Don’t Save My Child!

One of the most difficult aspects of being an adoptive or foster parent is that the vast majority of the population around you believes your child is damaged and it’s their responsibility to rescue them. Nothing could be further from the truth!

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Please, for the love of all that is good and Holy, DON’T Save MY Child!

I know, I know- his eyes melt your heart, his cheeks beg to be pinched, her smile is stunning, her story is terrifying. My kids come from difficult places. I know you think you know them. I know you want to save them. I’ve overheard you marvel that they were “unwanted.” I know you think you’re privy to their story because you heard a rumor in the neighborhood.

Some of what you heard is probably true. Their lives were hard. They had obstacles to overcome that seemed impossible…they still do. I understand that it breaks your heart. Once upon a time, it broke mine too. I used to have pity for my children, then I learned that there is a better way to love them.

I know he came in to school this morning begging for food. Please don’t feed my son breakfast, he had a healthy breakfast this morning at home. When he was a baby, he was hungry… a lot. I know you think it won’t hurt. I know you may even believe that I neglected him this morning, based on what story he’s telling you.

The truth is that his mind is playing a trick on him. His fear tells him that mom’s can’t be trusted. His memory tells him he’s hungry. When you confirm that fear with a seemingly harmless snack, you are stealing the security and trust that my husband and I have spent years building.

I know my daughter is beautiful. I know her eyes are often filled with sadness. I know she leaps into your arms like she’s known you for years. I know it warms your heart that she wants your attention…and the attention of everyone at the grocery, library, church, park, birthday party, and mall. I know you think you can fill this void for her.

I know that you think she just needs your love. I know you think she knows real love. Affection has been confusing for her.  Congeniality is a means to survival. Love has been conditional for her. Please do not kiss her, hug her, or hold her.

While you delight in her attention, I am waiting patiently for her to peek out from behind this persona she has created for protection. I have waited years for a genuine hug or kiss. I have listened each day, desperate to hear her call me “Mom.”

I know you think she needs you. She needs me, just like your children need you. She needs ONE mother. She needs to know that I can meet her needs. She needs to know I will protect and love her and ask for nothing in return. She needs to know that I love the person she is inside her hurting heart.

I know my children were wards of the state once. You may mistakenly feel that this makes them public property. You may ask inappropriate questions about them. You may tell pieces of their story to others. You may even think this is caring curiosity. I understand. Now please STOP. They do not belong to the public.

They are MINE. If I tell the details of their story I will lose the trust of the people I care about the most in this world. I will not answer your intrusive questions because I value the trust of my children.

I’ve heard you say “love will heal all wounds.” I assume you think it’s “love” to give my son the cookie I told him to wait for.  I’m guessing your version of “love” is soothing my daughter while she sits in time-out. If I do not require my children to practice patience and self control, I am telling them they are not capable.

I will continue to set boundaries and give consequences because I believe they are strong enough to handle it. I will not allow my children to be defined by the tough places they have come from.

I see the potential in my children. I am stepping back to allow them to one day become the man or woman God created them to be. Please step out of the way as well. Please stop trying to save my child.

Question: Have you faced similar struggles with your children? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


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  • Melanie Stinson

    Wow! That is so true for so many of our adopted and foster children. I wish we could convince teachers especially that this is relevant!

    • Melanie, thanks for your comment. Kristin and I wish the same thing!

    • Kristin Berry

      Melanie, Thank you for sharing. I am finding that as I begin to give the proper information and tools, many people want to be a part of our team. I wish you the best of luck with your child’s teachers!

  • Jen Garber

    Thank you for your post! It truly echoes how I feel. We are finding this to be true with extended family. They have thoughts and opinions on how we should be parenting our son while they are not his parents and only have seen snippets. We are his parents and we are doing the best we can for this child that God placed in our family. There are MANY challenges we are facing with our son and those on the outside looking in do not understand what that means for daily interaction with him or how we could be so exhausted. So thank you for putting voice to my thoughts!

    • Jen, I will pass on Kristin’s sentiments by saying, “you are most welcome!”

    • Kristin Berry

      Jen, My parents experienced a similar thing when my younger brother was adopted. I know first hand how well meaning friends or relatives can damage the healing process of a child without realizing what they are doing. You are right when you say that God placed your son in Your family. You are not his parents by accident! I wish you the best as you navigate this road.

  • Carly Marx

    How’s an outsider supposed to know for certain that a kid has eaten sufficient food and received enough love? There are plenty of kids across all socio-economic lines who demonstrably receive neither. Should I ignore their plights, too? Must all love and emotional support come from only one person? Does my sincere caring really diminish your child’s relationship with you?

    • Carly, the point we are making with this post is there are many (in the schools or society as a whole) who disregard communication with parents on the situation surrounding their child, and draw their own conclusions. Thanks for your comment!

      • Carly Marx

        I’m sorry, Mike. I didn’t realize you were directing this at people who disregard communication with parents. Clearly, that’s a problem.

        • Carly, no need to apologize at all. I love the feedback and the discussion. Thanks again for participating!

          • Marie

            Carly’s reaction was also my first reaction. I have not been blessed with children and that, I think, makes me more susceptible to children who might approach me or who I might just see that might have a need. I want to be the kind of person that will extend myself in any situation, counting others needs above my own, even if that person is a little 7-year old who says that they are hungry, can they have a snack. If a child says this to me, I don’t immediately jump to the conclusion that their home life is miserable and that they are starving. Instead I feel both honored and obligated that I was the one that child asked for a snack. If I can provide, I will. Your blog didn’t really make the obvious point of the importance of communicating with parents. I also believe that this is very important, but the examples you wrote did not convey that problem. It seemed more like a request for those of us out there that really only want to care for the world around us, to withdraw. I will not.

          • Marie, thanks for your comment. The point of the post was not to tell people involved in a child’s life (teacher, coach, counselor, youth pastor, etc), to not care or withdraw, but rather to not enable and to ask questions when a situation arises. For instance, a few years ago my son was throwing tantrums before school and refusing to eat the balanced breakfast we provided him (oatmeal, cereal, eggs, fruit). He would in turn go into his school, tell a sob-story about how we weren’t feeding him, and his teacher would give him granola bars and snacks because she really thought he was not being fed. This went on for weeks and there was never a phone call to us to inquire. What she taught him was that he could throw the tantrum at home and then receive what he wanted at school. When we questioned her she told us that she felt sorry for him and that she wanted to make sure he was taken care of. However, her primary job was not to make sure he was taken care of, but to teach him. It’s our job as his parents to make sure he is taken care of. Instead of consulting us immediately when it happened, she let it go. Thanks again for your comment.

          • Catie Field

            I’m surprised that the teacher didn’t notify CPS when one of her students repeatedly said he was not being fed at home. In the same situation I probably would have given him something to eat and contacted CPS. I can’t ignore kids when they say they are hungry/cold/hurt etc. it just goes against every fiber in my being. In no way, shape or form am I trying to undermine your parenting but I generally don’t trust people. How often do abusers say that the victim is a liar? It especially easy for neglectful/abusive parents to say “he just didn’t like breakfast” making a liar out of the child and saving their own butts in the process. I wish we could take everyone at face value but we don’t live in a perfect world. People like me aren’t trusting for good reasons…

          • Catie, you wouldn’t contact the parents to first inquire before moving to a CPS call?

          • susan r

            I work with children and youth for a living. We are not supposed to call parents if we suspect abuse or neglect. We are to call child protection first.

          • Kristin Berry

            Catie, I would hope that as a professional you would take into account the history of a child and their family before putting them through an investigation with DCS. Children like mine have already had an unbelievable amount of trauma in their little lives. An unwarranted DCS investigation would put a child through yet another trauma. I am assuming you typically do your homework before educating any child with special needs. Having done your homework, you would be aware of the classic signs of brain damage that Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Reactive Attachment Disorder and Traumatic History cause. You would also have the information that you see in front of you each day. Is the child well groomed and healthy? Does this family have other children in the school? Do they seem well groomed and healthy? I hope that you are the type of responsible teacher that works with families instead of against them. This post is a very limited glimpse into our story as adoptive parents of children with special needs. We are always more than happy to work with people who would like to know more about how to care for our children as they are healing.

          • sharie

            Catie, no disrespect but your comment about calling CPS is what I believe Mikes message is about. There are so many people that listen to a child say something and before any questions are asked someone calls CPS> The sad part is that most children don’t truly grasp the fact that they can be taken from their homes or the pure hell their family is going to go through because they decided to act like they are never fed. An adult SHOULD grasp this and 9 times out of 10 they fail to think and ask questions first.In turn doing more harm than help.

          • Toni

            Because in our case, this is an adopted child. It should automatically be assumes that CPS has been involved and a good family is working with the kid. This will be documented extensively with the proper authorities so teachers etc WILL know this. If you are not of such an authority, then at the very least, you would still suddenly see a child join a family and you should assume fairly quickly that there are other entities involved. Instead of assuming you know how to help the child, start with asking what you can do to help.

          • Catie, while your intentions are most assuredly noble, you’re doing a lot of damage to hard-working foster families with an attitude like this. My wife and I have been foster/adoptive parents for nearly a decade, and have been through 4 CPS investigations initiated because of teachers with an attitude like yours. My children were already removed from their home by CPS once – and having them back in our home brings back every bit of the trauma they experienced when they were first taken. I cannot stress enough that your first step should NEVER be to call CPS. Communicate with the parents extensively before you ever take that step. You’re likely hurting the children you’re trying to help. I can tell you that out of the four CPS investigations we were subjected to, every single one of them was marked unequivocally unfounded – and in not one instance were we contacted by a concerned teacher first.

          • So sorry that happened! Yes, we do need to talk to parents first for the sake of not adding more trauma.

          • Kristin Berry

            Another factor in this story is that my child has severe food allergies. These allergies are well documented on our child medical release forms. The granola bar he was given was against his dietary restrictions. This teacher had not only put his emotional health in danger, she put his physical health in danger as well.

          • Jen

            The post does not encourage asking questions when situations arise. Rather, it sounds to be discouraging that.

          • Kristin Berry

            Marie, Thank you for your comment. Feeding any child without the permission of their parents is crossing the line. Two of my children have severe allergies, that alone puts you at a risk of harming them if you do not check with me first. This post is a very limited glimpse into our life with 8 children with special needs. There are many wonderful ways that you can serve others and help those in need without putting yourself or others in danger. I truly hope that you will not stop caring for others. If this blog is something you are interested in reading, I think you will find many wonderful ways that you can help adoptive families in a way that will aid in their healing.

          • dana

            Marie- Some children that have been abused or neglected have reactive attachment disorder. It is a very complex condition. And these children could have eaten 5 minutes ago and will go ask for food from someone else and say they are hungry. The love on anybody anyone. No one is a stranger. I have 3 children with RAD’s and it has caused alot of agruements with people because not many people understand the situation.

          • Nice way of handling misunderstanding. Top notch.

      • Jennifer Wyatt

        This is 90% of what I experienced as a parent with my oldest daughter. I
        was the only authority figure in her life. So, when she didn’t want to
        do chores or homework or have consequences for breaking curfew, she
        would u to others and tell them how horrible I was and they would take
        her in and hide her from me, saving her from real life. Now, many years
        later, we are just now rebuilding our relationship and she and both her
        daughters are suffering the consequences of her choices. It is a hard
        road… If others would have either left us alone, or inquired further
        instead of stepping in where they had no education nor understanding of
        how to handle, years of pain could have been avoided.

