And She Lived…











{November 29, 2008}   my thoughts on ABC’s “anti-adoption” campaign

I watched the 20/20 show last night. The one I like to call their anti-adoption campaign. My feelings on it haven’t changed much.

I know what RAD is. I know it really can be very, very bad. I know that sometimes these kids really do threaten the safety of themselves, siblings, pets and parents. I know it is very difficult to parent these children. I also know that I have no personal experience dealing with RAD. (short pause to thank God) However, I also know that following your newly adopted daughter around with a video camera, essentially stalking her is NOT helping. Yep, I know that. Too bad her parents didn’t seem to.

I got my questions answered about how long those girls have been here. 4 years. So, at least they didn’t call in the film crews right away, like I thought perhaps they did. Nope, they just did that themselves.

Now let’s put ourselves in this little girls place. You’ve just left behind everything you’ve ever known. You are half way around the world from the place that is home to you. You are now living with people that are strangers. Strangers that are now your mom and dad. The only experience you’ve ever had with parents were not good ones. You are scared as hell. You don’t understand what anyone is saying to you because they speak another language. You have no way to tell anyone about what you are feeling because they can not understand what you are saying. All this is going on and you are scared and upset and confused and now, suddenly, these new parents of yours are following you around with a camera, fimling your pain. All you want is to get away, but they won’t let you.  ok……….. now how do you feel??? Are you building trust in these people? Are you feeling loved? Protected? Wanted? Safe? Secure? Or, are you feeling the exact opposite of those things?

There are differing opinions on how to handle RAD. There are those that swear by holding the child close in tight hugs. Keep in mind that you have to actually physically force the kids into this because they don’t want you to hold them. This is known as holding therapy.  There are others who swear that doing that is the totally wrong thing to do. In my opinion (notice i said MY OPINION) I think that holding therapy would have been a preferable method for this child over what she got. Forced hugs? or documenting RAD rages on film? Ya, I gotta go with holding therapy on this one.

I know that this was one small piece of their lives that was displayed on film. I am sure there were things they have done that didn’t make the story. I don’t have the whole story. So I can not truly judge without knowing all the facts. But I am going to comment on what I did see. Because this story made me feel so much as I watched it.

As I watched last night I made the comment “those people think they can buy their kids love. listen to them complain how all the lessons they’ve put the kids in and all the things they’ve bought them and how the modeling contract they got them didn’t make them happy!”. It bothered me so, so much that they were baffled while all these THINGS didn’t make their daughter happy, didn’t make her love them. I was nearly shouting at the tv “how about a hug? how about sitting down and talking to her? how about sitting and letting her talk and just listening?”. Then the girl went to camp. People talked to her. People listened to her. She didn’t have things given to her, she worked and she lived in sparse conditions, she talked, she played, she lived! Oh… and she smiled. Let’s not forget that. And then she said the thing that made me shout “yes! you tell ’em girl!” She said that her parents tried to buy her love! I hope they listened and learned. I really, really do. (this is going to lead to a whole other post on how adoptive parents often make this mistake)

I don’t really want to judge this family on their basic parenting skills. I want to keep this focused on how they were ill prepared to deal with RAD. And they were ill prepared. They had no idea what it was or how to deal with it. I think all adoption agencies should require families to take classes on things like this before they can adopt. ok, where was i? oh, ya…  I just have to make a small comment here that is more about their parenting skills. Did you see the way that 12yo little girl was dressed? Did you see how much makeup she had on?  Shy, who is 14, made the comment “that little girl looks like a hoochie“. Yes honey, yes she does. “why would her mom let her dress like that?” Let her? honey, who do you think bought her those clothes and that makeup?

Ok, back to the real comments. I believe this show was meant to inform people about RAD. Most people are not aware of the many issues that children who are available for adoption can have. It is important to educate people on this. No one should enter into adoption without being aware of these possibilities. I just don’t think that this particular story, this particular family, was the right choice for this. I also do not think it is fair that this story singled out international adoption. Look in the US foster care system. You will find many kids with RAD and PTSD there as well. It is the life the children have lived. It is the poor parenting they have had to endure in their young lives. Those are the factors that have led to their issues. Not the country they come from.

