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Welcome to the foster well! Our blog covers all things related to foster care and adoption.

What is RAD?

What is RAD?

RAD, or Reactive Attachment Disorder, is something many new foster and adoptive parents have never heard of.  Frequently popping up in foster care and adoption social networking groups, it's evident that this is something we all should be trained to understand better. 

I first became familiar with the term after seeing it on numerous social media posts. At the time, we had been fostering for about 3 months and had a little girl in our care that had been in and out of different foster homes. She had great difficulty with attachment, and I was curious to find out if this could be a condition she suffered from.

As I looked more into RAD, I learned how vital it is for infants to have attentive caregivers who respond to their needs when they cry. It's through this they learn to develop a healthy attachment. It seems to make sense, since it is appears to be human design that when babies cry we respond to their needs. However, in cases where children are neglected or abused, natural and healthy attachment fails to occur. It is believed Reactive Attachment Disorder occurs when there is  severe neglect or abuse before the age of 5 years old.

The Child Mind Institute describes the symptoms of RAD as:

  • withdrawn appearance
  • failure to smile
  • failure to react when parents or caregivers attempt to interact or soothe them
  • unexplained episodes of irritability, sadness or fearfulness in contact with caregivers

These children will attempt to nurture and soothe themselves instead of seeking it from their caregivers. When they’re upset they may calm down more quickly when left alone. They prefer not to be comforted by an adult. If symptoms of RAD are identified, it can be diagnosed by a doctor as early as 9 months of age. Treatment, through a combination of therapies performed by a psychologist, can prove to be very beneficial.

As I learned more about the condition, I realized this was not what my little girl was dealing with, but I was glad to have explored it further. Simply knowing more about this condition will prove beneficial for any foster or adoptive parent, and especially for the children we care for. I know as we invite more foster children into our home over the next few years, I'll be more acutely aware to watch for the signs and symptoms of RAD in hopes of advocating for early intervention.

If you are interested in learning more about Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), I encourage you to visit The Child Mind Institute

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