        • Toni

          I am sorry to read this. I am in the same boat. My daughter was adopted at age 11. She struggled with accountability for her actions. Once she hit her senior year of high school she decided that the rules did not apply to her and she would not abide by them. A local family felt sorry for her and bought into her lies. They drove to our house in the middle of the night and helped her sneak out her window. They hid her from us for several months. We eventually told her that she couldn’t have contact with us if she wouldn’t disclose where she lived and she eventually backed down. So we know where she is, but that family is providing her freedom that I am unwilling to provide her. She needs structure and accountability. So at this time, we are waiting for her to hit rock bottom. At some point I believe this family will tire of housing her. I don’t see them paying for college or “life in general” for her. But I won’t give her a dime so long as she is living with them.

          • Sue Fisher

            We are afraid that our older adopted son is heading in the same direction, so I feel your pain! The other parents who are being sympathetic to him are just making things worse!

          • krissy

            I am going through the exact same issue as you Toni. It all begins when they are young. They dupe adults into believing they are not being fed or given other basic needs at home. The children grow into adulthood believing they can get what they want or need by just lying about it.

      • Solati

        We struggle with this every day!!

    • Kristin Berry

      Carly, Thank you for joining in the discussion. I too have been on the other side of the fence in this situation. I have seen real hunger, real poverty and real signs of abuse. I have been the one to sound the whistle when I believe a child is unsafe in their home. In this blog post I only intended to tell the perspective of an adoptive mom dealing with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Reactive Attachment Disorder and Traumatic history.

      • Tim Schubert

        As a member of an adopted family with kids with FAS and RAD, I understood that. The uninitiated, however, are far less likely to pick up on that since it is never explicitly mentioned. I found this on Facebook, and my initial reaction was Carly’s until I got much further in. You can probably safely assume that most readers here are know enough about you to understand these things, but Facebook exposes this to a very large number of people that don’t know that, and will leave here with Carly’s initial opinion before they ever get to the comments.

        Just my 2¢

        • Tim, thanks for your input.

        • Kristin Berry

          Tim, thank you for your insight.

    • Hannah B

      No you shouldn’t ignore a child’s request for food but instead ask with the parent first before you feed them anything. That’s just common courtesy and especially in today’s world where food allergies, sensitivities, and culture is at play. But here’s a clue, if the child looks pink and healthy yet they’re saying something along the lines of, “I’m starving because mommy never feeds me” you can bet it’s not the truth and you should definitely consult with the parent before feeding them. Be my guest if you want to provide my children with emotional support in casual conversation but if your idea of love and support looks anything like the physical affection you’d give your own child, count mine out. I personally would not appreciate an “outsider” hugging, holding, kissing, or touching my children in any way other than a casual tap on the shoulder or pat on the back, that is reserved for only deeply trusted friends and family only. To answer your last question, as an outsider who doesn’t know the upbringing or family dynamic of the child in question, mostly all emotional support for a child from foster care needs to come from one mother and one father in order for them to build love and trust with their children. Acting first without consulting the parents for advice on how to handle their child could most definitely diminish what the parent’s have worked hard to build and could continue to validate the false beliefs they’ve had previously nurtured.

      • Hannah, thanks for your comment. I especially agree with you that any teacher or outside caregiver should consult with parents first before acting.

        • susan r

          Most schools I am involved with have open food programs. Students take food if they want food, parents aren’t asked. We have lunch programs that require sign up and payment but many schools put out breakfast food for any student who wants it.

      • Kristin Berry

        Hannah, Thank you so much for your comment! Absolutely perfectly written.

    • Dm Jalovick

      yes it will…I have a child with RAD, and if you “help” my child you are disrupting any chance of a bond we may develope. You need to read up on RAD if you want to know what the parent of a RAD child goes through. Unless you have had one, you will never know. Talk with the parent if you want to learn more about their child. Educate yourself first.

      • Dm, we have a child with RAD too. It’s been extremely difficult. Thanks for commenting.

      • Kristin Berry

        Thank you for your comment. Best of luck as you continue to help your child grow.

    • Toni

      Yes, your sincere care really CAN diminish my child’s relationship with me. Please understand that although I too believe there “can never be too many people that love my kid” there are issues. I adopt the “hard” kids from foster care. When I set boundaries (desperate needed as they frequently have very poor boundaries) and some body else says those boundaries can be ignored, what you are truly telling my child is that I am unreasonable. I am in the process of working with this child to bond and form attachment. This is a delicate process generally occurring with intense therapy. If you don’t KNOW the situation, please stay out. Communicate with the parents obviously but then respect that they are working with professionals and your “sincere care” may actually be causing harm not good.

    • Solati


  • Debbie Cavender

    We currently deal with this issue from our 15-year old son’s (adopted 18 months ago) school. He hates homework and will not do it outside of school. Recently he was behind in math class. We asked for him to be given a list of assignments and a deadline and bring it home. The math teacher and the ESL teacher decided they would “take care” of him catching up on his math during her ESL time. We were overruled. Any time something is a little too hard or he doesn’t want to do it, our son puts off signals and his teachers back off for “fear” he won’t do anything at all. We have tried and tried to get them to see what he’s doing, but they still buy into the manipulation game. They just don’t see how much they are enabling his behavior, therefore our authority is constantly being undermined. He is not thankful or grateful for any of their help, and acts as if he’s entitled to it, but doesn’t have to give anything in return.

    • Debbie, I completely understand this frustration. So does Kristin. We have walked this road many times. It is so frustrating. I hate that you are dealing with this with your son’s school!

    • Kristin Berry

      Debbie, Thank you for sharing your story. It is our hope that by sharing our stories, adoptive parents will begin to find support and be able to teach others (teachers, friends, relatives) to recognize the behaviors specific to children who have a traumatic history. When we are able to work as a team with those around us, we will create a sense of security and cohesiveness for our children. I hope that your son’s school will stop the enabling and encourage him to take ownership of himself. I wish you the best in this situation.

  • Darren Barker

    I can’t explain how relevant this post is to our situation. The school staff and principal have gone to great lengths to personally override everything we are trying to teach our adopted daughter. They don’t understand the importance of everything you have mentioned here. They are fixated on “saving” OUR daughter, when in fact, they are building even more hurdles for her to overcome. Hurdles they are too blinded by their false sense of purpose to even recognize they are building. We have told them until we are blue in the face what SHE needs, and what OUR wishes are. But, things only change for the worse. Now, they are taking our requests personal, and deliberately defying our wishes. They don’t understand OUR daughter is not neglected, not abused, not going unkept. They take every opportunity to let their emotions rule and refuse to see there is another side to the situation. One they know nothing about, and one that is frankly, none of their business. But, our daughter will see just how far her parents will go to ensure she is raised with the best chances of being a successful adult. In spite of the school’s lack of understanding.

    • Darren, we completely understand where you are coming from. We have had to deal with our son’s school undoing what we’ve done. In fact, we had to have a confrontation with one of his teachers over this and it was ugly. I am so sorry you are dealing with this!

    • Kristin Berry

      Darren, Thank you so much for sharing about your struggles with your daughter’s school. It is our hope that families like ours will be able to come together and share honestly. We know how important it is for us as parents to find that delicate balance of communication with those who work with our children. I truly hope that you are able to get tools into the hands of your daughter’s teachers so that you can work together as a team!

  • Cheryl Wood

    My heart is broken repeatedly by my son. I have had to pull him out of school because at school he is treated like the king and at home he is just a regular guy. The dichotomy is resentful to him. He likes the throne. Too bad there is already a King of our home. I can’t wait for him to heal. His siblings have made the journey and we are waiting for him to decide to trust us…..

    • Hey Cheryl, thanks so much for sharing opening and honestly. That was one of our biggest issues when we found out what was happening at school with our son. He was being babied. He had learned that all he had to do was walk into school, tell a sob story, and he would be treated like royalty. Thanks again for commenting.

      • Cheryl Wood

        Kristin and Mike, Thank YOU for your open and honest blog! It is beautifully written. We have had so many uphill battles with our kids and from well meaning friends and family who don’t understand. We have been turned in to child protective services because someone who was supposed to be a friend didn’t understand therapeutic parenting. 2 of the 3 sibs that we adopted are nearly healed. We just have one more to go! Last night I posed the question to him, “Which team do you want to be on? Cause everyone else in the family is on MY team. You are the only one on your team. And I WILL WIN! When you come onto my team, you will win too!” This morning he decided that he wants to be on my team! I hope and pray it is true! I also decided that I will just call him, “My blessed son.” Using the power of the word to speak life……blessings to you!

        • Cheryl, that is so awesome to hear!! Thanks for your willingness to share.

    • Kristin Berry

      Cheryl, This is a story I have heard from so many of our adoptive friends. You are not alone in this. I’m praying for healing for your son too!

  • Margie Lundy

    “seemingly harmless snack”, such a struggle here. Thank you so much for saying this so well. Many of us can share and explain a bit more to friends. Thanks!

    • Margie, it’s truly our pleasure! So glad you liked the post.

    • Kristin Berry

      Margie, Thank you for posting. Good luck as you navigate this bumpy road of parenting:)

  • mamawest777

    YES!!!! Just pulled our youngest out of reading recovery for these very same reasons! I will sacrifice 1st grade academics over longterm healing any day. He is very bright and will learn to read on grade level in due time, but I am not willing to let him go backwards in healing for anyone or anything!

    • Couldn’t agree with you more!

    • Kristin Berry

      Thank you for sharing. We have had to make some of those difficult decisions as well. I wish you the best as you help your child heal.

  • CeCe Caldwell Benningfield

    I struggle with this article. I am a mother of adopted kids (one from the “system”) and i am also a teacher of many years. On one hand I see this author’s point. On the other, I don’t care who saves my little one as long as they are productive members of society. He is not mine. He is God’s. A precious child with issues but still precious. I don’t get hugged a whole lot by him. But I know he can show love. I have seen him do it. I have also been the teacher intent on saving a kid. It is a blessing to have someone love my kid. He is a challenge and I am just glad when people invest in him, sincerely. Hope this makes sense.

    • Kristin Berry

      CeCe, Thank you for sharing. I have been in your shoes as well. I have worked to bring safety and resources to a child in need who was not mine. When I was a foster mom I had to walk the very fine line of mothering a child while not hindering the mother/child relationship that was in the process of healing. This blog post is only intended to be from the perspective of an adoptive mom dealing with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, Reactive Attachment Disorder and Traumatic History. It sounds like those who love your child are also showing love to you by reinforcing your child’s trust in you. It is so encouraging to hear that those around you are investing in your son sincerely. I’m sure you are so thankful! Adoptive families can really use that kind of support!

  • We adopted a little boy @ 17 months old, who had been 4 previous foster homes -his blonde hair and crystal blue eyes “woo” everyone’s heart, it was cute initially how he said Hi to EVERYONE, it was the only word he knew… so we chalked it up to his delayed development wanting to communicate, over time his running in to strangers arms at the park, behind the cash register @ the grocery clinging onto the clerk, the doctors, therapist, strangers everywhere I have no doubt he would leave with a complete stranger if we weren’t watching him nonstop – it’s not just a hi… it’s a hug, it’s pick me up, it’s anything you will give me I will take and even though we have focused on the behavior and at times ignore the behavior nothing helps… frustration unending our little babe is now 4 and a half… he is still speech delayed but relentlessly is always vigilante in seeking out anyone who will listen, give him food, a hug, anything… I know some of it seems harmless but really no one could possible understand unless they were on the reciprocating end of how this effects the relationship every child needs – there is no established bond, there is deception, manipulation and in our home destruction, I would love how to hear how others deal with this in public or situations – I am constantly whispering to our guy when we get out of the car, no hugging , no begging for morsels of food etc… , thank you for sharing this story I have shared it with my friends and family as well as our church foster/adoption/orphan group – Blessings!

