Shivonne Costa / I have to be a role model.

Shivonne Costa.jpg

“Sometimes I scream and choose to forget their past histories in order to allow myself the anger that I feel I rightly deserve. But at the end of the day, I have to choose to move past it. I have to be a role model.

When my husband and I struggled with becoming pregnant, we made the decision to become foster parents. We were given a sibling set, both of whom were later diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). From experience as a parent and therapist working with children who have experienced multiple families and numerous traumas in such a short time, it’s no wonder these children exhibit acting out and detachment… but knowing that doesn’t make the work any easier.

It may sound simple, but following consistent schedules, maintaining consistent rules, and upholding consistent consequences are tricky. Children do their best to sabotage consistency because chaos feels so much better… more familiar… than stability. After a child has broken your things, lied a hundred times that day, and harmed one of your pets, it’s not easy to work on connecting emotionally to them, not when everything inside of a rational adult wants to detach and self-preserve. But RAD children need consistency to see that no matter what they do, the same adult is there and is willing to persevere. They see you taking them to therapy, working on social skills, and maintaining composure.”

"To those with RAD or any individual aging out of the foster system:

1) If you have made any connections with another human being (sibling, foster parent, teacher, friend, coach, youth leader), continue that relationship. Don’t feel you are being abandoned because you are no longer a “child.” You will ALWAYS need someone else to walk through this life with, so hold onto those lifelines.

2) Get a case manager. If you have any needs that will continue to pose concerns for you to live independently, a case manager can be a phenomenal tool. They will get you hooked up with doctors, help you get medication filled, find you housing, and even help you apply for public assistance if it’s needed. Allow yourself every opportunity to succeed and grab onto every resource that you can.

3) Remember this: You may have started out with a different childhood than you wanted, and you may feel scared going into adulthood in a way that you hadn’t planned. But whatever your story, it is yours. Never be ashamed to let your experiences shape you to be better. Never be reluctant to help others who are also hurting. Let your past mold your future into something beautiful, just like a diamond that has been pressed and purified. You have something special to offer this world… never forget that."

Shivonne Costa is a child therapist, foster parent, and blogger.

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