Thursday, July 22, 2010

An Adoption Anniversary (catching up)

Preface this w/ saying I started this back in May.  Also, there is much openess on here about RAD so be prepared.  And now to start.

aka...Gotcha Day.  Yes, we have one of those this month.  May.  Don't ask me the exact date b/c I truly couldn't tell  you.  I do not keep track of that.  We keep up w/ birthdays and we're doing good.  LOL.  I know the month and about the time frame they are adopted but not the exact date.  All I know was this adoption was one for the books.  Seriously.  6 years ago, we adopted Yana and Alex.  It all started the year before though.  Warren and I had Irina and Max for a few years and wanted to know if we should think about adopting more children.  We decided the best way to know if we were ready or not was to host some kids in summer of '03.  You know, b/c they say you don't HAVE to adopt the kids, just host them.  Yeh, right.  LOL.  Well, we were to host 2 kids, Yana and Zhenya.  What you don't know is that secretly I had wanted to host this little 2yo boy named Alex but someone else was going to.  Well, I think it was two days before they were due to come, they asked us if we would mind adding Alex to our home to host.  Sure, what's one more kid.  Apparently, that has become our motto.  I will post the adoption story from Stavropol later this week some time.  It is a long one.  Corruption involved.  Craziness beyond belief involved.  It is too long so I'll post separate from here.  Just know it's one for the books.  Anyhow, I thought you'd like to see the referral pictures of Alex and Yana from a few years back.

This was Alex.  He was about 2.5 years old here.  Just taken away from his home, sent to the hospital, into rehabilitation, then to the orphanage and then to us to be hosted.  Yikes!  Tell you about those shoes later.  Well, tell you about them now. When he came to us & Yana to be hosted.  We actually took them straight to Walmart for new shoes.  Both had on shoes that were about 3 sizes too small.  I wouldn't even let Yana walk until AFTER we had gotten her new shoes.  It was just sad.  BTW, we raised $500 that week for the orphanage director to take back & buy them new shoes.  All the kids.  

This was Yana's referral picture.  She was 6 years old here.  Almost 7yo.  Quite the change for sure.  They never seem to smile in these pictures.  Why would they?  Orphans don't have the best of the best life you know.  And I'm not speaking materialistic either.  I'm speaking of simple things like love and hope.  Yana had a very strong religious faith & I'll speak of that later.  I think that actually kept her on the straight and narrow unlike her bio sister from what I hear.  Amazing what something as simple as a family can do.  

Alright, the nitty gritty.  This is not to criticize the kids nor just tell of the bad.  It is to show the progress, the amount of growth that took place over the last six years.  I will have to shorten this as it is way too long a story to tell.  Alex came to us at 3 years old.  Here's a picture from about a month after he came home:

 Ignore our white bodies.  But you can see Alex is still scared.  Timid little boy.  Very, very traumatized past.  Suffice it to say, he was the worst case we've ever had of child neglect.  The stuff that you think can only happen on a tv show does indeed happen in real life.  Imagine the bad things that can happen to children and it most likely happened to him.  I will not share everything that happened to our son but I think it is important to share some so you know where he came from.  He was with his birthmother but mother was NOT a term I'd use to describe her.  That sounds horrible, so be it.  It was a horrible scenario.  No two year old should have to go through what he did and then be left to die.  Literally, left to die.  He was found freezing to death, naked, starving and abandoned in an apartment.  I won't go into detail of what happened prior.  Just know, it's bad.  Put it this way, we were not given any of his records until after court.  After.  I read them at home, couldn't get through it all w/out crying.  Never could finish it then.  I came back to those papers two years later to read what had happened to him cover to cover.  No wonder he had hurt.  Who wouldn't have.  We knew a little of what to expect from kids that come home from an orphanage.  But not to this extent.  Never in a million years does someone expect to come home w/ not one but two RADishes.  Two.  Alex is dx'd w/ RAD, PTSD, FAS, one kidney, ADHD, etc.  When Alex came home, we kept him home.  He came home in May, turned 4 in July.  We brought Bojan home in January.(Best decision ever made for Alex).  Lots going on.  Took Alex to school when he turned 5yo.  First few months into it, realized it was a huge, huge mistake.  In the meantime, I was calling every psychiatrist, psychologist in the area.  Not a ONE, not a ONE would take his case!  not a one.  They were all telling me he is going to become a sociopath, disrupt the adoption ASAP.  Seriously, this is what I was being told to do w/ my son.  Over 100 people I called.  I stopped writing down names and #'s of whom I called.  It was gut wrenching.  So, instead of giving up on my son, I took matters into my own hands.  I went to school and took him out of Kindergarten.  This was in October.  So yes, he is legally considered a kindergarten drop out.  I decided to regress him myself.  He needed the bonding time w/ me one on one.  I was about to embark on unknown territory and it terrified me to the core.  I'll be honest, the thought of being w/ Alex 24/7 was frightening.  I didn't want to do it.  Not a bit.  But, I knew I had to attempt to save his life.  We were his only hope.  He could not look us in the eye, had no empathy, no compassion, no soul almost, hoarded food. You name a RAD characteristic, I can guarantee you he probably had it.  Not all of them but most for sure. 

