OUT OF CONTROL 15 y.o. with- ODD

tara w

New Member
this is my first post, so i'm a bit nervous.

if you've every seen the movie "Antwone Fisher", that is the story of our "difficult child".

he came into our family 6 years ago. my brother adopted him as a single parent and saved him from a life of foster care. difficult child was born in jail to a mother who never bonded with him. he was placed in foster care for a short time and then returned to mother. difficult child was never given proper care- left alone, neglected and eventually found himself back in foster care at the age of 3. in foster care, he faced further neglect and sexual abuse.

my brother, his adopted father, (who works in the field) started working with difficult child when he was 8. The foster home where difficult child was placed was no longer an option and my brother (the SAINT that he is) gave him a new life with our family.

for a young boy who came from and was given NOTHING- no attention or love, staying inside all weekend reading books, a matchbox car at Christmas, when he walked into our family, he hit the JACKPOT! no one could love him more than his "noni" (grandmother), grandfather, aunts, uncles, cousins and espeially, his father and me. he has been given every advantage in life. We have unconditional love for this boy. He is a part of our family- NO QUESTIONS ASKED.

you would think that he would realize how lucky he is to have a second chance in life and appreciate the love that has been given to him. he has chosen the opposite direction. he has destroyed prperty ($4,000 worth of windows), stolen alcohol, stolen his grandmother's truck on several occassions, has been in trouble with the law, been sexually active and used drugs and alcohol. he has NO REMORSE.

i think what frustartes me the most is that underneath all of the anger and discord, he has a WONDERFUL heart and has the potential to fulfill any of his dreams. but he's really messing up and causing his family heartache, frustration and grief.

whether you have lived through this or not... if you have any advice, know of a program or therapist to help, I, and my ffamily, would greatly appreciate it. i can't stand what he's doing to himself and my family.

thanks for your time.
Welcome to the board. You found a safe place to share your experiences.

Deep breaths!

ODD is rarely a stand alone diagnosis. There is almost always something else that goes alone with it. Sounds like he has not been propery diagnosed (diagnosis'd). It is in your BEST interest to have this done by a neuropsychiatrist.

Pick up a copy of "The Explosive Child" by Ross Greene. It is not a problem solver, but it is a huge help. Kinda gives you some insight into the minds of the ODD child.

There a lot of warrior moms who will be along with plenty of advice and wisdom for you. In the meantime, know that you are not alone. Prayers and hugs to you, and again, welcome!


Active Member
it definitely sounds like an inadequate diagnosis and i would make some appts with psychiatrist and psychologist both for an evaluation, right away, in my humble opinion.


Mom? What's a difficult child?
Hi and welcome-

There are a few warrior mom's here who have adopted children and most likely can help you with where to turn from here.
It definately sounds like this poor child has so much more going on... some attachment issues, post traumatic stress disorder just to name 2 that jump out!!! Do you know what his genetic family history is? Depression, mental illness, drug addiction, alcoholism?
I would guess he needs a complete evaluation from a nuero-psychologist & psychiatrist. Has he been evaluated before and by whom? Is he on any medications?

Your family sounds amazing... it is slow today. I am sure more will come by to say hello and offer suggestions.
hang in there and welcome


Active Member
Welcome Tara........

Your family has done an amazing thing, adopting this child into your home. I am sure he is beyond grateful for all that you have provided, but unfortunately, he is probably not able to show it right now due to his little mind being scrambled from all of the trauma he experienced. Nine years of abuse to a developing mind, cannot ever be erased. He needs intensive and extensive counseling, immediately, to try and reconcile these mental afflictions. Right now what you are witnessing is him acting out his feelings, and what he needs to be doing is trying to talk them out. Possibly some medication might help as well.

So the first thing you might do, is contact your ins co for a list of therapists that are on your plan, and set up an appointment. - as well as set up an appointment with a Neuro Pyschologist to have an evaluation done ASAP.

There are many on this board who have gone through similiar situations with foster children, and I am sure they will come along soon with even more wisdom.
Again, welcome..............

Wiped Out

Well-Known Member
Staff member
Just adding my welcome-the others have already given great advice. Glad you found us-we're a very supportive group.

timer lady

Queen of Hearts
Welcome Tara. I can offer many different ideas, but given your brother's profession I'm sure that difficult child has been evaluated up the whazzo.

