The Scariest Special Need of All—Would You Adopt This Child?


By Dawn Davenport


In my experience there is one special need that scares prospective adoptive parents the most. The one where even parents who have a wide range of acceptance for special needs will often say “no”. The special need that is preventing thousands of children from being adopted. That special need is being the victim of sexual abuse. Yes, that special need is actually being the victim of abuse!

Through no fault of their own these children have been sexually abused and are now being victimized again by the near universal fear of raising a child that has been sexually abused. Irony anyone?

I have been told by countless social worker that if the child has a record of sexual abuse in their file or a record of showing the symptoms of having been sexually abused, the chances of finding an adoptive family becomes infinitely harder. This breaks my heart.

Continue reading.


Parenting After Trauma: Understanding Your Child’s Needs by the American Academy of Pediatricians

This guide for families explains how trauma can impact a child and provides tips for making them feel safe in their new home. Pediatricians can reproduce and provide this handout to foster and adoptive parents.

Download Guide (PDF)

Coding Tips for Your Pediatrician by the American Academy of Pediatricians

Coding tips for evaluations involving screening and anticipatory guidance related to trauma and other mental health/developmental concerns.

Download Guide (PDF)

So What Do You Look For? A List for Recognizing Trauma & Attachment Issues

Reposted from:

Posted by Trauma Mama T

The following list of often-experienced behaviors of traumatized adopted children was developed by Dr. Arthur Becker Weidman, Ph.d.  He has studied attachment and complex trauma especially in children who were adopted after the age of 18 months.  If you are an adoptive parent and you can check off more than a few of the characteristics on this list, you may have a child with attachment and/or complex trauma issues.

1. My child acts cute or charms others to get others to do what my child wants.

2. My child often does not make eye contact when adults want to make eye contact with my child.

3. My child is overly friendly with strangers.

4. My child pushes me away or becomes stiff when I try to hug, unless my child wants something from me.

5. My child argues for long periods of time, often about ridiculous things.

6. My child has a tremendous need to have control over everything, becoming very upset if things don’t go my child’s way.

7. My child acts amazingly innocent, or pretends that things aren’t that bad when caught doing something wrong.

8. My child does very dangerous things, ignoring that my child may be hurt.

9. My child deliberately breaks or ruins things.

10. My child doesn’t seem to feel age-appropriate guilt when my child does something wrong.

11. My child teases, hurts, or is cruel to other children.

12. My child seems unable to stop from doing things on impulse.

13. My child steals, or shows up with things that belong to others with unusual or suspicious reasons for how my child got these things.

14. My child demands things, instead of asking for them.

15. My child doesn’t seem to learn from mistakes and misbehavior (no matter what the consequence, the child continues the behavior).

16. My child tries to get sympathy from others by telling them that I abuse, don’t feed, or don’t provide the basic life necessities.

17. My child "shakes off" pain when hurt, refusing to let anyone provide comfort.

18. My child likes to sneak things without permission, even though my child could have had these things if my child had asked.

19. My child lies, often about obvious or ridiculous things, or when it would have been easier to tell the truth.

20. My child is very bossy with other children and adults.

21. My child hoards or sneaks food, or has other unusual eating habits (eats paper, raw flour, package mixes, baker’s chocolate, etc. )

22. My child can’t keep friends for more than a week.

23. My child throws temper tantrums that last for hours.

24. My child chatters non-stop, asks repeated questions about things that make no sense, mutters, or is hard to understand when talking.

25. My child is accident-prone (gets hurt a lot), or complains a lot about every little ache and pain (needs constant band aids).

26. My child teases, hurts, or is cruel to animals.

27. My child doesn’t do as well in school as my child could with even a little more effort.

28. My child has set fires, or is preoccupied with fire.

29. My child prefers to watch violent cartoons and/or TV shows or horror movie (regardless of whether or not you allow your child to do this).

30. My child was abused/neglected during the first year of life, or had several changes of primary caretaker during the first several years of life.