We went on to heal Alex.  I took away from other parents, books, our previous psychologist, etc.  I put it to use on my son.  Regressed him and let him heal.  He had to see that we would not abandon him like everyone else did in his life.  That trust had to rebuild.  And slowly, it did.  He actually acted out some feelings he experienced while in the apartment.  It was really eye opening for me as I never realized just how much it did effect him. Today, this is a normal, well adjusted little boy turning into...gasp.... a preteen before my very eyes.  He is sweet, though a little devilish at times, amazingly athletic, fearful(trust me, a good quality), loving, and too many other things to name.  This was  a transformation like no other.  Trust me, the anger, resentment, no eye contact, lack of empathy, meanness, no soul look was more than I could handle at times.  Thankfully, Warren & I are a team and we knew when each other needed a break.  This little RADish has turned his world around.  Very proud of all that he has accomplished.  He has friends now.  Yes, he still has trouble w/ lying but we're working on that.  Alex does have other disabilities from FAS so that is another issue.  He has trouble forming a clear thought in his head.  We are working on him slowing down when he talks.  But all take that over all the other stuff in a heartbeat.  Alex is on medication.  I honestly don't think he'd survive w/out it.  We've tried that path.  Alex came to us at 3 years old, almost 4.  He is now 10 years old.  He used to be afraid of being thrown in the trash can.  Now, he lets his brother throw him in the air on the trampoline & in the pool.  He used to cringe in fear every time we'd raise our voice.  Duck as though we were going to hit him (clearly it had been done before in Russia).  Now, I have to scream to get my point across and he doesn't flinch.  LOL.  I love knowing he can be in a regular classroom w/ regular kids just being a boy.  I think for us, that is a big moment.  Realizing, he is just like every other kid in his class or just like his friends.  Yes, Alex still has issues & I don't want you all to think it all magically disappeared.  However, we don't live in fear every second of what we were told years ago of Alex... disrupt him, he's going to be a sociopath.  No, I don't think so. he's going to be Alex.  He's going to reach his fullest potential and all b/c we decided not to give up on him.  I know many people don't want to hear their kids have RAD or FAS.  Hey, I didn't want to hear it either.  Yet, it has made us better parents I think.  You can NOT live w/ these kids if you don't have patience.  I learned patience quickly.  I think it is to amazing how the kids seem to end up where they belong.  Someone else was supposed to host Alex.  We were called just 2 days or so prior.  Meant to be for sure.  Here is a picture of Alex from May:

Now, onto Yana.  My oh my.  This child has surely given us a run for our money.  Don't know if I ever said this before or not, but when we brought Yana home, she was being a witness to teachings of prostitution by other girls in the orphanage.  She told me she never did anything but you really can never be sure.  Sad to say.  I mean, she was an 8yo girl.  But, when you are to leave the orphanage at 16yo w/ no family to go to, no money, and no job skills, what else can you do to survive?  The life after an orphanage life is a horrible one at best.  Wish it would change.  146 million orphans worldwide.  some need to go home.  Sidetracked. 