Having said that, my tweedles came from the same type of background. They can never have enough & destroy it the minute they get it. Many times children who have been abused or neglected while pre-verbal have huge issues. (Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD), PTSD, etc)

If there was no sense of permanency or care when pre-verbal a child, even after this many years in a safe environment & with caring adults, have trouble in a family setting. They may not even be able to express it.

tara w

New Member
thanks to all who have responded!
i had tears in my eyes as i read your messages- i guess in some strange way, it helps to know that my family is not alone.

difficult child has been OVER analyzed by therapists, psychologists, you name it. he has been diagnosed with ADHD, CD and now ODD. we have been trying everything possible to find out what's going on and try to help. he and his father go to family counseling (which is a joke) and he (difficult child) just went through an extensive psychological examination. trouble is... difficult child is street wise and and can make even the most effective therapist/psychologist feel sorry for him. he is a SURVIVOR- how could he not be after all that he's endured?

unfortunately, we don't really know a lot about his family history. the background records mention something about the mother and drugs (possibly the reason she was incarcerated???) so i'm sure there are some addiction issues there. other siblings have been incarcerated and/or had serious issues with the law. this is NOT the life that i want for my nephew. but how do you help someone that doesn't think there's anything wrong with their behavior?

difficult child has a way to manipulate people and make you feel like you're
"giving up on him like everyone else did." i am such a nurturing person that of course i become guilt-ridden and he's got me EXACTLY where he wants me.

difficult child is loved very, very much or else i wouldn't be on this board trying to find some guidance.

they say it takes a village to raise a child. on this one, i think it'll take a whole country.

thanks for listening-

timer lady

Queen of Hearts

These children have had to become survivors - couldn't allow themselves to trust an adult caregiver; in their eyes the caregiver can never do enough. It's the reality of many abused/traumatized children - especially if the abuse occurred pre-verbally.

There are many skills these children didn't learn. The one thing they did learn is that you cannot trust adults. Add in any other mental illness or addiction bio parents may have had - well, it's a HUGE challenge.

There may come a time to say "this is as good as it gets". My husband & myself have had to accept the limitations of my tweedles; their ability to love, their skewed perceptions of reality, their ability to manipulate & triangulate every single adult in their lives.

Not that it's acceptable around here. We have acknowledged the tweedles limitations. We are doing everything we can to get them every intervention possible - in the end, this just may be as good as it gets.

Tara, I would encourage your brother & your entire family to call difficult child on his behaviors. To point out to tdocs, psychiatrists, whomever you are dealing with that difficult children antics don't apply in your family. He is a survivor. Only he can accept that.


Well-Known Member
I've adopted six times and twice it didn't work out. One kid was just too dangerous and the other was impacted by that kid. My observations are that adopting an older child and expecting that child to love you and appreciate you is a stretch. These kids are often, if not usually, so damaged by the time they are sometimes even two years old that they often have no idea how to love and many times just dont even WANT to or feel comfortable being loved. Also, if there was prenatal drug or alcohol abuse, the child could have organic brain damage from that (like alcohol spectrum disorder). The child who was so dangerous that we adopted was 11 and we gave him everything too and he acted like he adored us, but was secretly sexually and emotionally terrorizing our younger two kids (who were adopted, but at very young ages). We also adopted a six year old boy from Hong Kong. He was and is BRILLIANT. He was so easy to raise too, never did anything wrong and is now 30 years old and almost a millionaire. He doesn't see us anymore. He married and is going through tons of identity baggage, and, to be honest, I doubt he ever bonded with us. The infant adoptions and our two year adoption worked-- they bonded right away. I must add that the little boy who came to us at two only had ONE foster home, and had been very loved there, so he didn't have attachment issues. However, due to prenatal substance abuse and/or heredity, he is on the autism spectrum. The much older kids that we adopted never bonded. It seems logical that we give them the world and they love and appreciate us, but these kids don't think that way. They are unable to think like "normal" kids who were loved from birth. They also often have undiagnosed psychiatric problems that are hard to diagnose if there is no birth history. ODD rarely ever stands alone. Most likely other things are also going on and also most likely there are attachment issues too. You may want to look up Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). I think that there's a link on this site. However, to complicate matters, it's rare that Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) stands alone too. The child we adopted who abused our younger kids was diagnosed with "Severe Reactive Attachment Disorder." He had never been caught abusing until he'd been adopted by us. His foster parents hadn't suspected, but he admitted he'd been doing it since he was five years old. Somewhere, although he has no memory of it, he must have been abused too and that's another issue. The social worker told us at least 90% of the foster kids are sexually abused. in my opinion it's pointless to be angry at a child with this background for not appreciating his advantages. I truly don't believe he CAN. If he talked to my oldest son from Hong Kong, the smart one, my son would tell him, "I never could love people the way others do." He lived in an orphanage for six years. He tried hard to love us, even hugging us, but we could tell that he was detached. You're doing the right thing by treating this child like one of the family because he IS. But your brother may love the boy more than the boy can love him back. by the way, all my kids are different races from us. The issue didn't seem to be the race. It seemed to be the age that the child came into our lives. I'm very close to the kids who were adopted as infants--as close to them as to my biological son.
An adopted child should not have to act grateful. JMO
Wow Tara.

