Does This “In Your Face” Video Help Children with RAD?

by:  Julie Beem
wretchedWhile the “dress color” controversy and video of two escaped llamas is going viral with the general public, this video is definitely making the rounds on Facebook and in the blogsphere:

Whenever ATN finds something that can be useful to parents of traumatized children and to those who have RAD and their families, we share through all our social media channels. But, frankly, we’re baffled by this video. There are definitely valuable gold nuggets, but the delivery of the message can be off-putting…

So we couldn’t just re-post it. For 20 years, ATN has been supporting families of children with RAD. We’ve been the VOICE for traumatized children and their parents. We believe there is hope for healing, and we focus on supporting the families, educating parents and professionals and bringing awareness to the very serious, very real plight that families of children with RAD experience.

Personally, I was triggered immediately. The video opens with a man whining “don’t hate me”. Sadly, my daughter (now 18) still whines like that when escalating, so my amygdala responded instantly. And then Todd Friel, the Wretched host, said something that brought me back into my prefrontal cortex: that RAD was something “that I feel accompanies every adoption.” The title of the video says it too – that “most adoptive parents are dealing with this.”

It’s just not true that EVERY adopted person has RAD or that every adoptive family deals with the symptoms he enumerates. And exaggerating the frequency to bring awareness doesn’t help. The best data on how often this happens comes from the Donaldson Institute’s Keeping the Promise report in 2010 which asserts that about 30% of adopted children will show some behavioral problems linked to attachment impairments and early trauma and about 15% of adoptees need ongoing clinical help for attachment-impaired, trauma-based challenges.  This equals 45%. That’s about half of the adoption population.  Significant, yes.  But not every adoptee.  Adoption does not equal RAD. Adoption does, however, follow a loss. (Note: The inverse assertions that RAD does not exist, is overdiagnosed, isn’t treatable, or isn’t a real diagnosis are just as problematic.)  Exaggerated statements hurt children and keep the struggling families from getting the help they need.

Mr. Friel does a great job of describing many of the severe behaviors that children with RAD suffer. At times, he gets it exactly right that these children “are not wicked, but have got to have chaos for self-preservation” and that their earlier wounding and terror has led them to the twisted thinking that they need to be the person in control, so they won’t be hurt again. So many of us recognize this in our attachment-impaired children.

And as a Christian myself, I did let out a little “hurrah” at the salient point he makes about churches committing to stand beside (giving time and money) families parenting children with RAD, especially if the church actively encourages adoption as a ministry.  And another “hurrah” at the point that every pre-adoptive parent should learn about RAD and that not every person is equipped to parent children with RAD.

So, I was left flipping back and forth between times when Mr. Friel nailed it: “Theirs is a story of heartbreak, and trauma, through no fault of their own…” and when it sounded like he was blaming the kids: “they try to crawl up your nose and create chaos because they like that.”

Share this video if you think the listener will respond to hearing this message in such an “in your face” way. But be ready to answer the next two obvious questions that this video doesn’t address:

1. Is there any hope? If this happens to everyone, why would anyone adopt?

2. What are parents of children with RAD supposed to do to “serve their child”? How, and where do we learn these things?

At ATN, we’re ready to answer those questions. We believe there’s much hope and healing once parents understand why their child reacts the way he does and how to therapeutically parent children whose brains have been traumatized.

Spread the word!

Julie has been ATN's Executive Director since 2009. She joined the organization in 2004 after finding incredible support from fellow ATNers when she was searching for answers about her own daughter's early childhood trauma and attachment disorders. Julie leads a staff of passionate professionals and acts as spokesperson for the organization. Prior to ATN, Julie was the president of a marketing and communications consultancy, The Epiphany Group, and has over two decades of experience in professional services marketing, strategic planning and communication strategies. As a graduate of Partners in Policymaking and through personal experience, Julie has garnered a great deal of experience in the areas of special education, school issues, and disabilities advocacy. A published author, Julie wrote a chapter in the EMK Press Adoption Parenting book and was the special needs blogger at for two years. She frequently presents workshops on attachment and trauma to local and national groups. Email Julie. Julie holds an MBA from Avila College in Kansas City and was a Certified Professional Services Marketer. Julie, and her husband Dave, are parents to four (bio, step and adoptive), including their youngest daughter, adopted from China. This daughter’s attachment difficulties and developmental trauma disorder have changed their lives significantly…in amazing ways.