attachment theories

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Some new developments in Baby D’s case have virtually cemented his place in our home for several more months. I’d been longing for a breakthrough in this case because the schedule was truly beginning to wear on me. I imagined that breakthrough to mean that he would go home. Kind of the opposite happened, but it did mean that visits have now been reduced to one visit per week, four hours, at the visitation center. At least for the time being. Answer to prayer, I guess?

I’m really interested to see how Baby D does with this new schedule. When he came to live with us, he was grieving, and he loved his mama so much that I didn’t even hesitate to support multiple lengthy visits per week. He did better when he saw his mom. When she had to miss a visit, and he didn’t see her for a week, he grew fairly lethargic, almost depressed. The day he saw her, he was back to his old cheerful self. I was fully in support of all the positive things that I saw from their relationship.

Now that things are dragging on (next week will mark 7 months with us), I’m feeling less certain about how things should proceed. Baby D doesn’t seem any more bonded with us than he would with a daycare worker. I guess a more accurate way to explain it is that Baby D has kept himself a bit separate from our family. I probably wouldn’t understand it if I wasn’t living it, but this baby has decided who his family is. He’s right; it’s not us, but I still don’t know if it’s healthy for him to have not switched his primary attachment to us at this point. My gut says that it would be healthier for him in the long run to fully attach to us, to love us like a mom and dad. I still hope and pray for his return to his family, but I can’t guarantee that will happen at this point. If he stays with us, if he goes with relatives, if he goes home, or even if he goes to another adoptive family, I think it would be easier and healthier to transition from our home to that one if he were fully engaged as a member of our family.

This is only our second week of one day a week visits. We may only get a month of this schedule before visits increase again, but I’m curious to see if this month makes a difference. If he sees his parents less, will he bond to us more? Will he ever call me Mama? He should; it’s the developmentally appropriate thing to do. Yet he doesn’t. He says mama sometimes, but usually it’s just his word that he says he wants something. Any person can fulfill that need; he definitely doesn’t mean me specifically. I’d like to see that happen sometime soon.

This is a critical period for Baby D. If infants do not develop healthy attachment to a mother during this time period (typically the first two years, although I’ve read some reports that 15-18 months is the most important time), or if that attachment is disrupted, there are irreversible and significant consequences to that. Baby D has already had a disrupted attachment when he was removed from his mother. If he can’t healthily shift his attachment to me, I worry that he won’t ever be able to attach fully. I am parenting the consequences of unattached infancy with my own youngest two children right now, and I don’t want that future for Baby D.

If any of you reading this are foster parents, have you ever had a baby who just didn’t attach to you? What did you do to help that attachment along? Or should I not be worried and just let him maintain his primary attachment to his mother even though she’s not his primary caregiver and may never be reunited with him? The longer this case continues, the more questions I have that I don’t know the answer to. Isn’t that always the way of things?

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