At 24-years-old, Chris and Dyan Roosma were a newly married couple with a baby on the way. They planned to have four kids together. Dyan would stay home with their children and Chris would pursue a marketing career. They had never heard of the term “reactive attachment disorder” before. They certainly had no plans to become treatment parents for the Institute for Attachment and Child Development. But one day, an 8-year-old boy walked into their lives.
It began with a phone call nearly 14 years ago. Sherry, Dyan’s sister, called her crying with sadness for her son’s best friend Enrique. Sherry volunteered in her son’s 2nd grade classroom regularly. Everyday, Enrique wore the same green shirt and jean shorts to school. And everyday, he apologized for his clothes. When “they” took him from his parent’s house, Enrique explained, he didn’t have time to gather any clothing. He was living in a group home after his parents had abused and neglected him. Sherry brought Enrique clothes but she knew it wasn’t enough. So did Dyan.
Nowhere to Call Home
Dyan suggested to Chris that they invite Enrique into their home. At the time, they had a 10-month-old son, had just purchased a home with an available bedroom, and were young parents. Dyan thought they were ideal candidates to care for an 8-year-old boy until someone adopted him. Chris resisted initially but then contacted Enrique’s caseworker to learn more. Within a week, the boy they had never met was living with them. Dyan and Chris had no foster care license at the time and received only a hasty background check from the caseworker.
The Roosmas quickly realized that Enrique was not like other kids. However, they couldn’t ascertain the specific issue. To attain and keep their foster parenting license, the Roosmas were required to undergo training. It was during that training that they first heard the term “reactive attachment disorder”. The description fit Enrique perfectly. They were able to get some therapy and treatment for Enrique and life felt pretty normal. After two years, the caseworker called to say they had a family to adopt Enrique. Chris and Dyan decided, however, that they were his family and adopted him themselves.
Done at Four…Plus One More
Things were going well for the Roosmas new family of four. They felt ready to have another biological child. They decided that Enrique would be the only child they adopted. Or so they thought…until they received another call. Child Protective Services took Dyan’s cousin’s children out of her home due to abuse, neglect, and drug abuse. Since the Roosmas already had a foster care license, they decided to take one of the kids. Even though Dyan didn’t know her cousin or her kids well at all, they were still her family.
The family that had initially promised to adopt Isaac decided against it. They had enough and were going to drop him off in a Walgreen’s parking lot at 5 p.m. that day. Someone had better be there to pick him up, they said. So that’s what the Roosmas did. “It was a day after Isaac’s 7th birthday,” Dyan said. “We went to pick up this scared little boy in the parking lot. He had no idea who we were.” So they brought him home. Soon thereafter, Dyan found out she was pregnant.
And the chaos began. Issac screamed, yelled, and banged on the walls regularly. The police showed up at their home almost daily due to all the commotion. Their school district officials kicked him out of school because he threw bookcases and desks and assaulted the principal and teachers. Isaac routinely beat up and urinated on the other boys in the house. He kicked Dyan in the stomach often, knowing she was pregnant. At the tender age of seven, he attempted suicide on a regular basis. He told Dyan things such as “I really want to die. I’m going to kill myself” and would run out into moving traffic. Due to her training in regard to reactive attachment disorder with Enrique, Dyan knew that Issac had the same issues. But Issac had much more severe issues with attachment than Enrique did. She knew she needed much more help.
The Boy Who Took Them to the Mountains
Dyan and Chris went to their foster care support organization for more guidance. Along the way, they met a woman who understood reactive attachment disorder well. She, too, had a child with attachment issues. Dyan told her about Isaac and the woman recommended the Institute for Attachment and Child Development. Dyan started to look for funding to take Isaac to Colorado. After six months, she secured enough money to get a two-week intensive treatment for him. While they were in Colorado, the IACD Executive Director, Forrest Lien, noted how passionate and intuitive the Roosmas were in regard to reactive attachment disorder. He asked the Roosmas if they’d want to receive training from IACD to become treatment parents. They told him they’d consider it but went home with Isaac as their utmost priority.
Things went well with Isaac at home. He was on the right medications and thrived under the parenting structure Forrest instructed the Roosmas to instill. A month later, however, one of Isaac’s biological family members attempted to kidnap him. Isaac quickly spiraled downward. He got kicked out of every school—public and specialized—that the Roosmas found for him. The Roosmas decided they needed further training and Isaac needed more therapy. That’s how they made the decision to move their children to Colorado and become attachment therapy parents for IACD.
A Life They Never Knew They Wanted
The Roosmas don’t have the life they envisioned at age 25. But it just so happens that they are doing exactly what they are most passionate about and inclined to do—caring for their children. And that’s not just the Roosma boys and the rotating four children that go in and out of their home during treatment.
Long after children leave their home, Chris and Dyan get regular calls from their adult “kids” who stayed with them during treatment. “When the kids who lived with us get older, they still trust us,” said Chris. “They call to talk with us and visit every now and again. We enjoy the chance to become a part of their extended families.” This is what makes the Institute for Attachment and Child Development different than any other model in the world. Kids go through treatment in a real home, public school, and community. They have a regular home, dogs and all. That’s why the IACD model works when so many other fail. Learn more about our family treatment model here.
But their very favorite moments are when children let their parents into their lives. Since they were abused and neglected at early ages, kids with reactive attachment disorder equate parenting with hurt. So they learn to push people who love them far away to protect themselves. “Our goal at IACD is to help kids with reactive attachment disorder trust their parents,” said Chris. “That’s what this program is all about. Kids learn to release control and allow their parents to make choice for them.” When that happens, kids can be kids. They are able to finally relax and let their parents be in charge. “You can see it on their faces and in their body language,” says Dyan. “You can see the walls that they build around their hearts just kind of fall down. Their faces get really soft and they have a glow about them. It’s beautiful. ” Click here to learn about becoming a therapeutic treatment parent for IACD.
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