If someone is considering adoption I pray that they do study all possibilities. Look into things like RAD, PTSD, SPD and a hundred other possibilities. Know that there is a chance that any child could have one or more of these issues. Make an informed decision. Know what resources are available to you if your child does happen to have any of these issues. But, most of all remember one thing. Behind all the diagnosis, this is a child. A hurt, scared child who although they have no idea how to be loved… needs to be loved!

 

edited to add:

I wanted to make it clear that it is not my intention to “bash” the mulligan family with this post. I do feel they made some mistakes and felt that it would benefit other families who may be facing RAD to point them out. I also believe they made some good choices. I think they realized that they didn’t really know how to help their daughter and sought some help in finding it. Also, it took real courage to open themselves up to critcism in order to make people aware of RAD. For all that I want to say that I have a great deal of respect for the efforts they are now making.

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Great post! I wish they had focused on a family that had overcome it, instead of just exploiting the difficulties for ratings. Thanks for your insights. I have many friends who have adopted internationally – some went smoothly, others had issues. But they loved their children, and helped them through the struggles – it’s all about the process of healing, not being the “perfect” family



bqkimmy says:

Thank you Sarah. I know I have opened myself up to some flaming because of this post but I had to get my thoughts out there. I agree with you that I wish they would show a family that has made it through the struggles. Or even given some info on what parents CAN do to help these kids.

I also should mention how sad it was to me that one family had given up on their daughter after just 5 weeks!



The thing is with this particular issue. Yes the adoptive parents can inform themselves. The problem lies with the adoption agencies. They do not inform the adoptive parents of these types of issues. All they see is the dollar signs that they are getting from the adoptive parents. I view this show as attacking the adoptee. They blame the adoptee for the issue. Its not their fault. Someone needs to show the darkside of adoption.



Spring says:

Forget the flaming…great post!

I’d like to point out something we as a society often ignore: adoption is in itself traumatic. It means that there has been a fundamental, significant loss early in life, perhaps a series of losses, and they must be addressed. Trauma, particularly in older child adoption, is actually commonplace (unfortunately), which isn’t to say don’t adopt or adoption is bad. I have adopted three times so clearly I’m not anti-adoption. But as BQkimmy wisely advised, be prepared. Be aware. And then pray. A lot!

I really appreciate the post and the comment on my site (I wrote back a novel in reply. Yikes!)



I was more shocked by the family that gave up after five weeks. I agree that we can’t really judge from what they showed on the show. Somehow, I think maybe parents adopting from the US foster care system may be more prepared for RAD and other disorders because our system, as flawed as it is, keeps better records of these things. As you know Kim – we get jack sh*t overseas, so I think adoptive parents have to be more educated about the risks and signs. This “adoption whisperer” somehow makes it work, albeit with a great deal of work and other employees, but it says a great deal about what CAN be done. As the previous commenter stated, I really wish they (20/20) would have focused on what adoptive parents CAN do. The show didn’t say anything other than spend $3500 a month to put the child away. You would also think they could have spent some money on hiring a translator for the first few months in America…they apparently have money. The worst part was when the father said that, yes, you are essentially “buying” a child when you adopt through an agency. I couldn’t believe he said that…and probably regrets that statement now. I also feel awful for that little boy. Although they didn’t say it, I assume he has FAS. I would never want to walk in their shoes and just pray that the entire family heals.



bqkimmy says:

Spring, All of these children have had serious loss. That is the root of the problem. You are so right about that. That is why I say they need help to heal.

Amy, I agree with you about the adoption agencies. As I stated, I think they should all require training on these issues before parents are allowed to adopt. Trust me when I say I do indeed know the evils the adoption agencies are capable of.

