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Stealing Lying and RAD

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I can't seem to find anything specific on how to handle stealing and lying with children with attachment disorder. My new stepdaughter appears to have stolen my earring about 7 months ago and recently returned it to a convenient shared area in the house. Because when she took the item it could't be proven beyond the shadow of a doubt she was not held responsible by her father (no one else was home at the time). The Earring returned just before Christmas. It just appeared on the kitchen table. Again no one was home but us when it happened. These kinds of unexplained occurences are more common since we have become a blended family. I have over ten years of experience working with treatment foster care children and the many mental, emotional, and physical challenges they bring to the family. I have worked with RAD in the past, however I have never had to co-parent with a birth parent at the same time. I feel like we need to confront the issue head on. Children with RAD appear to be experts in deception so catching her red handed is difficult. When it is obvious no one else can be to blame I think they should have to deal with the issue and its consequences.

Any thoughts

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Guest ASchwartz

Hi Momtomany,

My first question is...what is RAD????? I cannot figure it out.

Second, how can you be sure that she is the one doing the stealing? I am not saying she is not but how to know she is? Blending a family produces many stresses and strains especially for the children.

Also, how old is she and the others?

Actually, I am surprised to read that, with your many years of experience working with foster kids that you never ran into stealing and lying. It is common, even for "normal children" to go through a period of doing some stealing and lying. Kids with problems are most likely.

You do not seem impressed that stolen items are returned. I am curious about that. After all, someone, maybe her, is stealing, but, then returning. What does this mean and what is she or someone else trying to say?

Have you discussed this problem with your husband, alone, and separate from the children?


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RAD is "reactive attachment disorder".

It seems you are seeking specialized advice. You are already a skilled parent, it would seem, but this situation is seeming to be out of the ordinary given that there are potentially the political issues of the blended family to cope with. If you confront the child, do you end up alienating your husband? Etc.

Because this is a specialized situation, I think it best that you consult a local specialist for the specific answer to your question. We can raise issues here, but I know I don't have this specific area of expertise to offer, and I'm not sure anyone else here will either. People are welcome to chime in, but this is just us folks trying to be helpful and shouldn't be confused with a professional opinion.

The one thought I have is that there are likely to be boundary issues at work here, and that however you decide to address the situation, you first discuss it at length with your husband and the two of you decide how you will jointly handle it. The general idea is that the parents should present a unit to the children and resist efforts by children to divide the parents into individuals. This is complicated by the facts of the blended family and the likely presence of your daughter's relationships with other parental figures outside your marriage. Maybe you can call a conference with all of these parents and you can all agree on an approach and present a unified front? that may be wishful thinking, but at least that's the way I'm inclined to think about it for the moment.


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I completely understand the stealing and not having absolute proof of it. My adopted son is 9 and he has been stealing from his dad and I, the school, his classmates, businesses, and other family and friends for approx. 1 1/2 years. It has gotten progressively worse and I too have been unable to completely prove it, until he would eventually tell someone else or I would find the missing item in his belongings. While I do understand the stealing and lying, my concern is safety issues. He continues to make serious threats to my family. He has threatened to burn our house down and threatened to put a gun to my head. Although we have taken all the safety measures we know how to take, it still scares me. He is extremely bright and he thinks of things no one else would come up with. You mentioned you had experience working with RAD. Is any of this familiar to you? If so, how do you handle the threats? He threatened to take a ball bat to my house....I ignored it and put the bat away. He took my daughters bat and beat holes in the siding of our house. He has no empathy....and doesnt care if he hurts or destroys things.

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