    • Lana, thanks for sharing it. Blessings to you too!

    • Kristin Berry

      Lana, Thank you so much for your honesty! I believe that your diligence will pay off for your little one!

    • Heather Roberts

      With mine. I have 4 RAD ‘minions’ ages 5, 4, 4 and 2. When we are in public and my child tries to get affection or things from others, I simply say “they are a stranger, we don’t do *fill in blank* to/with/from strangers” I don’t care if I make a fool out of myself. I need to teach my kids. I often will also take a thing, given to my child without permission, and give it back to the person and simply say “their mom said no, and they need to understand no means no, not ask someone else”
      I am probably to forward and out spoken but the momma bear in my is FIERCE!

      • Heather, you are on target by staying committed to teaching. So great to hear. Thanks for your comment!

  • Georgia

    As an Adoptive Mom I understood this post so clearly. My son has Asperger’s, ADHD, RAD, & PTSD. Schools very seldom listen to us. When he was in Elementary school we sent a lunch with him and told his teachers he will always have one. They still believed him when he said we didn’t send one and let him charge a lunch. So he got 2 lunches and we had to pay the school for their daily screw up. He is now 17 and they believe he no longer needs his IEP. We are still fighting to get it back. Thank you for writing this it is how most of the Adoptive Mom’s in my group feel.

    • Georgia, so glad this post spoke into your life. We want to be a voice for things like this. Thanks for your comment.

    • Kristin Berry

      Georgia, Boy do I understand the lunch drama! We racked up $30 between two of our children before we were informed we were going to collections for our delinquent account. :/ Thankfully we were able to block our children from buying anything more. The school really got on board with us that time and began reminding our children that mom and dad always provide a healthy lunch and that it would be a good idea to check their backpacks again. I wish you the best as you advocate for your child and his IEP.

  • Leah

    I’m sorry, I really do not agree with this. Being a neglected child who was then adopted, I can assure you that love and stability is required for all aspects of my life- not just from my parents. In fact, my loving adoptive parents are only people and often their love is conditional and that is what I’ve been brought up to expect. It has meant that I now don’t trust people, it means I have a massive wall up whenever I meet any one new. It has not allowed me to develop as a person but has instead hindered me because I constantly fear that I will never be accepted. I would’ve *killed* to have received a little bit of kindness from a stranger while growing up because then I would at least know that the world is not a dark, uncaring place. Truth be told, I find your attitude selfish and though you think it is in the interest of your child- I assure you it is not.

    • Leah, we are not telling outsiders (ie-teacher, care giver, etc) not to show kindness or love to our children, we are asking them not to enable them by acting without checking in with a parent first.

    • Kristin Berry

      Leah, I am so sorry to hear that your experience as an adoptive child was not one of unconditional love. Our approach with our children is based on Trauma Informed Care. We believe in unconditional love and we encourage teachers, caregivers, counselors, friends and family to come along side of us as we build our children up and help them as they heal. Thanks for your comment.

      • Leah

        I’m glad you wish to provide that love to your child, it’s definitely needed, but I honestly don’t think a possessive attitude will help the situation. The child can have more than one role model in his/her life and in smaller indigenous societies care of children is shared with all members of the community and no harm has come to the child’s well being. The article just seemed very narrow minded and concerned with making the parents’ life easier rather than what was actually beneficial to the child and to me, the child should *always* come first.

        • Leah, we are not against our children having many role models or influences, outside of us, in their life. If you notice, Kristin said that in response to your earlier comment. The issue we have is with people who take it upon themselves to parent our children or enable them in-spite of what they’ve been told or without gaining proper knowledge of the situation surrounding our child. Thanks for your comment.

  • Guest

    I am sorry to say this but I do not agree with your article at all. Being a neglected child who was then adopted, I can assure you I need love from all aspects of my life- not just my parents. Indeed, though my adoptive parents are incredibly loving, their love is still conditional and that is what I’ve been brought up to expect. It has meant I now have difficulty in trusting people, I have a wall up whenever I meet any one new because I am terrified I won’t meet their expectations and so will be rejected. In all honesty it has hindered my ability to develop social relationships. You’re talking as if you’re child is a possession who can only receive your love and support and to me, this is incredibly wrong. Your child is a *person* with their own needs, hopes and desires- who needs love from everyone in order to build trust with the outside world and develop as an individual. I would have *killed* to have received a little bit of kindness from a stranger as a child, to know that the world isn’t an uncaring place- that is was possible to experience the unconditional love you claim to advocate (kindness from a stranger is a better insight into unconditional love than a parents’ because strangers get nothing in return, parents expect your love). To me your attitude is incredibly selfish and though you feel it may be in the best interest of your child- I assure you it is not.

    • JuanFiguroa

      Guest, I’m so sorry that you had this experience. But. Undermining your adoptive parents would not have resolved your problems. If your adoptive parents were having a struggle, the solution for the “village” is to help them strengthen their family and their parenting. (You don’t say here that they abused you, so I assume they didn’t.) I am acting as a backup to a friend who has an unhappy 13-year-old (adopted). He’s temporarily staying with us (at his parents’ request) and we’re all working together to reintegrate the family. He asked yesterday if he could call me Dad. I told him that name was reserved for one person, but he could call me Padre, if that felt better. I expect he’ll be back in his home in the next few days. He’s a good kid; his parents are good people. But sometimes a growing teen just needs a little break. That’s how you help. You don’t frickin’ call CPS and destroy the family!

    • JuanFiguroa

      Also: “Unconditional love” is not a thing. Love is what you do for another person. Loving acts are always conditional. I’ll make you a sandwich if you’re hungry. But if you respond by stabbing me in the eye with an icepick, I’m going to stay the hell away from you, no matter how you beg me for another sandwich. And if you’re my kid, and act like a mouthy, disrespectful pain-in-the-butt teenager, I’ll send you to your room without dinner. I may feel protective of and affectionate toward my kids, but I won’t tolerate even my own teenager’s antisocial, bullying, criminal behavior. Because I’m a loving, present parent, I put effort into ensuring that there are consequences for terrible behavior. Unconditional love is not love. “Unconditional Love” is just a euphemism for “capacity for abuse.”

      • Ettina

        I’m really glad I’m not your kid. Unconditional love is a basic human need, and discipline for negative behaviour should never involve withdrawing love.

      • Campbell

        Sorry, but withholding food as punishment is abuse.

        • Christina Borges Pennington

          A defiant child missing one meal is not abuse, it is reality. If I don’t work, I don’t get paid, if I don’t get paid, then I don’t eat. Isn’t it an easier lesson at 12 for a well fed child to miss one meal then to set them up to be entitled and end up homeless and unemployable as an adult.

          • Campbell

            Children are not little adults, and there is absolutely no data to backup your claims that feeding a misbehaved child will lead to anything tragic. There is, however, a great deal of data that abused children are far more likely to struggle as adults. Withholding basic human needs (food, water, clothing, housing, etc…) is abuse. I don’t care if that child has “terrible behavior.” You can’t deny food to people in prison for that very reason.

            Traumatized children (such as those discussed in the post) are not having behavior problems simply to be “terrible.” Their brains are wired differently from abuse and neglect. A hungry child also doesn’t learn as well. Your far fetched analogy to needing to work to get paid suggests that you believe children need to earn the “right” to eat. Food is not a privilege, it’s a basic need. And I don’t agree that denying a child basic needs is better than your unfounded fears that feeding them will lead to homelessness. Sustenance does not make one entitled.

    • Darren Barker

      Sorry to hear you have experienced difficulty as you describe. I don’t believe anyone here is saying don’t show kindness to our children. Quite the contrary, if it were my choice, I would always choose for others to show kindness toward my child. It’s the mentality that the child must be saved that is at the core of the article. The problem is that people tend to try and “make up for”, or “fix” the child’s past. This creates an unrealistic expectation for the child, when their expectations are already confused. There is no “making up for”, or “fixing” the past. When people try to make up for another’s difficult past, they attempt to make the present unrealistically perfect for the child. This results in the fostering of an even more false sense of security, and it create a sense of entitlement that is unhealthy. Those results would be unhealthy for anyone, regardless of a persons background or upbringing. It’s not about unconditional love or asking others to withhold love. As parents, we don’t want to see our children treated poorly, we want to see them treated with kindness. However, in the best interest of the children, we don’t want to see them treated differently either. This article is about a syndrome that occurs within society where one creates a false sense of reality by trying to “save” another. Worse yet, they end up undermining the lessons the parents are trying to instill in their children. Lessons like moderation, patience, etc. Love comes in many forms, kindness is one of them. We all want to see kindness be the foundation for how our children are treated. But, enabling a false sense of security, or worse, a sense of entitlement over others is not love. It is the result of a facade. How can our children expect to know what it is to be loved, when people give in to their every whim simply because they feel sorry for them. That is not love. That says more about the giver than the receiver. The giver needs to feel better about the situation so they try to “save” the child, without considering what they are teaching them in the process. Again, that is not love, unconditional or otherwise. Kindness is always the answer. This article is about teachers and others undermining what we as parents are trying to teach our children. Again, things like moderation, patience, and the concept of earning something, rather than having things handed to them because they had a hard past. When our children grow up and go out on their own, will their employers and co-workers hand them everything they want just because? Will they know how to protect themselves from being taken advantage of if we do everything for them? It may seem like we are asking people to not show love toward our children. But, in reality, we are asking people to love them. Just in a way that gives them the tools they need to survive as adults. My wife and I love our adopted daughter just as we do our biological children. They are all treated the same. They all get love and discipline equally. They all receive the same love, have the same chores and expectations. All we ask, is that other people treat our daughter the same as they do any other child. She comes home from school crying because the one of her teachers talks to her in a baby voice. As if to say she is too dumb to understand otherwise. She is twelve years old. She doesn’t want to be treated like a baby. It stands out to her, and she doesn’t like it. I don’t write this reply to disregard your feelings, but rather to clarify where we are coming from. Hopefully by sharing we can all learn to understand each other better.

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  • Kristin Berry

    That is so good to hear! We have been blessed with a wonderful support group as well. I am working on a follow up post on how some of those people have been an invaluable resource of hope and healing.

  • JuanFiguroa

    The parents of spoiled cheerleader — and of every other child who allows strangers to manipulate and divide their family — thank you. That attorney who funded that lawsuit needs to be sued for parental alienation.

    • Juan, I agree! Such a sad story.

    • Kristin Berry

      Juan, Thank you for your comment.

  • Bob Larimer

    I would like to publish this article in my local media. How would you like me to list the credit for the piece?

    Bob L.

    • Bob, you are free to publish. Please credit it as “by Kristin S. Berry via” Thanks for sharing the post.

  • Cheryl Wood

    The problem is that sometimes the school will undermine what the adoptive mom is trying to accomplish. I had one teacher who was openly hostile to me and said snide comments on my son’s report cards. She did not take the time to understand my son’s needs, but instead put energy into judging me and my family and it caused so much stress for me. We have to team up to help the kids heal. I try to have an open rapport with the school and teachers.