Yana came home and was an absolute nightmare.  I'm not going to sugarcoat anything so I think you all need to be ready.  This was beyond a RADish if that is even possible.  She would rage for hours.  Literally hours we'd have to sit on top of her to hold her down.  She got too strong for me after awhile.  I was stunned.  I mean, we had Irina and Max before these two that had issues but neither of them had RAD.  Neither of them had rages.  Max had night terrors but that is nothing compared to a RAD rage.  RADishes could give pro wrestlers a run for their money no doubt.  I had never seen that much anger in a person. She would get so full of rage, her capillaries would burst.  We would be called every name in the book.  Never knew some of those names existed!  We were hit, kicked, punched, spat at, my glasses broken, furniture broken, holes in walls, etc.  You get the idea.  She would threaten to kill us,threaten to call the police on us, etc.  Told us she would tell people we beat her.  The words kept flying out.  On the advice of others, I did videotape her at times for proof later on if she ever said anything.  I know too many other good families of kids w/ RAD that have been falsely accused.  Hence, the videotape.  She would punch herself yet scream at us the same time that we were hurting her.  If you are not the parent of a child w/ RAD it is hard to imagine.  I heard about it before adoption, we all have.  But to experience the horror and trauma of it all, it was too much to bear at times.  No one understands unless you live w/ a child w/ this disorder.  Her rages were almost daily when she first got home.  We practiced hold therapy and some other stuff we did.  She hated me w/ a passion.  We've attributed that to her mother abandoning her & her father being the only one who ever visited at the orphanage.  No matter what happened, it was always MY fault.  Even when Warren would explain the situations to her.

The rages got less.  We haven't had a rage in this house forever...knock on wood. (about 2 years now) We tried community support via mental health but that only made things worse.  We have found over the years that the outside help believe it or not interferes w/ their healing.  Again, ONLY our opinions w/ OUR kids.  --seek out professional help if you have a child suspected of RAD.  So again, we did it our way.  Took time.  Lots and lots of time.  Did I mention it took time.  Throw in a hormone changing adolescent and you get quite a cocktail of emotions.  Geez, no wonder I'm tired.  The outside docs that came here dx'd her w/ RAD/ PTSD/ ODD/ etc.  We taught Yana how to control her anger.  She now goes off on her own either to the hammock or to her room.  We never, ever talk to a RAD child after they are angry.  YOu will not get anywhere w/ them.  Trust me.  We wait it out.  And allow them to tell us when they're ready to talk b/c they know they will not get out of it w/out talking. They also are aware if they rage, they will get punished.  They are grounded.  It got serious the one time w/ Yana that we took her privileges away.  You know, a room.  Made her sleep on the floor, no privacy of a room, no radio, no nothing.  Basics and that was it for a month.  That was probably the best thing we had ever done.  After hearing the unfair speech for days and the I'm going to run away deal, she finally realized we weren't going to waiver.  And that is key to parenting a RAD not waiver.  Well, that and do not play their game.  They want you to get mad at them.  They do.  It doesn't help.   As a parent, you have to step out of who you are at that point in time.  We disassociate ourselves.  Somewhat think of it as dealing w/ another person and not your actual child.  I mean, who wants to see their child hurting so badly.  Not I.  Now, all this pain, heartache, trauma and hurt has to effect everyone, right.  Yes and no.  Our kids have seen hold therapy on all the kids, not just one or two.  I remember one day I was holding Alyona in a fit on the rocking chair.  She's screaming bloody murder, I'm talking softly to her and rocking her.  Alex comes up and says to her, Alyona, the sooner you stop, the sooner mom will let you go.  You know she's not hurting you, she just loves you too much.  Kind of a funny way to put it but he got the point across.  They all know the rages or fits are temporary.  It has been alright for the other kids to experience Yana's RAD and Alex's.  Though they both have RAD, it manifests itself differently in each one.  Alex used to steal.  never from a store but from family members, friends, etc.  He even stole someone's shoes at church 2 years ago!  I was horrified.  He hasn't done that in ages. Though I will say we're still working on the lying.  Yana has had her fair share of lying.  BUT, she has finally, finally learned that lying does not pay.  You will get caught in this house.  You will get punished.  Period.  No exceptions. 

