Reactive Attachment Disorder typically affects adopted children or those who live in the foster system for any length of time. And once you understand what causes the issue, it's not hard to see why. Less obvious is why children who live with their biological parents develop the disorder. Especially to parents who cared for their children and can't imagine a mother (or father) being any other way. After all, who could not love and care for their own child? Especially to the point where it causes lifelong problems? I know I have often felt awkward or misunderstood when I talk to people about my daughters issues. After all, with the exception of the first 6 months or so when I was in the US Navy and stationed on the other coast, and another 3 months while we were separated and going through the divorce and custody proceedings, I was there with her. Granted, I worked all day so I wasn't there the way her mother (who didn't work) was, but when I got home I would do what most parents do - I would bathe her, feed her, play with her, put her down at night, etc. So how bad did it have to be for this problem to develop? Well... oddly enough, when packing up for the move my daughter and I stumbled across my saved divorce paperwork. well ok, I found it and she noticed it when I picked up the folder wrong and it all went sliding out onto the floor. And of course, the worst of it was right on top. Which she read. This was the brief that I had filed with the court requesting immediate custody be granted out of concern for my daughters physical well being. Because it was filed with the court, it's all a matter of public record so it's not like I'm divulging any secrets here. But if you were to meet my daughter today, you would never know some of the things she endured. You might never guess that she had been through so much as such a young age. But it did, and she did, and I'm only putting this up here to show that you never, ever know what you don't know, and this paints a pretty good picture of how her attachment disorder came to be.
Names have been redacted since they aren't really relevant, but if you really HAVE to know it is, like I said, a matter of public record and you can go look it up :) A. is my daughter, and S. is her older, half-sister who was about 8 at the time. Also, I'm taking it directly from the brief since that is more accurate than my memory (some of these I had forgotten about even)...
A. During my visits to the apartment since the date of separation, I have found dirty dishes stacked up, garbage cans which had spilled over onto the floor, food and drink left on the kitchen floor, and sharp objects left with the baby's reach. On several occasions I have seen A. taking food from the garbage can and putting it in her mouth. There was no apparent supervision.
B. On several occasions during my visits, I have found the front door unlocked and the children unsupervised. Several times, Respondent was asleep in the rear bedroom with the door closed, and on April 19, 1997 Respondent was unaware that S. had left to go somewhere with the neighbors, and insisted S. was in the front room. During recent conversations with S., she has indicated she has assumed increasing responsibility for her baby sister's care, in that she has been allowed to bath the baby unsupervised and is allowed to play outside with A., again without supervision. During a conversation on April 21, 1997, S. pointed out new scrapes on her elbows from a roller-blading mishap. When I asked why she hadn't tried to break her fall, she replied "Because I didn't want to drop A.". As the apartment is on a long road which parallels Highway 80, it is common for cars to speed past on a regular basis, creating a potentially hazardous situation.
C. On or about April 3, 1997, Respondent was served with a 30 day notice to vacate the apartment in which she and the minor children reside. To date, there has been no indication she has made any efforts to obtain replacement housing. during a discussion on April 30, 1997 with S.T., Owner and Landlord of the apartment building, he advised me he has made several attempts to collect the rent but Respondent filed to open the door or make any attempt whatsoever to resolve the situation.
D. On April 6, 1997 Petitioner took A. to Childrens Hospital Oakland Urgent Care Clinic for treatment of Chicken Pox. She had been suffering from a full outbreak for three days prior to that time, during which Respondent made no effort to obtain medical treatment.
E. A. suffered severe nerve damage in her left arm at birth, resulting in initial inability to use her arm. She has slowly been gaining limited use of the arm; however, continued improvement is dependent on continued physical therapy. She had been receiving physical therapy through California Childrens Services but was dropped from the program due to Respondents's failure to keep scheduled appointments.
F. On April 26, 1997, Respondent, upon learning that my health care coverage had been extended to cover A., demanded said coverage be cancelled in order to receive additional treatment through CCS at no cost. Respondent insisted A. had been re-enrolled in the physical therapy program due to a lack of insurance and had already resumed treatment. however, during a phone conversation on may 1, 1997 with Cynthia at California Childrens Services, I was informed that although A. could be considered for reinstatement to the program upon re-referral from her physician, there had been no such request, nor was there any record of contact with Respondent during the past 6 months.
Interestingly, there has been no repercussion from my daughter having seen and read this brief. I would have thought for sure that it would have triggered something.. anything... but it didn't. I think if we had come across this even 6 months ago, her reaction would have been very different and we would have had fall-out for days. Between that and the improvements in both her behavior and attitude, I know we're on the right track. She has been through so much - much more than many people - and every time I think about it, it breaks my heart. But it's going to be ok. SHE is going to be ok. I know it.
Love alone can't make up for the experiences she's had. But with our love, commitment, and lots and lots of work, there is hope for a better future.