Dawn, Yes the family that gave up after 5 weeks would take me a whole other post to cover my feelings on them. The US foster system does indeed require training on exactly these issues before people are allowed to adopt and that probably does make a difference. I am not sure if HAGUE requires this sort of training, i don’t think so, but it really should. Oh, oh yes… they buying a child comment didn’t sit well with me either. It did sound like their son has FAS. The mother’s comment about having to take care of him for the rest of her life didn’t come off well either. She sounded like she was being put out by that fact. I am not sure if these people just came across bad on camera (editing can do that) or if they really are as self absorbed as they seemed, so I can not judge too harshly.



Theresa says:

I watched all the videos from the ABC site and found it *overall* informative, especially if you had never heard of RAD. That family had their own issue with materialism and I agree with your comments on their daughter’s dress etc. The older girl was hitting the nail on the head when she said in the interview that her sister was spoiled and acting “too American”. That must have felt like an additional blow/loss to her. I don’t have an adopted child but have worked with many foster and adoptive parents in my pediatric experiences. There are a lot of heart breaking stories out there. But I also know a lot of success stories and it would have been nice if 20/20 had expressed more (they did a little) that not every foreign adoption is this way. And the thought just occured to me that that family may be on tv because they are more self absorbed. Most of us shun the lime light! Thanks for the great post in which you brought up points I hadn’t considered. I came here from Spring’s blog and hope to be back again!



Cara says:

Living in the UK – I didn’t get to see the film. We’re the adoptive parents of a 10 & 9 year old. Both have RAD – they were diagnosed with it in May of this year after living with us for almost 5 years. I knew about RAD. I just didn’t see it in my own children. They are clever children and knew what to hide from me. It can be very very hard living with them, however I love them and would do anything for them. They are just children that have been cruelly hurt and traumatised by their early experience. We know that. We understand that. Living with RAD is very hard, and I wish more people knew of it and don’t dismiss it, to that end, if the programme taught people that the disorder exists then good – it may not have handled it the right way and that’s sad.



Mama Zen says:

I can’t comment on the show itself because I missed it. I do want to say that you are totally right about the need to educate potential adoptive parents about the issues they might face. Most of these kids have been through absolute hell, and (of course!) that has a huge impact on their behavior.



bqkimmy says:

Theresa, Thanks for the comment. I was thinking the same thing about how the older girl must have felt like she had “lost” her sister to materialism and this new way of life. She was no longer the girl she had always known and that had to be hard to take. I think one of the main reasons the family did the show was to get some extra help. I do know that shows like this will often help people find and pay for resources they may not otherwise be able to make use of. If you listen closely you do hear the reporter say that ABC took the kids to the camp. So I believe they paid the bill for that one. I do have to say that I am glad the family got the chance to send their kids to that camp because of doing this story. The camp really seemed to help.

Cara, I agree that it was good that people were informed about RAD. I felt the show didn’t do the best job really explaining exactly what it is and what causes it though. It would be nice for them to do a show that focuses more on the facts of RAD rather than focusing on one family’s struggles. Thank you for your insight on this topic.

Mama Zen, I really hope that in the future all potential adoptive parents are required to take classes on these types of disorders. I wish we had taken something like that. I did know about RAD from my own research, and luckily we do not face that issue with our son, but there are many other things I had no idea about. One of which is SPD, which my son does indeed have. Had I known about SPD I would have been able to have him diagnosed sooner and gotten him help a long time ago.



