My adopted child has attachment issues: How can I find treatment for them?

Adoption can be one of the most rewarding experiences of a parent’s life. After months or years of waiting for your family to feel complete, you finally get to bring home your child. And while adoption is incredibly rewarding, it can also come with it’s own set of challenges. One of the biggest challenges are attachment issues in adopted children. Children who were neglected or abused, even at a very young age, may have trouble connecting with their adoptive parents. In extreme cases, they may develop Reactive Attachment Disorder, or RAD. But even children without RAD may have attachment issues. They may avoid getting too attached because they are afraid that their adoptive parents will leave them too. They may struggle with a sense of low self esteem because their biological parents “gave them up”. 
If your child is struggling with an attachment disorder, a trained professional can help your family work through these issues. 

What is the First Step Towards Treatment?

According to the Mayo Clinic: “A child with reactive attachment disorder is typically neglected, abused, or orphaned. Reactive attachment disorder develops because the child’s basic needs for comfort, affection, and nurturing aren’t met, and loving, caring attachments with others are never established. This may permanently change the child’s growing brain, hurting the ability to establish future relationships.” 
The first step towards treatment for your child is meeting with a mental health professional, such as a pediatric psychiatrist or psychologist. They will meet with your child for a thorough and in depth evaluation, and then provide a diagnosis. You can meet with your child’s pediatrician, but you may be referred to a specialist. Prepare for your appointment by creating a list of behaviors you have noticed, key personal information, and any medications you child may be taking. All of this will help your specialist get a full picture of your child. 
A diagnosis of an attachment issue can feel overwhelming for parents, but understand that children are naturally resilient and early interventions can improve outcomes. 

Education and Interventions

Once you have received the diagnosis, it can be helpful to educate yourself and your other family members on attachment disorders. It is important for your entire family, siblings included, to understand why your adopted child is acting the way they are. There’s no standard treatment for reactive attachment disorder, but it should involve both the child and parents. Goals of treatment are to help ensure that the child has a safe and stable living situation and develops positive interactions and strengthens the attachment with parents and caregivers. This may include individual and family counseling or parenting skills classes. 

Trails Carolina Can Help

Young people struggling with behavioral and emotional challenges related to adoption and attachment need to be supported through the establishment of healthy communication between themselves and their adoptive parents. Trails Carolina, a wilderness therapy program for young people ages 10-17, helps teens struggling with emotional and behavioral challenges such as attachment, depression, trauma, and low self esteem. With dedicated family therapists, as well as a family program, Trails Carolina can help your teen with attachment issues. For more information, please call (828) 372-4017. 

Avatar of Jeremy Whitworth

Jeremy Whitworth

As Executive Director at Trails Carolina, a leading wilderness therapy program for youth and teens, I oversee operations and collaborate with our leadership team. Since 2022, I've also hosted the Common Ground Podcast for parents: With a background in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education, I've managed adventure-based therapeutic programs across the US and Canada. My experiences in competitive athletics and adventure sports have honed my leadership, risk assessment, and decision-making skills, which I apply to running a successful business like Trails Carolina.

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Trails saved my daughter’s life. Amanda is an amazing human and a brilliant therapist. I am so grateful to her, Science Steve, and the other wonderful people who could reach my daughter at a time when I could not.

Margot Lowman August 2022

Great life changing experience for our son. After becoming addicted to gaming during covid he was very depressed. At Trails he experienced the wilderness, Science Steve, learning survival skills and top notch therapy and support etc… I highly recommend! This gave our son and our family a renewed family bond full of love and excitement about his bright future.

Winnifred Wilson July 2022


Outstanding clinical work and superb staff! There’s a great culture at this company and it shows with how they engage with families/clients.

Kristin Brace June 2022


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