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Movie Review: The Boarder

After watching the movie, The Boarder for the first time, I contacted Jane E. Ryan and requested a free copy of the movie in exchange for a review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.  I do not receive commission for any sales of this movie or other materials offered.

When you make the decision to adopt, Reactive Attachment Disorder is the last thing on your mind, if a thing at all.  Even if you do know what Reactive Attachment Disorder is...  You can't truly KNOW what it's like to be a parent of child with the disorder, until you live in the trenches day in and day out fighting for a child, who's fighting against you.

We're six years into our journey, having adopted two children with Reactive Attachment Disorder.  I can't do justice to the emotions I've felt every step of the way.  In the beginning, I felt as if I was going crazy.  How was it that I couldn't bond with my daughter, whom everyone else thought was perfect in every way?  Love was not enough.  The parenting I HAD to do was terrifying to me.  Matters were made worse when others just didn't get it.  The more I shared about what was really going on, the more people thought I was crazy.

I have an amazing husband.  He's educated and brilliant.  Yet during those first few years of raising our daughter, our marriage suffered.  With all of his education and experience, he tried to support me, but he just didn't see or experience what I was experiencing.  Our daughter was Daddy's little girl and that was that.

I tried so hard to change and make improvements to myself.  When I felt strong and confident enough in my parenting abilities, I'd try to create special moments with my daughter, only to have them completely sabotaged by her.

We were fortunate to have our daughter see an amazing developmental pediatrician at 18 months, who identified what was going on right from the first appointment.  At the age of two the diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder was given. Our daughter is monitored by our developmental pediatrician and seen at least every three months.  Documentation is provided whenever needed.  We are blessed with two amazing therapists who not only have decades of experience with Reactive Attachment in the office, but have parented FIVE adopted children with Reactive Attachment Disorder of their own, who are now grown adults.  Doctor's appointments and therapy won't take the the disorder away, but the support network we have established means everything.

When our second daughter arrived, she healed my heart.  My dear sweet Sunshine would let me hold her.  I could feed her.  It was easy to be affectionate.  However, such was not the case with my husband.  The battles, rages, and screaming fits were endless.  And the worst part was, I simply didn't get it.  I thought my husband was having a nervous breakdown, or surely losing his mind.  Why couldn't he handle caring for our daughter, especially after three other children and several foster children?  Our marriage was at it's very worst at this point.

And then it hit me.  Our second daughter had Reactive Attachment Disorder too.  I just wasn't her target.  There are no words to describe what it felt like to realize that all of the issues that had mounted were not a result of my husband, but instead my second daughter.  The sorrow I felt for the horrible pains our marriage had endured seemed bottomless.

Sure enough, at the age of  two, Sunshine received her official diagnosis of Reactive Attachment Disorder.  Since then she has seen the developmental pediatrician every 6 weeks.  We have introduced our second daughter to our amazing therapists as well.

As odd as it may seem, having two children with Reactive Attachment Disorder, each targeting a different parent, has done wonders for our marriage.  We both understand how hard each of us tries to be the best parent we can be.  When we need to vent, there is support.  If behaviors are extreme, neither one of us hesitates to provide back up for each other.  Our marriage is better and stronger than it's ever been.

Sadly, the behaviors that come with Reactive Attachment Disorder are extreme and always will be.  As the girls grow, they are capable of more.  There is no happily ever after here.  We dance between hope and the realities of this horrible disorder.  Our health suffers.  Exhaustion is endless.  All of this because we LOVE our daughters and are willing to do whatever it takes to give them a chance at success in life, knowing full well our efforts could be completely fruitless.

We've worked hard to educate ourselves about our daughters: their pasts, their genetics, and the trauma they've experienced.  The process has been so disgusting that the only thing that helps ease my mind is watching episode after episode of medical dramas or an intense action series involving spies.  Those are the only things that I can think of that are worse than what my daughters have experienced, and what I live through on a regular basis at home, as I try to help them heal.

For years, I have looked for a way to share with others what our life is like parenting children with Reactive Attachment Disorder.  We've read books.  We've attended trainings.  Some were okay.  But none of them showed the severity of everything to the degree that we needed, for others to understand.  I had truly given up hope until I watched the movie, The Boarder written and directed by Jane E. Ryan.

I'll always remember the first night I watched it.  I cried.  I laughed.  More than anything I felt a glimpse of normal, as this movie portrayed what my life is like, down to every last detail.  My girls may not be the age of the main character yet.  They  have not acted out the situations portrayed in the movie, in their entirety.  But they have done what they're capable of doing for their age. The Boarder shows what they could do in the future.  Because of our education and support, we have knowledge of what they can do and will be capable of.  Safety plans are already in place.  There are two adults in the home to manage extreme behaviors and to keep everyone safe.  So far, we've been lucky.  But no one, including us, knows what the future holds.

If you are a parent of a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder, and have not seen The Boarder, you need to not only see it, but own at least two copies.  Keep one for yourself, and share the other copy with extended family, close friends, teachers, therapists, and even doctors.  This movie will not only provide them with education they so desperately need about Reactive Attachment Disorder, but enlighten them on what it's like to parent a child with the disorder.  When they are enlightened they become empathetic.  Empathy leads to support.  Parents of children with Reactive Attachment Disorder need ALL the support they can receive.

The Boarder leaves nothing out.  It is not a fluffy feel good movie.  For some it may be disturbing.  After watching it for the first time, my mother called me every night for a week, to check in and make sure I was okay.   There is some mild violence, but the most severe events take place off-screen. The movie contains a lot of profanity.  However, the profanity is purposeful and very realistic. Children with Reactive Attachment Disorder are often verbally abusive.  One of our girls is.  The only reason our daughter doesn't use the profanity in the movie, is because she doesn't know those words yet.  Such will not be the case forever.

If ever there was one resource to purchase to educate others about Reactive Attachment Disorder, The Boarder is it.  If ever there was one resource to help a parent of an adopted child with the disorder feel validated in their journey, The Boarder does that.  I cannot rave about it enough.  If you don't own it, now is the time to make your purchase!  The Boarder can be purchased online HERE.  You will also find many other resources available through the same website.  My heart is filled with so much gratitude for the work Jane E. Ryan is doing to educate others about Reactive Attachment Disorder.  Her work is astounding!  Please help me share it.


  1. "The Boarder" is a gift and blessing for those that struggle to share the realities of raising a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder (RAD). The realities of RAD are difficult to explain. Children with it often manifest as charming, engaging and delightful. This is how they survived in the abusive, neglectful and traumatic situations they came from. It is not until the child feels that you are trying to bond with them in a deep and meaningful way and/or care for them as a Primary Caregiver, that many of their behaviors are shown. Because of their earlier experiences, they have learned to not trust primary caregivers. Primary caregivers have abused, neglected and traumatized them. The trauma from these events have re-wired their brains. They believe that they will die if they allow a Primary Caregiver to care for them. They have no trust in Primary Caregivers. They do not believe that being cared for is ultimately for their good. RAD effects not only the child and Primary Caregivers, but the entire family and community in a whole. The Boarder does a great job of showing this.

  2. Renea, such a touching story! Your honesty is incredible! I will hug my kids a bit tighter tonight. This video sounds like a must-watch for parents who have children with RAD.