  • Once upon a time, my five-year-old stopped eating at home (even on the weekends) because he realized he could survive without a mom by waiting until he got to school on Monday and telling the teacher he didn’t like what his mom packed in his lunches. The result was he lost five pounds, we had to pull him out of school, and he almost landed in residential treatment. He was so much more fearful of me once he had survived without me. He started really endangering himself to see how much control he had. We didn’t think we could keep him safe in our house. [Miraculously, he was able to stay and is healing.] Of course I had been communicating with the school all year long. They just thought I was crazy and he was really cute. At one point I asked the teacher if she would just please call me if he was unwilling to eat the lunch I packed. I would pick him up. She didn’t have to refuse him anything. I showed up at 3:30 and she had, once again, given him school lunch. He then could see the anger in my eyes and felt really powerful. How unsafe the situation made him. So much hurt could have been avoided. We could have connected as family so much sooner. Thank you so much for posting this, Kristin!

    • Alex, WOW! What a story. I’m sure that was quite an experience for you and your family. Hope things continue to mend. Thanks for commenting!

    • Kristin Berry

      Alex, Thank you for sharing your story. Kids who are going through this bonding/healing will do things that others think is completely CRAZY! It’s so good when we can get others on board with the healing process. I’m glad your family is able to move in a good direction together!

  • Ame

    i came here thru fb. i have a sped kid (bio) and another with other issues, so i kinda had an idea of what you were talking about but needed the comments to clarify. i would guess you’re thankful to reach so many. you may need to add a *preface* to some posts as you reach more viewers … i don’t see, thru this one post, you trying to be difficult or uncaring, so having a preface might help (if that makes any sense).

    having dealt with the public schools for ten+ years now and being in special ed for most of that, i can so relate to the school thing. and b/c my child exhibits sometimes uncomfortable behaviors in public, i can relate to that, too. the public school is truly one teacher, one admin, at a time. we might have it balanced for one semester even, and then the next it gets all mixed up – even if the staff stays the same. it’s a continuous and constant battle. just when i think i can relax, something else happens. most teachers are probably glad to see us go. that’s okay – many i am glad to move on from, to. they’re now in our past, but my kid is forever in my life, and my kid is the one who is most important. whether or not i make the teacher/admin/etc happy is not at the top of my priority list.

    the food thing!! and they do pay attention to what your kids eat in public school – what i sent my child to eat was addressed at every ard at least thru 6th grade … and i know b/c we’ve had to work with the nurse so much that she has often checked on my kid at lunch. we even had a medical iep thing once, but that was years ago, and i can’t remember the details now.

    i’ve been thru a lot myself, and my kids have, too – none of it worth explaining. but i’ve come to a place where i’m learning that (1) i am constantly the educator, and (2) that there will always be at least one more person who doesn’t understand, who acts/speaks inappropriately toward one of us … who needs to be forgiven. even with all my family and i have been thru, i still stumble upon situations where i am unknowingly uninformed and say the wrong thing, and i hope that someone else forgives me.

    having said that … it is especially frustrating with school, particularly when we invest so much time and effort to inform them and they disregard our efforts. they also tend to have the attitude that they *know* our child better than we do. unfortunately, there are a few parents who relinquish their responsibilities to the school (and church, etc). b/c of those, the rest of us are treated as though we do the same.

    i am continuously stunned when told by medical professionals and school teachers/admin/officials, “You really *know* your child!” apparently, this is rare enough in their worlds that when they meet those of us who really do know our child, even they are surprised.

    very early on in this process, i read that the parent is like the Chairman of the Board for the child’s life. there will be many who come in and out – med professionals, teachers, diag’s, admin, etc, but there needs to be one constant who has the Big Picture and knows everything. specialists only deal with their specialty. once, when my kid had multiple medical specialists at once, i gathered all the info and made an appt with the pediatrician to go over it all. i needed someone to look at all of it and discuss it with me in context.

    as each year passes, i seem to preface more at the beginning (there’s always a ‘beginning’ … a new teacher, a new admin, a new diag, new friends, etc). i am proactive. and it usually goes something like, “Hi! I’m _____’s Mom. We’ll be spending a lot of time together. I want you to know that I know my kid very well, and i’m an in-your-face-mom. it’s not personal, but i am her advocate, and given all her special needs, i need to know what’s going on in every area of her life so that i can coordinate appropriately and accurately report to her specialists. …” the ‘report to her specialists’ is a good one b/c the school, especially, cannot go against dr’s orders.

    when we meet new people or even when dealing with family and others, i have learned to be confident, not arrogant, and rather cut and dry. “my kid needs ______. i totally understand if you cannot accomodate that. if you can, we’ll stay; if not, we’ll go.” i don’t make it anymore of a deal than that. people do NOT need to feel comfortable with my child. i would rather they tell me the truth that they are not comfortable than to act like they are okay and then get upset or bitter or angry or, more importantly, not handle or perceive my child well. i have a friend whose son had severe asthma and severe food allergies when he was a preschooler. i was uncomfortable being responsible for him in certain situations till he was older. i was honest, and his mom totally got it. as he got older, i became more comfortable (esp after one of my own needed an epi-pen, too).

    the reality is … these things are hard. really hard. unless another is going thru something similar, they truly will not understand … and that is okay. it’s hard to let that be okay b/c we want them to understand, to know, but not everyone will understand and know. i don’t understand and know all there is about so many things in this world. and that’s okay.

    i think the one thing i really would like from everyone, though, is for them to acknowledge, “I don’t live your life, so I don’t know.” that would be nice, wouldn’t it 🙂

    i also think, in general, most people are good, and most people *want* to help, no matter how small their contribution. when i can find ways they can do this, and educate them at the same time, we all win. that doesn’t always happen, sometimes not even often. but when it does, it’s a very good thing, indeed.

    i didn’t read all the comments, just a few. i saw some who didn’t have kids. i totally understand that – i was married ten years before my first, and other parents were very rude to me when i didn’t understand their kids. it really hurt my feelings. since i didn’t have children of course i wouldn’t understand what it’s like to be a mom! they were often demeaning. i try not to be that way.

    when i can, i try to give others things they can do that are helpful. for example, i’ll verbally focus on something that i know would be positive for my child, redirecting any other possible thoughts or comments or actions to a place that would be beneficial for my child. that gives the other person something positive to focus on regarding my child, it gives them something to *do* to help, and it makes my child feel good … and it keeps things within what my child needs. i can’t always do this … and i don’t always even want to do this. but when i can, it’s often well received.

    it’s good to know we’re not alone 🙂

    • Ame, thanks for your comment. Sounds like you are a proactive parent. That’s great. And you’re right- we are not alone!

    • Kristin Berry

      Ame, Thanks for sharing your story. I can certainly understand the work that goes in to educating those around us! I have had such a good response from those who really care. (and those are the people we want to stick around!) I had no idea that this blog post would actually reach so many people. I wrote it for our small group of adoptive friends. I will have to clarify my perspective and my position in subsequent posts from now on!

      • Ame

        i think it’s most always a surprise when something we write turns into something so ‘big!’

        i also think it’s hard when we’re so ingrained into this life to sometimes have to go back to the beginning to help someone with absolutely no knowledge or experience. kudos to you!

        may God continue to give you and your husband the wisdom, strength, and endurance to finish this long race and give your sweet kids every opportunity to be and become everything God created them to be and become before the beginning of the world. it’s long, hard, frustrating, discouraging, exhausting … but also full of those moments, those priceless moments, when they bloom and reveal that all the sleepless nights and tears were so worth it. those moments add up over time. we truly learn to celebrate and appreciate all the tiny successes :).

  • Kymberly

    We’ve been having a similar struggle with our sons’ teachers, principal and other adults at their school. From the time we began the adoption process with them, we have tried to be open and available to support the school personnel with educating our sons. We have asked them to help us in return by not giving them candy/food for “good deeds”. They have a trauma history that includes many missed meals. They still do not trust that they will be fed adequately by us so they beg for food from everyone. (This was a skill their bio-mother taught them well.)

    • Kymberly, we have been through similar situations especially in terms of mal-nurishment. Hang in there. So glad to hear that your boys are making progress!

    • Kristin Berry

      Kymberly, Thank you for sharing your story and allowing us to celebrate your success with you. I hope you have many more!

  • Elisabeth

    I have no children of my own but my family welcomed in two sisters that are ten or more years younger than me. Although many of these psychological problems were not as well known or often discussed I wish they had been. Although they came into our lives as babies at one and three years old-eleven years ago) I recognize so much of this. The road is long (and far from finished) but some things are so much better.

    • Elisabeth, that is so amazing that you welcomed in your sisters. Blessings to you!

    • Kristin Berry

      My youngest brother is adopted as well. He is 8 years younger. He has had a long road to travel but he is such a blessing to me today!

  • Katy Ghormley McKinney

    As an elementary school teacher of 12 years and high school teacher for 2 years, as well as a parent of both foreign and state adopted kiddos, I can tell you that a CPS call is extremely serious. Investigations last for months. At the very first request for food, parents should be notified, at the very least, by a note. A phone call would be appropriate at the second request, thereby not allowing it to become an issue that requires CPS. Most schools now serve breakfast, so a referral for morning meals is far more appropriate than a phone call to CPS. It would be very unfortunate if a family had to suffer through an investigation, which is NEVER unbiased, simply because their child is manipulative, which ALL children are to some degree. If the child is truly hungry, and not being fed enough, for financial reasons, referring them to a state provided breakfast could save the child and family a lot of angst and mistrust of the teacher who call CPS on his/her parents. Furthermore, if the child is being neglected, morning hunger will not be the only sign. Is the child clean, clothed, well-nourished, homework completed, injury-free? If so, communication with the parent is more than warranted. Yes, even seemingly perfect families can be dens of abuse, I have seen it before. However, there are usually other signs. Starting with parent notification does not have to result in a child, who is truly abused, slipping through the cracks.

    • Katy, that’s great insight! Thanks for commenting!

    • sanveann

      I had a CPS investigation based on a remark my very literal son with ASD made at school that was misinterpreted by someone. It was very brief and the social worker/investigator was very friendly and professional. She met with my kids at their schools and came to the house once. Case closed (she realized immediately that the call was unwarranted). It did not last for months.

      • Sherri Lynn Valenzuela

        Consider yourself lucky.

      • Princess Victorious

        You were very fortunate. For many of us falsely reported, that is not the case.

      • Sarah Scott

        It really isn’t as common as parents would fear for CPS to take months of investigation. My parents were investigated for something trivial and it was over in a few days. I am also a Psychology major and one of my mentors is a former CPS worker and verify that these workers are as efficient as they are thorough. In my opinion, parents are way too possessive of their children. Whatever happened to the days when a village raised a child? Teachers work with dozens of students a day, if you’re a parent, try preventing these situations by making the first step in communicating with your child’s teacher instead of flipping out and writing a subjective article when a teacher fails to be perfect in their influence over your child.

    • Toni

      SO well said. As the adoptive mother of 8 kids from foster care that has had to endure unnecessary investigations (all were documented as unfounded) we have found the process to be extremely stressful for the kids who have already bounced around the system and do not trust the system. The moment that investigation starts, the kids very sense of security in our home is threatened and we see old behaviors reemerge. Their fears surge and they believe that our family will fail them as well. It is heartbreaking to watch and devastating to live through. It ultimately harms the child because it halts their emotional growth AGAIN and we have to begin the trust building all over again. And then these same “authorities” are confused as to why my child is not professing faster “now that they are adopted.” I have been known to point out that it might have something to do with authorities halting the child’s development due to false allegations.