31. My child was in an orphanage for more than the first year of life.

32. My child was adopted after the age of eighteen months.

My own children have exhibited most every one of the behaviors listed above, including #28.  (Yes, that was a scary, scary time.)  Depending upon which of my two traumatized children we’re talking about, they continue to exhibit many of these even after being home for nearly six years.  It is exhausting for all family members and most of all for the children affected by trauma and their mama. The behaviors that are most pervasive for my kids seem to be those that are also pervasive in other families with traumatized older adopted children.  Numbers 1-7 are pretty much a given, no matter what family I know.  Likewise, #15-19 dominate the life of many traumatized children/teens.  In fact, many of us parenting trauma have learned to EXPECT lies and demands and while we’ve learned to redirect our children, we are very weary from having to do so all the time.  Another behavior I have seen in nearly all the traumatized children/teens I know is #29.  My kids love blood, gore and violence.  They love dark stories with depraved characters, evil and black magic.  It doesn’t matter that these are things we avoid in our Christian home.  Even though they profess to be Christians themselves, they are still drawn like a moth to the flame.  It is NOT a spiritual deficiency.  It is how their brains have been wired by trauma.  It’s what makes them feel “normal” and not anxious.  Yet, it is also what makes them act out in big ways with big feelings.  They will sneak around to read books and view YouTube videos as well as watch movies we don’t allow whenever they get the chance.

Now, please understand, I am NOT saying that all adopted children exhibit all the behaviors listed.  Please remember, too, that I have parented four neuro-typical children prior to adopting my two from hurt backgrounds.  I know any child can exhibit any of these behaviors.  However, I also know neuro-typical (NT) kids don’t exhibit them on a regular basis, nor do they exhibit multiple behaviors at the same time on a regular basis.  This is NOT “normal” kid stuff.  (Most parents of traumatized kids that I know are especially tired of hearing from those not walking this road that it is.)

I am saying, however, that ALL children I know who were adopted after the age of 18 months or so do indeed deal with trauma.  They deal with attachment issues.  They may not have full-blown RAD (Reactive Attachment Disorder), but they struggle with attachment on some level due to trauma.  That may make a reader or two bristle, but I stick by my experience.  Getting adopted is traumatic and it does not happen without profound loss.
However, I am also not saying that adoption is a negative thing.  It is not!  It is wonderful and it is a blessing, even as it is a challenge.  I am saying you’d better make darned sure you are called to adopt before you do it.  It is HARD to knit a child to your heart who has experienced the loss that is involved in adoption.  Do not expect your child to love you back or be grateful for the time, love and things you give him or her.  Ask tough questions from people who live this life before you ever fill out an agency application.  Make sure those people are brutally honest with you.  Pray hard.  Learn more than the social workers require of you.  Read everything you can about trauma and attachment before you ever complete your home study.

If you’re already an adoptive parent dealing with this kind of stuff and you need some connection with people who "get it”,  let me know.  I know some people and I have some resources to share with you.  If you’re anyone else, thanks for reading!  If you want to know more because you want to help a family you care about, let me know that, too.  I also have some resources to share with you.

NCFA Releases Adoption Advocate No. 61: The Healing Power of "Giving Voice"

Source: NCFA Releases Adoption Advocate No. 61: The Healing Power of “Giving Voice”

th Children coming from situations of trauma, abuse, or neglect often experience the loss of their "voice" — their ability to voice their needs in a healthy way and trust that they will be met. Interventions for children from the "hard places" must include restoring voice, which in turn encourages trust, healing, and attachment. In the July 2013 issue of NCFA’s Adoption Advocate, Drs. Karyn Purvis and David Cross explore what the loss of voice means for children, and how appropriate interventions and therapies can allow them  to give voice to their needs and experience healing within a safe, nurturing family. The article includes a brief list of recommended skills and strategies for parents and caregivers.

Click here to download the PDF of Adoption Advocate No. 61 or click here to view the web version.

Valuable Parenting Topics YOU Asked For. . .

3 Understanding Trauma in Children

This one hour course discusses the difference between a potentially traumatic event and actual trauma.  The science and symptoms of trauma are presented in a user-friendly manner but most importantly, practical, concrete parenting tools are offered for helping a child resolve trauma.

Read more.

Coding Tips for Pediatricians When Screening Trauma Related Concerns

The following are coding tips for evaluations involving  screening and anticipatory guidance related to trauma and other mental health/developmental concerns.

Download the guide here (PDF)

Parenting After Trauma: Understanding Your Child’s Needs

A Guide for Foster and Adoptive Parents

All children need homes that are safe and full of love. Children who have experienced  severe trauma may need more. Early, hurtful experiences can cause children to see and react in different ways. Some children who have been adopted or placed into foster care need help to cope with what happened to them in the past. Knowing what experts say about early trauma can help you work with your child

Download the guide here (PDF)

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