Letters for December 26, 2007 

Readers sound off on holding therapy, Woodfin Suites, Peter Laufer, Berkeley's attitude toward the homeless, and the books of Oliver Sacks

"When Love Is Not Enough," Feature, 11/28

Clarifying My Attitude Toward Holding Therapy

I appreciate issues related to Reactive Attachment Disorder and its treatment receiving coverage in the media. Unfortunately, I was misrepresented and misquoted in the article, which stated that I used "holding therapy" and other controversial techniques in my practice. This is inaccurate and misrepresents my work. I do not believe that any type of coercive therapy is helpful in resolving the pain and losses the children I work with have experienced. I do, however, assist parents and their children in creating stronger attachments, resolving early traumas and healing from neglectful or abusive treatment, and accurate information about my practice can be obtained at www.attachmentadoption.net or by calling me directly at 510-339-9363.

Virginia Keeler-Wolf, Family Attachment and Adoption Center East Bay, Oakland

The Greatest Benefit

I am disappointed that my colleague, Virginia Keeler-Wolf, was misrepresented in this article. "Holding Therapy" is not done in her practice, nor anywhere in California that I am aware of. Additionally, I wanted to give credit to Virginia for what I believe is the greatest benefit we can offer these children and families, and that is our collaborative and multi-modal approach (taking into account the recent advances in neuroscience), and working in concert with the therapeutic parenting going on at home/school.

Lori DiRicco, Neurofeedback Provider, Family Attachment & Adoption Center East Bay, Oakland

Susan Kuchinskas Responds

The technique of keeping the child held securely in the arms in therapeutic sessions with Ms. Keeler-Wolf was described to me in detail and on tape by one of the mothers in my story. Maybe there is another more politically correct term for this practice. It should be noted that, while some rogue therapists have taken the technique to extremes, the "holding" is designed to recreate the experience of being safe in Mommy's arms — not being held down. And, if I didn't make it clear enough in the story, let me say explicitly that both mothers I interviewed had nothing but praise for Ms. Keeler-Wolf's work, and both felt strongly that she had greatly helped their daughters.

What About the Joy?

As an adoptive parent, I have concerns about the "little monsters" label. The vast majority of adopted children are as delightful a blessing as any biological child could be, and maybe even more so because the parents have the joy of seeing a child go from a bad situation to a great one. Articles like this, while certainly helpful for some, also tend to make the majority of people who are not involved in the adoption community fearful of adoption, particularly when labels like the word "monster" are used to describe children.

The truth is that most adopted children, while suffering small developmental delays, are not "monsters," do not have severe psychiatric disorders, and don't exhaust their parents. In fact, not all parents choose to adopt because they cannot have biological children. I would love to see this publication write another article on the absolute joy of becoming an adoptive parent.

Kirby Jones, Folsom

Survival Skills

I disagree that attachment issues are not the norm. I don't believe enough parents, whose children have mild attachment difficulties, know what they are looking at. Severe and moderate issues are easy to distinguish, but the more mild issues can be explained away or ignored, at least until those mild issues become more severe later on.

It is ludicrous to think that our much-loved and hoped-for children could go through what they have been through and think it won't affect their ability to trust. It is also ridiculous to believe that these children's worldviews won't be altered from living in orphanages where their needs for more than just the basics aren't being met simply because of the sheer numbers of children to caregivers. Parents need to put themselves in their children's shoes and ask themselves how they would respond. These kids have perfectly normal responses for the abnormal situations that they live in. Attachment issues do not become apparent until they join their families, because before they enter into the family these behaviors are simply the skills they use to survive.

MeDenne Jones, Boise, Idaho

You Have Done These Children a Disservice

These therapies reported in your article are controversial, unproven, unscientific, and even dangerous. Some of these kids are fetal alcohol-exposed and that distinction is not being made here. Your article implies that all adopted children are seriously damaged. The statement below is very misleading if not totally wrong:

According to Families with Children from China, as many as 25,000 people are on the waiting list to take infants, toddlers, and children as old as ten from Chinese orphanages. In fact, foreign adoptions are cleaning out institutions in China, South Korea, and Eastern Europe; the number of waiting parents may exceed the number of available children.

There are over 700,000 children in Russian orphanages alone. If you are referring to people waiting for young infants with a specific set of criteria then you should make that distinction. It is a disservice to the millions of children without permanent families to print this slanted article.

Rebecca Schindeman, MLIS, MOM (five from ages five to twenty-five, two by adoption from Russian orphanages), Yardley, Pennsylvania

Responding As They Know How

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