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The core feature of RAD is severely inappropriate social relating that begins before age 5. There are two basic types of RAD: One is characterized by the child’s indiscriminate and excessive attempts to get comfort and affection from any available adult—even relative strangers. The other is characterized by extreme reluctance to initiate or accept comfort and affection from known adults. Some of the disorders and syndromes that may be mistaken for RAD include ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder), a conduct disorder, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder), autism, an adjustment disorder, and childhood schizophrenia.


Attachment theory got its start in the 1950s. One of its earliest proponents, John Bowlby, studied the patterns of relating between babies and their mothers (or other primary caregivers) in the 50s and 60s. He believed that infants and mothers learned to relate to each other in a way that ensured their survival, as well as


the survival of the species, and that difficulties in attachment set the stage for social and emotional problems later in life.


According to Bowlby attachment develops through encounters between a mother and her baby. A baby cries because he is hungry, wet or otherwise miserable, and the mother responds by feeding, changing or holding the baby until he calms down. These encounters occur thousands of times over the course of a baby’s young life, and he comes to experience the world as a safe and predictable place where his needs can be met. And because they are met, his energy is available for the fundamental tasks of childhood: exploring the world and developing a sense of mastery.


The above best-case scenario is rarely something that a toddler from foster care has experienced. After all, most foster children are taken from their parents due to abuse and/or neglect. A foster child may experience some good parenting, but most probably it has been erratic. Still, this child has been related to as a person by his mother or foster mother(s) at least some of the time. Later on, he may exhibit symptoms of what we have come to call attachment disorders.


The attachment capability of a child adopted internationally from an orphanage can be more compromised. Says Miriam Steele, PhD, a professor at The New School for Social Research in New York City and an expert on attachment, “When you think about how these vulnerable infants and children are cared for, in situations where there isn’t a caregiver specifically assigned to care for one, two, or even three children with whom they feel connected, it is difficult to comprehend how this child-rearing could be comparable to what most other infants experience growing up in some kind of family home.”


Whether you are adopting a child from an orphanage or from foster care, it’s a good idea to get all the details you can on your child’s relationships with his caregiver(s). This will help you begin to understand the


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