Yeah, poor guy has some serious trust issues there. Streetwise beyond his years. Linda is right, there are a lot of skills he hasn't learned. Another one is how to leave his past as his past and look into his future.

Seems to me that first your brother and now you have been a Godsend into his life. You mentioned your frustration at his potential. Many kids like this are not capable of tapping into that potential if the skills are not there. That is not to say he is a lost cause, and you and your wonderful family sound very determined.

You are in the right place, and headed in the right direction. Someone else mentioned that since it is a holiday, the board is slow today. there will be many more veterans along tomorrow (I'm not much more than a newbie on the board myself).

Warm thoughts being sent your way.


Well-Known Member
Welcome Tara!

I have a couple questions/suggestions.

Is the therapist/counselor/psychiatrist a specialist in attachment disorders? If not, then they really can not begin to heal this child.

Has difficult child tried any medications? Sometimes it is OK not to know the diagnosis yet, but to treat the different symptoms. For example if you have a child with moods that go up and down - before diagnosing bipolar, it is OK to try a mood stabilizer. The diagnosis really does not change that the symptoms need to be treated anyway. There are times when the diagnosis dictates what medications are tried first though.

Next is the realization that love does not conquer all. You can not love this child into a healthy, law-abiding, tax paying adult.


Hello Tara -

I have nothing new to offer as you've been given tons of great advice. I wanted to add my welcome also. This board is a great place for support and ideas - a place to vent, cry, share the good times and garner new ideas. Sometimes - even with posts that don't pertain to a diagnosis my child has - I'll find myself thinking...hmmm, never thought of it that way before. Lovely group of people here. Very supportive and insightful.

I second the idea of finding a psychiatrist or therapist that specializes in attachment disorders to rule out or in an attachment disorder. A psychiatrist or therapist that works with trauma in children can help, I'm sure, at least as a starting point to get you headed in the general direction. I've attached a link with some information you may or may not find useful.

The link below has a list of member networks that have psychiatrists and/or tdocs trained in working with traumatized children. If there isn't one near you, you could still contact them. They may have information on professionals closer to you.


The one thing I tell all new members is to take time for yourselves. That goes for both you and your brother.

Welcome to the board. I'm glad you've found us.


New Member
Just want to welcome you.

This is a wonderful place to post for help, to share your burdens and be able to talk to others that have been where you are.

Want to give you another view,

What you posted about your nephew sounded alot like my own bio-son.

All your nephew's issue may not be coming from his past. My son was the light of my life from birth on..


New Member
Having adopted a child who was severely abused and neglected, I understand some of your pain and frustration. She has, to a small extent, bonded with me. However, I adopted her at a younger age, which gave me a chance to "baby" her when I first got her. This can help Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) kids, which I'm willing to be your nephew has.

If you and your brother haven't done so, I would highly recommend reading "Adopting the Hurt Child" and "Parenting the Hurt Child" by Gregory Keck. They can be helpful and do give you some hope.

I'm not sure what you mean when you say your brother is in the "field". Unless he specializes in adoption issues, it is easy to get lost. Even if he does, it is best to have a specialist in adoptions and abuse involved. These professionals are harder to manipulate. They're better able to see through the garbage.

