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  Parenting Advice Column
  Subject: Adoptive mother ponders attachment disorders

Question:

We have two adopted children, one that we adopted at 10 months old was a "failure to thrive" baby, neglected and probably drug exposed (no birth record; birth mom has a long history of drug abuse). He is now 12 and has had many difficulties and physical challenges. 

Our other adopted child is my son's half-sister who was born addicted to crack, then was neglected and put into a long-term foster home. She suffered nine years of sexual, physical, and emotional abuse from her foster mom, dad, and brother. The foster brother has been prosecuted for his abuse and the parents are also being prosecuted as well. She is now 14 years old. 

We also have a 6-year-old biological child and another one on the way. We see the attachment difficulties in so many ways. Is there ever hope for these kids? Do you see sexual abuse as part of the attachment disorders? Do you see sexual acting-out as part of the abuse or the attachment disorder? Any suggestions that you can give me would be greatly appreciated! 

Tonya


Jan's Reply:

Hi Tonya, 

You certainly have given much to your children, and to many others indirectly. All I can say is that if anything can help, it is the kind of love, understanding, and generosity that you and others like you are giving. It is my belief that consistent love, trust and respect can make a real difference.  

While prevention is the most critical and efficient use of our time and energy, this should not mean that those children who so desperately need our help should be denied it. Somehow we need to approach the problem from both ends. Sadly, our society has chosen to put far more attention on rehabilitation and punishment than on prevention through parenting education. 

Re sexual acting-out, I see it as relating to both. It repeats the abuse - somehow we all need to repeat and "explore" trauma in an attempt to gain an understanding, in much the same way that a child who has been frightened will explore the frightening circumstances by repeating them with other children or in doll play. It is also an attempt to find the love and closeness missing from the attachment that never developed when it should have, in the early years. These are complex situations, difficult to sort out clearly. 

Thank you for your caring and your questioning. You probably have no idea how many people you are helping along the way through your love and energy. 

Jan

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