, abuse, and general anxiety. If you have an out of control girl or boy, please think about Caribbean Mountain Academy, a school for troubled teens that offers counseling for troubled teens and out of control teens. If you are searching for residential treatment centers, troubled youth homes, troubled teen schools or troubled teen boarding schools, you have found one.

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Adoption changes lives, but not always in the way we anticipate. If your teen is struggling with RAD, we are here to help.