I envy your brother. He is fortunate his family is standing by him and his son. Both your nephew and brother are so lucky to have you. Thank you for being there for them. Many families simply tell the adoptive parent to relinquish their child. Much easier said than done when the heart is involved.


Active Member
I am sorry about the difficult situation. in my humble opinion I feel maybe a young mentor , buddy, buddy-tutor who will have fun with him , will be able to reach out to him. When you have a friend you trust, not a therapist , you open up , he becomes your confidant and then you can honestly explore the things getting in your way
Maybe he needs the structure and nurturing of a Residential Treatment Center (RTC) ( not the behavior mod types )
check http://strugglingteens.com

I hope this helps


Well-Known Member
I want to add that, although it's really a good idea to tap into Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) issues, please don't think it's ONLY Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). There may be some other serious underlying psychiatric or neurological problems. If the b-mom substance abused Fetal alcohol syndrome should be looked into--that can cause a lack of conscience, but it's due to damage from the alcohol, not Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). It can be bipolar, if the parents have psychiatric issues. It can be a lot of things. That doesn't mean the child doesn't have Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). He probably has attachment issues. But if you go to a specialist who only knows about Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) (we did this for one of our kids), the specialist will probably miss anything else that is going on too. I'd rule out all else first, because in my opinion I doubt it's just attachment issues. in my opinion, that's just part of the complicated mix. If he was also sexually abused, that's another issue too. Lots of dynamics are going on here. I'd definitely see a Child Psychiatrist first and go from there. You can only sort out one thing at a time. These drug-exposed adopted kids with little family history and foster care backgrounds are complex and difficult. I've learned the hard way that some can be helped and some can't, but the best way to get a big picture on this sort of child is to get intensive evaluations on all ends to look into every possibility. Helping one issue without addressing the other issues often doesn't work...attacking the problem the way you'd do it if the child had been with you since infancy, with no prenatal exposure to alcohol or drugs, just doesn't work well for our kids. I can tell you, my son with Pervasive Developmental Disorder (PDD)-not otherwise specified (see below) who came at age two was evaluated to the max and he's doing GREAT.


Active Member
welcome, I have to say that a lot of us here have bio kids who have acted that same way. so, it shows no boundaries.
I too tried so many things with my son but it didnt stop his downhill spiral.

he is a lot better now. no longer drugging, but he does drink. he works daily. a start. sometimes they can outgrow ODD but what do you do in the meanwhile?? boarding school?? sports?? busy activities so they are too tired to act out??? I wish I had answers. I do have a welcome for ya!


Well-Known Member
Welcome. I hope things get better but I do think you should explore the Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) information and be prepared to have less than a
happily ever after ending. My grandson was not secure as a small
child and although he had extensive reassuring contact with us,
plus a couple of years living with us five/six days a week and
subsequently spent 5th grade with us and then 7,8,9 and now 10th
grade with us and knows he lives with us..he still has side effects from the lack of secure attachment. Intensive secure
loving attachments are sometimes not possible. Our teen is much
better than he was (no violence or anti-social behaviors), he is
apparently never going to be just a "happy camper" person. DDD

tara w

New Member
thanks for all of the great advice- i'm planning on picking up some of the books and visiting the sites you've suggested.

i forgot to mention... my nephew has been on several different medications- patches, pills, you name it. i'm not exactly sure WHAT medications, but they have the effect of slowing him down (the opposite of what they would do to us). of course, compliance is an issue. he takes them when he wants to.

the Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD) makes a lot of sense- from what i've been told, he had self-stimulating behaviors as an infant where he would rock in his crib and bang his head against the headboard.

i get really scared when i think that this just may be as "good as it gets." i wish i had a guarantee that one day he would "get it." i wish someone would say to me, "tara, on such and such a date, it's all gonna 'click' into place for him and he's going to realize what a wonderful life he has." i get so scared that he's going to make a bad choice and none of us are going to be able to help him. then what???

does anyone have any insight into Residential Treatment Facility (RTF)'s or military schools? i've researched some RTFs and found mixed opinions. i also worry that because he already has some type of attachment disorder, will he feel like we were giving up on him if we sent him to one?