    • Anna Lopez

      Thank you Katy. I am glad one of the Katys here shows some discernment and real thought process, instead of just rhetorical reaction.

  • Christine Moghadam

    Would you mind if I shared some of this on my blog? We have 4 adopted kids from Ghana (and 2 biological) You don’t know how much this speaks my heart…. – our 9 year old adopted and 3 year old adopted daughters have been led to believe they will be “loved” by anyone else except their parents. Consequently they have also attempted to destroy our family unit because of the outside influences from teachers and strangers… – it has been traumatic to us and the rest of our kids. But this beautifully written post is really what I needed to read and something I would love to share. Thank you for writing!
    My blog is:

    • Christine, thanks so much for commenting. I am so glad it touched you like it did. We know the battles you are facing and have been through. You are welcomed to share this post on your site. Our only requirement is that you note on the source (Kristin Berry via Thanks again!

  • Cassandra Sabrina Powell

    I am honestly disgusted with the things I have seen you write. This makes me very very happy to be homeschooling. It’s your kind of mentality that you are better for the child and that the parents must be bad that really makes for a lot of bad teachers. The fact that you are willing to put a child through so much emotional trauma with out doing any homework, inquiries or anything just proves that it’s not the child you are concerned about. It is yourself and how you would feel. It’s really thinking about yourself. People like you who think so lightly of contacting child services disgust me and sadden me. There is so much abuse in this system. And one of the abuses is just calling on a whim. You talk about not wanting a hungry child to disrupt your class, how do you think that child will be when you caused so much trouble in their family? Do you really see them being compliant and wanting to learn from you? I think that’s a bigger disruption. And on top of all that you honestly believe that one, All families get a thorough investigation and two, That what the outcome is,is always right and fair. So many kids that should get taken away, dont. Every day. Following investigations. And so many kids that shouldn’t get taken away,do. It is sad that you would take tearing a family apart so lightly.

    • susan r

      you believe that professional social workers will remove a child, even with a shortage of foster homes, from an appropriate home where they are needs are being met, just because someone calls to share a concern?

      • Sherri Lynn Valenzuela

        I realize this post is a year old but for the benefit of anyone reading currently, I feel the need to point out that “professional social workers” are not the same as CPS workers. A social worker is usually someone with a Master’s degree in Social Work. A CPS investigator, however, can be a person with four year degree in any subject, and some training classes. In some states, even less than this.

        And yes, children are removed for ridiculous reasons because workers want to err on the side of safety, but this overlooks the emotional and psychological damage that results from an erroneous removal.

      • Princess Victorious

        It happens more often than you think. And it’s a popular threat by case workers to try to intimidate you to confess to things that never occurred. As a child unfairly banned from my father because of a “shared concern”, I verify that it ABSOLUTELY happens.

      • Sheila

        They usually have to remove a child during an investigation. If it’s unfounded the child can return.

        • Beguine Girl

          But the damage may be irreparable in an adoptive situation.

    • Ettina

      I am shocked and saddened at how strongly you react to this issue. Keep in mind that any child could be abused or neglected, no matter how nice their parents seem or how manipulative the child is. Allegations of abuse or neglect should always be taken seriously.

      Think of the tale of the boy who cried wolf. When people learned to ignore his calls, a real wolf came and ate the sheep. Yes, some children do make false allegations – some even have a chronic pattern of it. But they can still be abused for real. Most adoptive and foster parents are caring and concerned people, but there are abusers in any walk of life. (I used to live next door to a verbally abusive foster parent – he’d spend hours each day loudly berating and shaming the kids placed in his care.)

      My family has also had child protection called on us for no good reason, and they never took me away. In fact, I didn’t even notice or care. You know why? Because there was no actual evidence. My family had food clearly available, I was well fed and clean, I had no unexplained injuries, and so forth. I’m sure my parents found it upsetting when they were investigated, but it certainly didn’t traumatize me. All it meant for me was a stranger visiting my house and an extra doctor’s visit.

      Far better to have them take a look than to miss a case of actual abuse. The sad fact is that not all parents can be trusted – something that caregivers of RAD kids should know better than most people.

      • Princess Victorious

        This is far too subjective to one’s own personal experience to make blanket statements encouraging people to call cps as anything other than a last resort. How blessed you were to not notice or be traumatized and to have the investigation closed right away. Unfortunately, that is not the case for most falsely reported investigations. I’m sure you mean well, but would you feel the same if you HAD been traumatized wrongfully? Because it agonist sounds as though you mean, “it’s ok if other families are traumatized and suffer damage because my family wasn’t and there’s a chance that at least some of those cases turned out to be real after all.” Wouldn’t you rather do your homework first and make a cps call your absolute last resort?

    • Anna Lopez

      You have great discernment Cassandra 🙂 Sadly not everyone does.

  • Gloria R.

    Cool! I would like to eventually share this as well. I am trying to have a Guest Blog on Thursdays, and it would be an honor to be able to have this post as a Guest. I also would like to add you to my blog addresses, so that other parents can find more resources. Thanks!

  • Have you heard of Reactive Attachment Disorder? I wish I was foreign to what your wife talks about.

    • Yes, we have dealt with RAD hands on. Very difficult.

    • Kristin Berry

      Yes we have. It sounds like you know how tough it is to have RAD as a part of every day life. I wish you the best in your journey!

      • Thank you. It is a spiritual battle for sure. Don’t worry about the people who don’t understand. You spoke right to the heart of people who know fully the reality you are talking about. God bless you, your family and your “work.”

  • Audrey M.G. Simmons

    Thank you so much for this. I’m the oldest sibling of seven, four adopted, all four with RAD/FAS and two with Asperger’s. This is so true. I’m actually really grateful that my mom homeschool because it gave us so much more bonding time, even though it was like hell sometimes. My sister especially was super physically affectionate. I’m bringing this up because I’ve read most of the comments and haven’t seen this side addressed, just mostly the food issue. My parents tried explaining repeatedly to her that she wasn’t allowed to do certain things or express affection in certain ways to people outside the family and she just didn’t get it. She’d resist touch at home half the time, but shower people outside the family with kisses and hugs and sit in people’s laps, especially male friends of the family who just loved doting on a sweet little girl (nothing inappropriate for age three or four, mind you). But this went on to six, and seven, and then my parents had to start telling these people, “Please don’t let her sit on your lap. Please don’t pick her up. We don’t mind if you quickly hug her, but she’s not developing appropriate physical affection skills. This is going to hurt her in a few years if she doesn’t start to understand healthy distance now.” And God bless them, most of them listened. If they didn’t, my parents would literally take her and redirect her to something else. I think that people who aren’t willing to listen to the parents (because we didn’t expect them to understand innately, just to respect what we told/asked of them) don’t understand how much damage they’re really doing. The manipulative lying, the physical affection, whatever, is not nearly as cute when they’re fifteen or sixteen and still acting exactly the same way.

    • Kristin Berry

      Wow! You absolutely hit the nail on the head. Disregarding a parent’s guidance can do so much to hinder a child’s healthy attachment. Thanks for sharing your story!

      • Audrey M.G. Simmons

        I’d like to add that she’s a really well-adjusted 18 year old now. She is affectionate with close friends and people within the family, babysits and handles little kids well, but got through all of puberty and early/mid teen years without physical affection/attention problems. I think that the way my parents handled things (and insisted others handle things) along with the Holy Spirit was a huge reason she didn’t end up in a pattern of a string of unhealthy boyfriends/physically intimate relationships when boys started paying attention to her. She’d developed a family-encouraged filter by then and it made a huge difference.

        And for the food thing (which some of my siblings also had) are your kids allowed to take food with them to school to eat during breakfast time or before classes begin? It helped my siblings a lot to have food that they KNEW mom or dad had provided for them but was in their control to eat or not eat, just to have it in a pocket or available. It doesn’t help much if the kid is still telling people that he’s not being fed just because he doesn’t like food (which is a complaint my youngest brother STILL lodges against my parents if he doesn’t have his favorites around), but it can help some!

        • Kristin Berry

          Audrey, thank you again for sharing your story. It’s so great to see the success if similar families.
          We do allow our child with food anxiety to take a backpack to school with him filled with healthy food. His teachers have been so understanding. He usually eats none if it. He is comforted by just knowing it’s there!

    • Campbell

      Diagnostically one cannot have both autism and RAD. Go look at the DSM. RAD is thrown around way too much in the foster care and adoption community. It is a RARE disorder. Attachment struggles and/or behavior problems are not the same thing as RAD.

  • Hillary Alexander

    I am fighting this now with my son’s new school. The teacher’s are not believing the reports from the last school, they are taking him off of his IEP, he has other learning difficulties as well. I was even told that they need to bong with him and get a good rapport going. I am fighting tooth and nail to stop this because it just isn’t true.
    He tells the teachers he loves reading but I refuse to give him books or sit with him. I was hit for 20 minutes last night while trying to get him to read. I am fighting to get two teachers to listen to me and I am at my wits end. The only one hearing me is the principal. I am calling another IEP meeting only this time I am going to level the playing field a little. I am bringing in his doctor’s, mental health case manager, and a teacher who has taught these kids for 20 plus years. Some way I will get someone to listen to me.

    • Kristin Berry

      Your experience sounds like so many adoptive families. You are doing exactly the right thing with your IEP conference! Good job opening up communication between the school, family and other health care professionals. We were finally able to get a team of people together that were willing to work toward the same goal. That’s when we started to see progress with our son. Good luck!

  • Vanessa Harris

    As a former “ward of the state,” I approve this message. Absolutely spot on.

    • Kristin Berry

      Thank you so much for saying that. I appreciate your encouragement.

    • Campbell

      Well…I spent 16 years in foster care and aged out. I seriously disagree with this message.

  • Vanessa Harris

    If you are so aware of your own trust issues, you should work on that first before putting a family (adults and children alike) through the hell of a CPS investigation. Not every child is a reflection of you and your experiences, although until you begin the hard work of healing, it is hard to see that. Also, getting a kid plunked into foster care is not some sort of magical fix. Foster homes are especially high risk for abuse. CPS should always be the last resort. Talk to the parents first, and use your best judgment. Children who actually ARE in true danger die while waiting for bogged down CPS workers to wade through nonsense “cases.”