Yana has come a long, long way academically.  VERY long way.  She will be in a regular class next year.  Her emotional growth has excelled as well.  This was a girl that did not want to be touched, or hugged, or kissed.  No gentle kisses on her forehead or anywhere.  Almost like she was afraid of human affection or human contact.  Not anymore.  She will come up and give us a hug.  Not all the time mind you, she is a teenager after all.  LOL.  Her emotional & mental damage was extensive after life at the orphanage.  Not any more.  I can say she has healed.  Just yesterday, the girl who a few years ago wanted nothing to do with me, came up to me and said "mom, anything I can help you with?"  So, I can safely say she has healed.  I think that sad, scared little girl has grown in many ways, don't you?

Not the best shot but you can clearly see she's just goofing off for me in the camera.  

I've always believed animals are a great healing therapy for kids who have survived so much trauma in their lives. This is Yana petting an Emu at our friend Mary's farm.  Definitely not the violent child anymore.  We have a calm,loving, emotionally intact young lady.  She has come way further than I ever thought she would.  She asked me today if she could do early college!  It's a course here in high school they take and at the end of high school,end up w/ a 2 year college degree.  It would be wonderful but she still has to catch up some more.  She said mom, I'm going to do it.  I'll get tutors, stay after school, read more but I want to do it.  I don't want to be lazy anymore.  Again, it's been a 180 and now we just have normal teen issues.  I'll take that any day.  

for those out there experiencing a chlid w/ RAD, I can say hang in there. Dont' quit.  Don't give up on them.  Some can heal,some can not.  We had two very, very tough cases.  It can be done.  It is different for each child.  Seeing the changes firsthand though makes it so worth it.  All the days having to hold my child down so she wouldn't hurt herself or others are worth it.  Over the years, she has apologized for all those fits.  don't get me wrong, it's not all roses.  But definitely a beautiful bouquet now.  We have the typical sibling fights over clothes but nothing like it used to be.  She shows empathy.  She shows genuine concern for other people in this family.  I still can not let her watch violence w/ military.  She is terrified of military.  They used to live near Chechnya and apparently, she remembers a lot of soldiers and guns.  

Yana and Alex have turned their lives around and ours.  There were days honestly when I never thought we'd make it.  Now, I have Irina and Yana going swimming w/ friends today.  They have loving bonds w/ everyone in this family.  It's such a different atmosphere from when they first came home.  They were challenging.  Yes.  But they were well worth all that headache and heartache we went through.  Those scared, terrified little children are no more. They are healthy, happy, well-adjusted, and normal kids.  I was honest here and I hope everyone appreciates that.  I read so many rosy stories, I think every once in awhile, the adoption world needs to know these children exist. Their parents cry for help and no one listens.  It's time we do b/c as you can see, there is unlimited potential and great love underneath all those layers of emotional hurt.  You just have to peel it back some to find it.  To all those docs who told me my kid would be a sociopath and to disrupt my adoptions I'd like to tell you something... "I told you so!"  

This was an honest post and really just a glimpse of RAD.  Reading about it and experiencing it firsthand are such different things.  Would I ever parent a RAD child again?  Not willingly BUT if one happen to have RAD and they were my child, I would help them heal just as we did for Yana and Alex.  We are not the best parents in the world.  Shoot, our kids will tell you that.  (especially, when they're grounded).  But, we try really hard and believe in not giving up on them.  We've been told so many things about our children from "professionals."  Take it w/ a grain of salt and let them lead the way to reach their fullest potential in life.  


  1. Steph, I was taking a moment to get caught up with you & the kids. WOW! Have they grown. I ended up reading for over an hour, then got to this post. I have to tell you how much I needed to read this today. I'm struggling with my 14 yo RAD right now. As I type, he just came out & asked "Who's pants are these?" He wore them Sunday, they are in his laundry basket. Hmmmm, I know you know all about the silly non-sense questions all - the - time! Anyways, I am so tired right now, probably not making sense. Just wanted to tell you thank you for being honest in your posting. Maybe someone out there will read it and finally "get" what we live 24/7. I'm so happy for you & the children and that they are doing well. Please continue to pray for my 3 raddishes. We have good days & bad, we continue to home-school and church. It's difficult. Anyways, I love you girl, my kindred spirit. Congrats on the 3 new ones coming home this year too! TAke care!