Lisa says:

The 20/20 report was not about “anti-adoption” the basis of the story was to inform adoptive parents of RAD, FAS and other issues. No one was bashing adoptions but rather speaking of solutions to problems many adoptive families have not wanted to speak about.
It is however the Adoption Agency’s responsibility to set expectations realistically about the statistics of older adoptive children with issues. Issues that are not only from International or domestic adoption but can and do happen with our own bio children.
These disorders are fairly new to psychology and are in the last 3-4 years being diagnosed – now the question is how do we treat this newer diagnosis?
No parent is perfect, to bash the Mulligans is very unfair. They struggled for many years and fought to keep their children the best way they could. Many other adoptive parents have dumped their children into the Foster Care system or under the radar to a Yahoo group site dedicated to independent adoptions of disruptive kids or worse….the agency will take back the child and re adopt them out to another client.
No one is anti-adoption but I think we can all agree we need to make adoptions ethical.



bqkimmy says:

Lisa, I know that the show was not meant to be an anti adoption campaign, however I believe that watching that show will convince many people not to adopt. It will likely scare some potential adoptive parents away. That is why I referred to it in that way. As for solutions to the problem, I don’t feel that the show did actually provide any solutions other than disruption, or sending your children away. No real resources were listed in the show to help families that can not afford to send their children to camp. I am not “bashing” the mulligans, simply stating my opinions on what I felt they did wrong.



I didn’t see the program, knowing I wouldn’t like what I saw. RAD can take a while to show up so it is NOT the adoption agency seeing dollar signs. Any well informed adoptive family knows of RAD and the more countries join the HAGUE treaty on adoption the more education is required. The US is now requiring so many hours of training because of signing the treaty. I would also like to point out that RAD happens in non-adopted traumatized children. The behaviors have been around forever, we just called it other things. It would probably been more beneficial for families if RAD was addressed as a result of trauma and not just adoption, there are probably many families experiencing it who don’t see it because their kids are not adopted!



The Mullgans are now suing the agency. But court records obtained by “20/20,” the adoption agency argues the Mulligans agreed to assume the risk that their adopted children “could arrive with undiagnosed physical, emotional, mental and /or developmental problems.”

What did thy expect anyhow? Taking an 11-year child to country where she didn’t speak a word and they didn’t speak her language? Regardless of the abuse she suffered, did they expect a picnic? Did they expect GRATITUDE?

Too often, people who adopt are amazingly naive. They believe that “love will conquer all.” Too often agencies hide the truth to “sell” the children and make a profit. The US agency is often not told the truth by he foreign agency who may or may not know the truth…but common sense tells you that a child who is given away at age 11 has suffered a trauma just in being rejected!

Ad then…people like the Mulligans seem to “blame” the child a label them “disorders” like RAD. Preposterous! Failure to trust and “bond” seems a very appropriate response, quite normal and natural for someone who has been abused and rejected!

The saddest part is that the Mulligan’s story is NOT an anomaly! More than 12 children adopted from Russia have been KILLED/MURDERED by their Americans adopters who “couldn’t handle” them. Untold others have been tossed away like yesterday’s garbage!

PLEASE READ:

“The Stork Market” America’s Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry” for the full story.



The Mullgans are now suing the agency. But court records obtained by “20/20,” the adoption agency argues the Mulligans agreed to assume the risk that their adopted children “could arrive with undiagnosed physical, emotional, mental and /or developmental problems.”

What did thy expect anyhow? Taking an 11-year child to country where she didn’t speak a word and they didn’t speak her language? Regardless of the abuse she suffered, did they expect a picnic? Did they expect GRATITUDE?

Too often, people who adopt are amazingly naive. They believe that “love will conquer all.” Too often agencies hide the truth to “sell” the children and make a profit. The US agency is often not told the truth by he foreign agency who may or may not know the truth…but common sense tells you that a child who is given away at age 11 has suffered a trauma just in being rejected!

Ad then…people like the Mulligans seem to “blame” the child a label them “disorders” like RAD. Preposterous! Failure to trust and “bond” seems a very appropriate response, quite normal and natural for someone who has been abused and rejected!

The saddest part is that the Mulligan’s story is NOT an anomaly! More than 12 children adopted from Russia have been KILLED/MURDERED by their Americans adopters who “couldn’t handle” them. Untold others have been tossed away like yesterday’s garbage!

READ:

“The Stork Market: America’s Multi-Billion Dollar Unregulated Adoption Industry” for the full story.

http://www.AdvocatePublications.com



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