  • Tonya Carr

    i dont beleive this is comming from a place that every stranger should take this into account but, as a parent of a child with attachment issues that stem form before the last 11 years i have spent parenting this child i have to say i LOVE this article and i am sharing it with a few that need to get a clue. i have sent endless e mails, sat through many long iep meetings and put all teachers and workers of any sort that come into contact with my child on notice that before they have my permission to interact with my child they first must meet with us and read a 1 page of basic info on the diagnosis. from there they have the choice to call me and ask if there is a nned or to simply contact the ocy worker that has been working with our family through many many many false claims by said child throughout the last 10 years or so. if you are working in a school and can take the time to give a child a cookie i hope ou know you are way wrong to assume you are able to do so. what if my child have ciliacs disease or another extreame allergy but, enjoyed thier sweets so, didnt offer you that info and you sent them to the hospital with a severe reaction or, even death?? as a parent i can also say how frustraiting it is to see my child come home with brand new or used shoes because the ones they had on when you saw them were too small or beat up. same goes for all articles of clothing it has happened to me many many times, so sory to disapoint you by saying, if you were to read her school kept file, a simple look into her bookbag would reveal the discarded remainder of thier breakfast, the acceptable shoes, and nice clean, well fitting outfit i sent the child to school in be it dropping them off at the door or sending them on the bus. Children with attachment issues will do anything for attention! my childs bio mother passed away 3 times in the last few years, funny to hear from the school offering greif counceling when i had just recieved yet another threatening letter for her. Do you all give any thought to how the call to ocy can have a very negitive affect in the child and the household in general?? everytime all my children are pulled out of thier class in the middle of the school day and questioned by a complete stranger about thier family. would that not stress you out?? and to have this happen several times each school year because someone thought they were helping yet, never consulted as much as the guidence councler. i had one of my children end in theropy due to an anxioty tick from the stress of the affected childs wild story telling. have had 2 emotional breakdowns and all but 1 in our home is on medication to deal with the stress from all involved with raising a child with this issue. Im sure the auther has gone through simular things as i have that provoked this article. i have let everyone that needs to know and many in my community know that we are here if there are questions please, ask. i have 3 beautiful bio children as well all are very healthy and very happy. they all know all too well the price i am paying for another person bad parenting choices but, i love this child and im here to stay and i will do whatever i need to do to protect all 4 of my children even if that means having to talk negitivly about this child in meetings pull back the curtain to try to get them to see what is beyond, what the disorder hides except when this child is feeling safe and secure at home and that, is what scares them so, they act out. now you can pick apart my typos as it is 4 am and i have yet to sleep and i am not a writer by nature so my structure leaves much to be desired i am aware. but i am sure anyone can see the message that, caring for a child is not giving them something or being enthrawled in thier stories true or not. you can show you care by a smile and a wave. you can show you care by knowing thier name, asking how they did on that last spelling test, noticing thier new hat or seeing them frownasking what is wrong and if concerning simply say sorry to hear that then, go check with your supervisors. is that too hard, if your in my school district and opperaiting around my child without being aware of my childs needs then, i would launch a parent panel to get you out of there. i am an advocate for my child weather it seems im mrs nice or not i do what is needed and what truely is in the best intrest of my child.

    • Kristin Berry

      I’m sorry I giggled a little when I saw that your child’s “bio mom died three times” It’s so important that we share in communication with all the adults in our child’s life so that we can help the child get the story straight too. It’s so important for our child to take responsibility for their own words. Not just to discipline them but so that they can take ownership of their story, their actions, their relationships and ultimately their own life. Thank you so much for sharing a little bit of your story.

  • Becklist

    As a former foster youth I can really relate to this. Looking back over the years of my childhood I can now clearly see how many people tried to “save me.” The other thing that is now obvious in hindsight is that NONE of those people are a part of my life anymore. Oh how they disappeared so easily. So many people said they wanted to “adopt” me – literally and figuratively. I’m in my 30s now and…it people still say things like that when I share a little bit of my story. I know now to expect that sentiment to last only months. Maybe a year if I’m lucky. Then people go on and forget about you because they are on to saving a puppy or volunteering in another country or having their own children and grandchildren. I don’t blame people for moving on and forgetting about a friend. It’s just very painful at the same time though. It’s a really hard lesson at any age that people who seem to really want to connect and care about you are just living out kind of a savior complex. At your expense.

    As for calling CPS: I often think would have been absolutely better off just staying with my horrible family members than I was surviving our foster care system. No offense to the great foster parents out there. I just didn’t get any of those. And forget about the social workers, judges, psychologists, etcetcetc. You become very literally a number with a price tag $ on you head. It’s no way to grow up.

  • Cindy Lou

    I had a friend who I thought I could depend on when I had to go to the hospital for a few days. My daughter is Downs, PTSD, Behavior Issues and Touch Sensitive and she’s adopted. And behind my back she tried to place my daughter into a residential home. She called my daughter’s Service Coordinator and told her that she couldn’t take care of her and that I was going to be in the hospital for 3-6 months. Which was a lie. But because of what she did , if I do ever need to make that decision of placing her in a home, I am told the only way is if I die. Because of what this so called friend did. Then she turned around recently and posted on FB that I am a horrible mother and I don’t deserve my daughter. I want to send your post to her. But she blocked me. So may I print it to send to her?

    • Kristin Berry

      I am so sorry you had a “friend” do that to you. It is never ok for someone to step in like that.

      • Kristin Berry

        Yes, of course you may print it out.

  • Toni

    I live this currently. I have a RAD teenager that has “cried out” in such a way that a local family, without EVER speaking with me or my husband about the issues, simply allowed her to move into their home in the middle of night; and for a long period of time, she refused to tell us where she lived. Due to her age, we have no recourse. In their home, there are no rules and she is allowed to skip school and date inappropriately (among other things). There appears to be no consequences. No wonder she would rather live with them. I provided a family and structure. They provided so much pity that she just has freedom.

    • Kristin Berry

      I am so sorry to hear that this is happening with your teenager. Kids do want structure and boundaries. I’m hopeful that you will be reunited with your child and will be able build a genuine relationship with her. K

    • Connie

      Toni, we had this problem too w/our son. It took 2-3 months before the family grew tired of his behavior and returned him home. If only people would realize the damage it does. I’m thankful for this article.

      • Toni

        Ya. It has been 5 months already. This particular family seriously doesn’t care what she does. They have a depressed teen of their own that is loving having a “sister” so my daughter being there is making their child happy. They don’t care what choices my daughter makes since she is 18 and there would be no consequence to them. I am the one stuck receiving phone calls from the school regarding attendance and grades etc and there is nothing I can do since she doesn’t live with us. Very frustrating to have to keep telling the school “she is 18 and doesn’t live with me. Please follow through on school policy” which they never do.

        • Connie

          Oh I’m so sorry. Dealing w/the child, school, and the “other” family is very frustrating, not to mention, embarrassing. Sounds like you’re doing everything you can. Hang in there, Toni.

  • CherriandThomas Lane

    This is an old post/story but I am going to comment because I am new at this! And all I can say is THANK YOU!! I sit here with tears in my eyes because I am just learning what our son goes through. I am exhausted from trying to figure out why it just doesn’t seem like he really gets the whole love thing. So THANKBYOU for giving me this story that explains so much!! Cherri Lane

    • Kristin Berry

      Thank you for taking the time to comment! I wish you the best with your son. I hope that you will have a wonderful support system come around you to help you build that genuine bond with your son. K

  • Anna Lopez

    Catie, I wish you would actually think about what you are really saying here! Look at yourself and what you’re really doing!!

    I can tell by your post that you’re unhappy, working for a system that has you so closely and unfairly under the gun. But then you turn around and put the parents so closely and unfairly under the gun (making unfair and potentially dangerous assumptions, for example) which doesn’t make things any better. As a supposed professional, you should really educate yourself on foster/adopt children, traumas that often result from their pasts, and the behaviors and struggles of RAD children. It sounds like you are grossly ignorant of these pertinent topics, and by remaining so ignorant, YOU could be the one putting innocent children in danger!!

    If you were truly erring on the side of caution, you would take the time to talk to the parents and use your discernment (hoping you have some) to try and get to know them and their children, and open your heart and your mind to communicate with them all in an authentic way.

    Based on what you’ve shared so far, I am afraid you’ll react by telling us “but I have a classroom of 30 kids to teach and hold to the gun so they can pass that crazy test every year so we can get our state funding and I don’t lose my job! I don’t have time to do anything like that! I’m just going to call CPS, and let them come traumatize the whole family and scare already traumatized children again and let strangers wreck any trust that the parents have built! I’m just doing my job!”

    Is this who you are? Can you look at yourself and **honestly** say this makes you at peace that you are being a responsible caretaker?

    • Catherine Lohr

      As a foster parent this article feels like it was written about my life as a foster parent.

  • Anna Lopez

    Thanks for your post. I am uncertain about my daughter and one of her teachers. This teacher is really nice and my daughter has decided she is a “safe place.” My daughter does not hug everyone indiscriminately like some of the severely RAD kids do, but I am not sure I should allow her to hang on this teacher and hug her as much as she does. The teacher says she doesn’t mind. My daughter doesn’t hug any other adults besides me and her dad this way. What do you think?

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  • keeper

    Wow this is powerful! And this applies to my children even though they are not adopted by me. Their bio father was very abusive to me and to them; he is no longer in our lives. And because they are “abandoned” children in others minds I often deal with these same issues. Especially the daughter ones. I wish more people would get this! They were not abandoned by me, they were saved from their bio-father by me and now also by their wonderful step dad, soon hopefully to be their adopted dad.
    They are safe, loved and cared for no matter what they say or lead you to believe though their actions. They are learning safe healthy boundaries. Being rewarded for playing victim only keeps them in that cycle. I don’t want my kids to be victims or even survivors, that’s not how I want them defined. I want them to be healthy, whole, loved for being, and know it wholeheartedly.
    I see it so much like our salvation from the world and sin. Yet sin is what we know so we go back to it. Those old habits have to be broken, we have to learn to walk each day in faith of the love our Heavenly Father has for us. Guilt keeps us a victim to our own and others sin. My kids are not guilty for anything that happened to them and neither are you!
    You don’t need to feel guilty for what happened to them, you don’t need to go out of your way to do more for them, you don’t need to feel bad for them. They are not a victim any more…they are free. Will you allow them to be? Will you help them believe they are? Will you believe this for them while their faith is still growing?

  • “While you delight in her attention, I am waiting patiently for her to
    peek out from behind this persona she has created for protection. I have
    waited years for a genuine hug or kiss….” 4 yrs and waiting…thankyou for writing my heart. (Seeing him climb and snuggle into everyone else’s lap but mine)

  • Princess Victorious

    As someone who’s father was falsely accused of abusing me and my brother, and subsequently had him taken away from us for months, missing birthdays and important events at a crucial point in our childhood, all because of a person “erring” on the side of caution instead of verifying facts, I think you have no idea what it’s like and the lifetime of damage you can do. My family NEVER fully recovered from that ordeal and I’ve actually worked with other families that had to deal with cps. The system is so incredibly messed up. In the age of medical kidnapping and false witnessing, good families get torn apart and the ones who do need help, who cry out and BEG for someone to intervene, they get ignored and forgotten. It’s all about the money and if people choose to stay ignorant and assume they know what really goes on, then things will never change and the system will stay corrupt. Trust me, cps relies on meeting their quota for kids placed in foster care, but they more often go after families who DON’T have problems and ignore the ones who do. I wish I could meet the person who reported my dad. I wish he could see the pain he caused us, the damage he can never undo, all because he misinterpreted a single comment, overheard, out of context, and felt it was his obligation to err on the side of caution. He never even met us, not did he have our ages or anything else right. But the investigation was drawn out because it interrupted the case workers investigation, even though he knew from day one that the allegations were false, the minute he met us. It’s one thing to trust your gut, but unless you have hard facts, actual proof that abuse is going on, think twice. Do your due diligence and make erring on the side of caution your LAST resort. You will know if something is off, believe me. But just as you can’t fix things if you don’t make a call and a child gets hurt, you also can’t undo the suffering of a child who should have NEVER been separated from their parents in an unfair and unjust investigation based on a hunch and unfounded suspicion. Believe me, the emotional damage is still very great, I really don’t believe it can be justified. Not all families whose children get taken away under false pretenses are able to get them back, and sometimes those unharmed children get sent to foster homes where they DO become victims of heinous crime and abuse that would have NEVER happened if they were with their real family. I apologize for the long winded rant, but this subject is a very personal and passionate one for me. By all means, help the children who need it, but have a little respect and common sense and don’t go jumping the gun without worthy facts. It does more harm than good.

