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Attaching in Adoption
By Deborah D. Gray

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Review by Allison Martin

A three year old girl wanders off at a street fair and approaches strangers for hugs, instead of looking back for her mother... A six year old boy recently adopted from Russia breaks every toy he touches... A five year old girl anxiously attempts to stay close to her mother, crying "Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom" every time she leaves the room... Another five year old girl falls apart at bedtime each night, as she seems to relive the drama of her early abandonment in a Chinese orphanage. These children, and their families, are coping with attachment issues. And now there is a remarkable new book to help them.

Attaching in Adoption by Deborah Gray provides a comprehensive and knowledgeable overview of the causes, diagnosis and treatment of attachment issues of adopted children. Gray is an experienced family therapist and clinical social worker who specializes in grief, trauma and attachment. Her unique blend of empathy and practical advice makes this an excellent resource for anyone who has questions about bonding and attachment. Most adoptive parents will learn something from this book - about their children and about themselves.

Gray defines attachment as an enduring family relationship that is formed over time and with shared experience. Of crucial importance to adoptive families, Gray reminds us that the loss of an attachment figure is a cause for a lengthy and painful grief. Other tragic events - such as traumatic loss, severe deprivation, abuse - can impede a healthy attachment process. However, as children attach securely, they learn that they are lovable, that they can trust their parents, and that others will help them with their needs.

Attaching in Adoption is an essential resource for parents who are adopting older children, for adoptive and foster parents who are raising children at risk or with attachment issues, and for adoptive parents who find they have questions about attachment as their children adopted as infants grow up. Gray describes the consequential behavior problems related to attachment or loss issues, with discussion of how these may occur in your family life. Her key points are well illustrated with poignant vignettes of children and families struggling or resolving attachment issues. Guidance is provided to help families work through problems of out of control behavior, poor self esteem, fear, grief, etc.. A brief discussion of the special needs which may coexist or may be mistaken as attachment disorders are also addressed, an important component for anyone unraveling behavior issues.

When should you be concerned with severe attachment issues? Gray explains that parents should expect children under 4 years of age to show significant attachment within a year. For older children, attachment should form within two years after arrival. While factors like trauma, multiple placements, severe abuse, early neglect or cultural change can stretch out this time, progress should occur in two years. She counsels patience for parents who are waiting for their children to love them, but says sympathetically that is is one of the hardest challenges. Gray provides a great variety of techniques and examples of ways to encourage this growth. She doesn't sugar coat the problems, but neither does she present this as an insurmountable issue for which no improvement can be expected.

Although Attaching in Adoption provides much needed discussion and advice for the hard core attachment problems, it also covers a wide spectrum of attachment and bonding issues. Gray describes the normal developmental attachment stages, barriers to attachment, and ways to encourage bonding. Her book helps to clarify the boundaries between a healthy relationship and a problematic one. Many adoptive families will find Attaching in Adoption to be both reassuring and educational.

In sum, Attaching in Adoption is a invaluable resource for adoptive parents, and professionals, who are looking for information on the attachment process in adoptive families.

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