    • Elaine Willey

      You are so right, false allegations destroy families. So many foster parents think they are the hero’s. They do not understand how these children have been abused by the system, not the parents. They do not have a clue how many loving parents and grandparents have fought for their children and lost to a very corrupt system. They don’t have a clue how many tears have been shed by children and their birth families.

  • Connie

    I could’ve written this article. You said exactly what I’ve been saying for years. If caring people only understood how much their well-meaning intentions can sometimes hurt. Well said.

  • Missy

    Communication is the key both ways…from parents to other adults and other adults to parents. I wouldn’t want to discourage people from loving on my kids if we are not working on attachment and it is good to provide a healthy snack to a hungry child if they aren’t refusing to eat at home! We need more caring adults in kids lives in general so I would hate to discourage that. But communication is key.

  • Bobbie Howden

    This is the mindset that factored into deciding to homeschool my adopted children. My oldest, 4 at the time, was not happy about being adopted. She would often spin things negatively for a variety of reasons. It was a frightening time – thinking I could loose her because of some one not taking the time to see the full picture. In my area, children are apprehended and kept in foster care until an adoptive parent can prove their innocence. That would have destroyed any chance of attaching with my girls. It’s unfortunate that you, as a teacher, have decided this is the correct course of action. Taking a few minutes to talk to the parents could spare the children incredible trauma. It’s heartbreaking that you won’t.

  • Bobbie Howden

    Realize the comments have headed off in another direction, but thank you for this post. I’m an adoptive/foster parent. I foster long-term high needs children. My first child was with me 5yrs until she turned 18. It was surprising how many people tried to undo what I was doing. Now with more experience and confidence I know how to better address this but it is a continual challenge.

  • WTO

    I would surely hope you would consult with the principal prior to anything like that. How horribly reckless and ignorant to phone CPS without making sure you were just the one who had not done their homework. Perhaps I see you saying something to a child that I feel is not appropriate. Perhaps I should phone the police and report you as a child molester. Report first, ask questions later. Is that your method? Destroy a family when you could have simply asked their history first? I’ve thankfully NEVER encountered any teachers so willing to cause destruction rather than to educate and encourage a child/family. I think you’ve chosen the wrong career.

  • bunnyhunt

    As a foster parent I disagree with the premise that a profoundly neglected or abused child needs “only one mom.” A foster/adoptive parent isn’t a savior or a replacement for a bio parent. It’s been my very limited experience that kids from difficult circumstances who then lose their families are profoundly wounded and deal with it in immature, maladaptive, self-destructive ways that can, in turn, have a profound effect on the adoptive family. A new family can’t provide everything a child needs, or make up for the losses.

    They also cannot control the actions of others who are trying not to add insult to injury by providing something a child from “hard places “is asking for in an attempt to deal with their fear and exert some control over what the experience as a chaotic world around them.

    I see the attempts to get needs met, real or perceived, by any adult who will listen is just another disruptive, maladaptive, chaos-inducing thing foster/adoptive parents have to deal with. We cannot expect people outside foster-care-world to understand or dismiss a child who appears to be in need.

    I personally see foster care as a lesser of two evils and a very imperfect answer to a horrific problem. The trauma a child experiences by being removed from their family may rival any trauma experienced in the family.

    I personally don’t see Well-meaning adults as the problem. The child’s inability to trust a new parent might be modestly effected by these “meddling” others, but I think the damage is already done by the time the child reaches your home.

  • LE Shropshire

    As a mother of 2 adopted children, I TOTALLY agree with you, and I know where you are coming from. When the kids came to live with us (age 9 & 11) they had already had years of “playing the game”. They did what they had to do to survive. This means never meeting a stranger, inviting themselves to others houses, and expecting no rules or structure in their life. They would take anyone’s cell phone and start playing on it like it belonged to them. They were so used to people offering them anything they wanted, that they had no self control when they were told no. I took a few years before they started to understand that we were their providers, and they did not have to lie and manipulate to get things they need or want. I could have written this blog exactly! Thank you for sharing your thoughts. The people who are wanting to make it all about “hungry children” are missing the whole point.

  • Mother of 8

    Your blog is like a breath of fresh air. My husband and I started our journey 6 years ago. Along that journey we’ve adopted 6 kids and have 2 of our own. So that makes a total of 8. My husband is a LISW and has worked in the foster care system for most of his career. I have had a lot of the same experiences as most foster kids, but no amount of knowledge or experiences can prepare you for the road ahead. The love, grace, and mercy of our Lord and Savior is the only thing that has gotten us this far and the only thing that will help us reach the finish line. I agree completely with everything you both have written and want to thank you tremendously for stepping out in faith and being transparent. I look forward to reading more of your blog. It’s like salve to an open wound.

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  • dana

    Thank you so much for sharing. I have adopted 3 siblings from the foster system with conditions that include Reactive Attachment Disorder, ADHD, Bipolar, PTSD and ODD. The biggest condition out of these that is a day to day challenge everyday is the Reactive Attachement Disorder. I know exactly where you are coming from when I read this article. It sounded like I was reading about my own kids and how I have felt.

  • RogerC

    Our child came to us when she was 18 months old. She is 18 years old now. She is very pretty and extremely bright. Disinhibited. Diagnosed with RAD by age 7 as well as Anxiety Disorder, Impulsivity and ADD. School has been very difficult, Our experience with both teachers and administrators has been mixed. For the most part none of them really understood our daughter and even the ones who were caring and supportive had distorted views about the cause of her issues and what should be done. Our daughter had an IEP in middle school, her behaviors became so disruptive we decided to send her to a residential setting for a couple years. We found meds that helped control her raging and she came home. In high school our request for an IEP was denied, despite a recent confirming diagnosis and recommendations and input from her psychologist and therapist. She has been evaluated four times since age 7, with consistent diagnoses. The prognosis however keeps getting worse.

    Her mother and I are exhausted. My wife readily gave up her career to provide a constant, consistent environment. When our daughter was in residential care this often meant emergency trips, late night calls (sometime for hours) etc. However our family thinks we “caused” the issues, our friends are long gone – our fault as we became prisoners in our own home. People just don’t understand that life with RAD is 24/7/365 of lies, thefts, manipulation, calls from school, destruction in the home etc. It never stops, No end in sight. Relationships are strained, finances stressed, and hope fades.

    I think if a teacher ever tells me again that they have other kids in their class to consider I’ll punch them in the face. Those same teachers hated my child and let her know it. They made a decision that some children are simply worth more than others. My child was the loser. She was odd, strange, BAD. WRONG, my daughter is disabled. The schools don’t agree. The courts don’t agree, the criminal justice system does not agree and social security does not agree. BUT they are all wrong. And she will struggle and suffer for the rest of her as a result. Don’t think your know what RAD is. Educate yourself.

    If you have a friend or family member who are raising a child or children with this issue stop judging them and help. They need respite, they need understanding, they need your advocacy. And more important a child with RAD simply will not improve when only their parents are the ones giving them what they need. If the outside world confirms their fears and anxieties they will behavior in the ways that make them feel safe.The children need us all to understand.

  • Nora Matthews

    It’s such a complex balance from the foster parent’s side. Confidentiality issues and straight-up exhaustion are real obstacles in communicating with the school. And you point out a major barrier: the professional development of educators. Just as foster parents are trained to understand that parenting a child who’s been through trauma is going to be different from parenting or babysitting a typical child, it’s imperative that educators get that training. And when they don’t have it, which is often, it falls to the foster parent to communicate and advocate for the child’s needs in a system that has not been designed to meet them. Having been on the teacher side I think I have a good view into how difficult this is and how easy it is for teachers to make assumptions and generalizations about what is going on in a home. Carly is right, it is impossible for an outsider to know what they don’t know, and as foster parents we have to find compassion for those who mean well, even when it can be problematic. But it is an important testimony you give here, that so often those who are “well meaning” are exacerbating issues of attachment and discipline because they do not fully understand that a particular child’s history makes them operate fundamentally differently from children they are used to. It is frustrating for foster parents to be in a position of constantly educating the public on top of so many other responsibilities, but it is necessary. Outsiders can be easily defensive (as can we) and effective partnership requires that all experience some humility and openness to thinking and acting differently.

  • Sustainable Sanctuary

    It’s a hard thing to try and parent kids like this. I had a girl we adopted at age 6 who came to us with an extensive history of trauma and neglect who triangulated with a woman from our church who also worked at the school. I was naive about RAD and really had no clue as to what was going on with her, suddenly I was being ignored by other mothers and the attitude on Sunday mornings was chilly, every effort I made to reach out to adults was rebuffed. Until one woman (also from my church who also worked at the school) sat me down and began telling me what “my child” was saying to this other well meaning woman; the classic, I didn’t feed her, didn’t love her, didn’t want her… and it was being sucked up by this woman who began undermining and bad mouthing me to anyone who would listen at every opportunity. After four years of this I realized there was no help in this community for this child, her behaviors escalated from the basic destruction of everything to the harming of the other children and she tried her hardest to destroy the family structure. We finally had to ask her bio grandmother to take her to keep the other children safe.
    I can’t help but wonder if this other woman would not have interfered in our family if I might have been able to reach this little girl. Your article beautifully articulates what I have felt for years but could not verbalize. I am going to share this on my son’s facebook page that I have created to build awareness of FASD, RAD and all the other related issues that go alone with them.
    Thanks again for sharing the issues that have been for so long swept under the rug and not brought out into the open.

    • Sue Fisher

      I’m so sorry for your loss on so many levels. Loss of this precious daughter and loss of relationships that all of her lies likely caused you. I had NEVER been unwelcomed and given the cold shoulder…until we adopted our two youngest. It was so demoralizing! I started wondering “what have I done? What’s wrong with me?” Until recently, when I figured out that my son has done an excellent job of making others feel like we’re terrible parents by not giving him everything he thinks he’s entitled to! worse yet, he is openly rude and cocky, and we ALSO get judged because he regularly is perceived as disrespectful (it’s true. He is!). But other families blame it on us – how could we raise such a rude child! Of course! We must be bad parents! What most don’t know is that he came to us this way and we’re working so hard to repair the damage he came with!

  • Jen

    I’m sorry, but my nieces have dealt with all of these things your adoptive children have and telling someone not to hug them if they need it because they should only depend on you for that is flat out cold and selfish on your part. Children need love, not rejection. And as far as not feeding a child who claims they are hungry and did not have breakfast, your request should be for the teacher to communicate that to you. Better yet, this and any other issues should have been addressed at the beginning of the year with each new teacher. The way your post is worded is discouraging this communication. Children are not property. Allowing someone to care for your child is not giving up your parental control. You should feel blessed that you have caring authority figures surrounding your child to help make your child feel safe in a world that has failed them so far. While I understand wanting to parent in your own way and keep their issues private, sometimes, it is beneficial to divulge some information to ensure your child’s special needs are being met in your absence. This post is infuriating to me on so many levels. So I retract my initial statement. I am not sorry.

  • Jason Miller

    Catie, I hate to say you are naive but geeze… we too are adoptive parents after having foster children in our home for four years. Perhaps you would benefit from taking some of the same classes we are required to take so you can have an understanding of the situation. No-one is telling you to ignore your duties as a mandated reporter, we too are mandated reporters. Chances are you will already know us anyways, after have 25 children come through our home and our local school our teachers and administrators know us very well. We are the ones in there fighting for the IEP. We are the ones sticking up for our kids because they are automatically labeled trouble makers. We are the ones trying to educate our educators so they can better help our kiddos. We will be happy to tell you how reactive attachment disorder comes with many faces and strings. Yes, we know that she can come across as a sweet little girl. We know she is polite and can compliment with the best of them. We also know that she hates her foster mom because she is the closest thing to what broke her in the first place. We know she butters up dad because she knows he will think foster mom has lost it and just doesn’t know what to think about this sweet little girl. We know the teachers will listen to her tell them all sorts of stories, will believe her because she is very believable, will fall in love with her because she is really good at getting what she wants and what she needs. She has to be because where she came from she didn’t have someone like you who cared for her. She didn’t have someone who listened to her when she cried. Who tried to figure out what was wrong, so she developed a unique set of skills to survive. You don’t have to know every detail of her past. Yes, there are bad parents out there. Yes, there are bad foster parents out there. No we don’t want to ignore the child that is using the wrong set of tools from her tool box, we want to use it as an opportunity to open a line of communication so we can all be on the same page. If you have been a teacher for very long then you know that bad parents don’t like to have conversations about their children. They will blow you off, feed you a line, or just get mad at you – we will not. We genuinely want to help our kiddos. CPS brought us these kids, they were disrupted, dislodged, and destroyed emotionally by the process that then has to help them heal, be very careful when you use the broad brush of hotlines as many more people get burned in the process.

  • Sue Fisher

    I think this is even trickier when you have an older teenager who is a master at getting other parents to believe he is still the neglected 6 year old. He gets parents of his high school friends to buy him food and – oh-yes-they-did! – offer to let our “poor” son move in with them because we are being “too hard on him”!!!! By being “too hard”, we do require our kids to attend church with us, and we don’t let them have sex in our home! Doesn’t that sound like horrible parenting??? (Read sarcasm, please!). One of those parents was the MOTHER of his girlfriend! True story! Our son will be 18 soon, and it grieves me that we had so little time to help him heal (he was 14 when we adopted him). It also grieves me that so many parents DO feel that they are doing some noble work of rescuing our son when they are instead doing exactly what you are talking about in the above post. And, to be clear, the two parents who have offered to take our underage son in have NOT talked to us about their offers.

  • Colleen Ncrew

    Can’t even put words to this.

  • MrsHLoves

    In response to your post – ‘don’t save my child’ and the question ‘have you faced similar struggles’……………….YES, YES and YES!
    Keep doing what you’re doing and I will too. Dealing with ‘child whisperers’ as my husband and I like to call them is frustrating, time consuming and destructive to our child.

  • Molly Little

    Thanks so much for sharing your insightful wisdom with clarity and grace!

  • Beguine Girl

    An old post but THANK YOU!

  • Chanda Ingram

    I would love to know if you are part of a support group. We adopted two children and your article hit so close to home!! We have searched for a support group so that ourselves and others can share these similar frustrations. You have to live this life to fully understand, and trust me, we get it! 100% spot on…when people say, “look at their past though…” we say, now 3 years later, “we prefer to look at their future and all that they can become!”
    Thanks for a heartfelt read. ♡

  • Monica Hall

    I understand what you are saying. Valid point. Thank you for your honesty. I am also on the flip side where my children were starved and something as simple as sending them to school with a snack and a lunch was a huge issue because she would eat both as soon as she got on the bus. At school she would lie and say I refused to give her either. The school would give her a snack, charge her lunch to me and send me a nasty email after the fact. I explained myself over and over. They looked at me like I was a monster to my foster daughter. The school thought I was awful because (from their point of view) if she is hungry, why not send a case of snacks and let her eat until satisfied. What they didn’t understand was she would never be satisfied. She would eat until she threw up and then start all over again while hoarding food anywhere she could stash it. It still makes me frustrated I had to prove this to them (at my child’s expense) before they believed me (after she puked all over her classroom, in front of her peers). Your post reminds me where “the other side” was coming from. They meant well.

  • Jan

    Love it! I just had a food issue again with my first grader this week, when an unexpected snack was given at at school as a treat. Older sister overheard first grader asking the teacher for more, which the teacher didn’t give. I talked to FG about it later, and she claimed she was soooo hungry. I carefully explained to her that first of all, Mom and Dad are the only people she may ask for food, she had a good breakfast before going to school, a packed lunch, snack when she comes home, and later, we have supper. We really have to keep on it, because our adopted children WERE starving at one point, and they DID ask any person they met for food, candy, etc. And yes, if I see well meaning people scrambling to give my children food, I stop it. It seems rude, but my children are well fed at regular times. They also know how to act sweet and charming, to the point of lying, to get what they want. I have learned a whole new level of vigilance since we fostered and adopted. it’s challenge to teach them truth from fantasy. Slowly, we are getting there.

  • RB

    So good and SO true! I’m quite certain the other parents at my son’s high school think we’re monsters because we make him walk the nearly 3 miles to and from school most days. Of course, he doesn’t tell them it’s because we bought him a $250 bike for these trips, in order to teach him that he’s capable of getting himself where he needs to go, and he was irresponsible with it and it was stolen. He now gets to pay back the value of the bike and walk in the mean time. I used to try to explain things like this to people. I don’t anymore.

  • cnkc

    Hmm. I once had a 4th grade teacher mistreat my Adhd/ptsd/fas adopted son NOT because I hadn’t tried to talk to her and sent her notes but because she utterly disregarded everything I had to say and ultimately admitted in an IEP meeting that she just didn’t REALIZE…..and that she had never even looked at his file.

    I also have a degree in education as well as several family members who are teachers and school administrators. You’ll forgive me if I can’t buy into the idea of the benign, all knowing educator who knows more than the person who lives with the kiddo 24/7.

    I’m off the soapbox. Excellent topic. Many sides.

  • Bodey047

    This comment has been rightly refuted by the vast majority of the replies. As an educator with 20 years experience and three areas of education license, I would simply state that this has all the qualities of a “cop out.” To argue that one has too many students and too many other duties during the course of the work day to do a bit of research and fact checking before one refers a family to a particular state’s version of Youth and Family Services, is simply ludicrous.

    ALL of the demographic information a teach could want is located within a state’s database. And even if it is not, true malnutrition as warning signs which are evident beyond a child saying they have not had breakfast.

    And besides: if a child is truly hungry; the principal of a school has wide discretion to make sure a particular child gets fed one or both meals during a school day.

    And finally to state that a child engaging in a “gotcha” game with mom and dad by telling a lie is also going to be disruptive is grossly making a fallacy.

  • Sarah Minick Fisher

    This article puts into words what I have always struggled to articulate. My daughter was not fed on demand as a baby. It was apparent from the moment she was placed in our home. I used to tell family and caretakers that she had unhealthy food issues, that she would take and take as long as the food was offered. I asked for food boundaries and common sense portions to be respected. I was trying to teach her that there is ALWAYS a next meal coming. She didn’t need to binge and hoard. Her dad and I would ALWAYS make sure she had reasonable snacks and healthy meals.

    I was constantly frustrated and upset that my common sense was questioned and the healthy structure I was trying to set up for my daughter was dismantled by family and caretakers. As good intentioned as it might have been, I felt judged, questioned and overall not trusted to parent.

    Thank you for this article, your blog and all of the resources you have put forth. I wish I had discovered a page like this 7 years ago. It would have given me the actual words that my heart was crying out for.

    • Michelle Sackett McKinney

      We all wish we had this info when we started! So thankful for the help and community we have now!

  • Bodey047

    Seems to me that you are very trusting of children. Why not of parents?

  • Marisa Frandina-Bernhard

    thank you for writing this article – i read it a year ago and shared it because i get it -we adopted our children 7 years ago from an area that is not here. I was shocked that one mom felt the need to put my daughter’s hair in a ponytail and she did it and my daughter let her while i was there too….

    food was an issue .. it has gotten better.
    the bonding is always questioned privately… i have had my days that i am not sure but then…

    7 years later we are good, ok, and great… however i am now dealing with teens so the parenting is different, testing , and sometimes doubting did i do right thing. am i good mom?

    Somedays I see in front of me well rounded good kids that are doing their best in school, socializing with their friends, they listen, they are good and i am so lucky but then a glimpse of something is shown – its ok though because we are all doing our best…

    thank you 🙂

    • You ARE a good mom! You are a great mom!! I hear your heart. And I love you have given us hope that things will get better.

  • Sallie Smith

    I know this is an old post, but I just read it and I’m sure I missed something, because you appear to be saying a child should get affection and support only from the parents. I understand children with attachment difficulties need to be taught to attach to the parent, but I still feel showing kids affection is important. I’m a Sunday school teacher and if a child hugs me, I’ll hug back without even thinking about it. Or if they seem to need more positive attention, I find ways to compliment them and bring attention to the good things they do and good parts of the personality they show. I guess I’m just saying that I don’t see how positive attention from a non patent can be bad.

    I’ve only had one foster daughter though and she didn’t have extreme attachment issues so I know I have no idea what y’all have gone through. I will say though, theft communicationwise, the parent can say something to the adult too, don’t except other adults in your child’s life to be psychic.

    • Michelle Sackett McKinney

      Yes, that is what we are saying, Sallie. You have to remember biological children had the nurturing only from their biological mother their first 2 years of life. That helped to wired their brain correctly. Our kids didn’t get that. So we have to go back to the beginning. And almost all adoptive parents do tell others what to do or not to do with our kids. And they do it anyway because they think they know better than we do. It’s very frustrating and difficult when this happens and puts a wedge between all involved.

  • MD

    Well written. Thank you
    It was 16 years of emotional and sometimes physical chaos. Whatever they (three adopted siblings) could do to create family discord, they would do it. My husband and I have been deemed bad parents by every family member and all our friends. Abandoned by everyone while experiencing the worst time of our lives. The people we adopted triangulated us against each other, were angelic in front of other people and lied as often as they breathed. We nearly divorced. They are all adults now. No contact by their choice.
    The youngest one has been gone 1.5 years. The other two longer than that. I still experience pain from the memories. Sadness invades my life when people ask me if I have children.

    • Michelle Sackett McKinney

      Oh how sorry I am for your loss. Please know we are here to support you through the pain. Don’t believe the lies. You are good parents. You have a strong marriage. You made it. And there is still hope for your relationship with your kids. It may not seem like it now. But there is.

  • Pamela Schmucker Wendt

    In my son’s last placement, school personnel repeatedly asked my son if my husband abused me, and if my husband and/or I were drug addicts or alcoholics. They felt all my son’s problems stemmed from home, despite the fact that my son was exhibiting classic symptoms of school avoidance (various somatic symptoms). He attended school, but spent the majority of the day in a common area to avoid classroom participation, but completed this work. School personnel refused to educate themselves about FASDs or trauma. They failed/refused to acknowledge that my son was misplaced in the curriculum or that the curriculum included faulty teaching routines. The sped teacher was not implementing effective teaching and behavioral management practices. The sped services coordinator and other school administrators were not implementing effective school management practices. They failed to acknowledge that my son has documented physical and psychological problems that contribute to his learning difficulties.To add insult to injury, my son’s sped teacher physically assaulted my son; yes, the teacher assaulted my son.