Reactive Attachment Disorder - Please Help

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brandonadams

Puritan Board Freshman
Brothers and Sisters,

I could really use some help with an important issue. My sister adopted two children from Haiti several years ago. They are 4 years old now. Due to problems with the process, she wasn't able to get them out until they were a year old. She went down to visit them several times during that year, and each visit, she could see the babies getting worse. They seem to have developed what is called Reactive Attachment Disorder:

RAD is characterized by markedly disturbed and developmentally inappropriate ways of relating socially in most contexts. It can take the form of a persistent failure to initiate or respond to most social interactions in a developmentally appropriate way—known as the \"inhibited\" form—or can present itself as indiscriminate sociability, such as excessive familiarity with relative strangers—known as the \"disinhibited form\".

RAD arises from a failure to form normal attachments to primary caregivers in early childhood. Such a failure could result from severe early experiences of neglect, abuse, abrupt separation from caregivers between the ages of six months and three years, frequent change of caregivers, or a lack of caregiver responsiveness to a child's communicative efforts.

Reactive attachment disorder - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Now, I am strongly opposed to psychotherapy. I agree with and have appreciated much of the work that the Bobgans have done in showing the problems and incompatibility of psychotherapy and Christianity. I believe there are significant and obvious problems with the assessment and labeling of RAD.

That being sad, my niece and nephew do manifest the symptoms of RAD. Not being a parent myself, it's hard for me to be wise in this situation. I would much sooner account the behavior to the depravity of man, to the fact that they are little vipers in diapers, than to say it is the result of how they were treated as an infant.

My sister is slowly coming to understand Reformed theology, and she has a desire to learn more, so she is open to correction about all of this and she is open to bringing her view of the issue into alignment with Scripture.

Now, part of the problem is that RAD theorists/practitioners claim that the diagnosis is so difficult and that the actual symptoms manifest themselves in the fact that the children are highly manipulative and deceptive, that no one but the parent can truly recognize it. The result is that parents become very defensive and resistant to any attempts to disprove the theory or explain the behavior in any other way.

There is a Christian woman who has made it her life's work to be a RAD therapist and to help parents with an issue that on one else can supposedly understand. Much of the therapy is called "attachment therapy" and is highly controversial. She has "camps" for RAD kids where they bring in specialists to deal with them. The camps are very expensive. My sister has gotten to the point where she feels it is necessary to send them to this camp and in order to do so, she is taking money out of their college savings. That's how serious the issue is.

To get a better idea of what I am talking about and dealing with, you can read the woman's (Nancy Thomas) letter that parents of RAD kids are supposed to give their teachers:
Teacher Resources | Letter For Teachers | Nancy Thomas Parenting | Attachment.org

Here is a sampling:
RAD children are often involved in the Juvenile Justice System as they get older. Left untreated, such children can maim, kill and torture without conscience or feeling. They can start fires, kill pets and terrorize their families. It has been said that untreated RAD children grew up to be such persons as Ted Bundy, Charles Manson, Adolph Hitler, the teenagers who shot up Columbine High. They feel no remorse, have no conscience and see no relation between their actions and what happens as a result because they never connected with or relied upon another human being in trust their entire lives.

I contacted Nancy Thomas to ask for references for her claims. Her assistant replied:
Nancy says that Dr. Ken Magid wrote a book in the late 1980's, \"High-Risk
Children without a Conscience.\" When the book came out he was interviewed
often. Either the Denver Post or the Rocky Mountain News did an article
on him. This is where she got her information. Also, the students who
did the shooting at Columbine were laughing while they were shooting.
That is why she says they did not have a conscience.

Hope this helps.

As for the Hitler claim, the best I could find was this ridiculous article that claims the Holocaust was the result of Hitler being spanked as a child.
Adolf Hitler: How Could a Monster Succeed in Blinding a Nation? - The Natural Child Project

Like every other child, Hitler was born innocent, only to be raised, as were many children at the time, in a destructive fashion by his parents and later to make himself into a monster. He was the survivor of a machinery of annihilation that in turn-of-the-century Germany was called \"child-rearing\" and that I call \"the concealed concentration camp of childhood,\" which is never allowed to be recognized for what it is.

So anyways, I am looking for any help that anyone can give me. If anyone is familiar with RAD, please let me know. Other than that, I would really appreciate even just some testimonials of childrearing that I can share with my sister to let her know her children are not incurable monsters, that other parents struggle with discipline. And I do have to note that I think it is worse than just typical child behavior.

I would also appreciate the best material available on what the Bible has to say about child-rearing.

Thank you,
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
We are in the process of adopting a 1 year old that shows symptoms of RAD. From what we were taught in our classes, RAD is to be expected in adoption. How can there NOT be attachment issues when you have been taken from the woman in whose belly you lived for the most important 9 months of your life? It can be frustrating at times (doubly so with two I imagine) but I find it helps me to try to view the situation through the child's eyes. From the child's perspective no one is to be trusted. His parents can't be trusted, the social workers can't be trusted, any foster parents they might have had can't be trusted because they all gave up on him (from his perspective). It takes a lot of patience and consistency to build the kind of trust that you find between biological parents and children.

RAD children thrive on routine and boundaries. The more routines the better. Unlike bio children, they don't mind doing the same thing every day. It comforts them. Also, they may object to boundaries, but when they are enforced, it also provides comfort. The child actually enjoys having 'personal space'.

Also, they typically horde food and eat you out of house and home. Whom of us has not turned to the refrigerator to cure our loneliness or depression?

BTW, these are not the opinions of an expert, but someone who actually has an adoptive child. (Unlike many 'expert' social workers.)
 

turmeric

Megerator
RAD is real, but there are practitioners, and practitioners. It's caused by a disruption in the normal process of bonding, which is as much a physiological thing in a young infant as a psychological. Lots of foreign adoptees have it b/c they live in overcrowded orphanages where they do not get enough interaction from adults. Babies NEED to be held, looked at, jiggled and all that stuff you see women doing with their babies or their brains do not develop as God intended. The earlier treatment is instituted the better they do. However, it's hard to find a child development specialist who is also a committed Christian who is also skilled. I wouldn't do this camp, I'm sure there are alternatives closer to home, and it's easy for these kids to make people mad enough to abuse them. She needs a therapist who will let her be present when they are treated. I've heard of people who literally starve these kids into submission, and some have even died in these settings.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
RAD is real, but there are practitioners, and practitioners. It's caused by a disruption in the normal process of bonding, which is as much a physiological thing in a young infant as a psychological. Lots of foreign adoptees have it b/c they live in overcrowded orphanages where they do not get enough interaction from adults. Babies NEED to be held, looked at, jiggled and all that stuff you see women doing with their babies or their brains do not develop as God intended. The earlier treatment is instituted the better they do. However, it's hard to find a child development specialist who is also a committed Christian who is also skilled. I wouldn't do this camp, I'm sure there are alternatives closer to home, and it's easy for these kids to make people mad enough to abuse them. She needs a therapist who will let her be present when they are treated. I've heard of people who literally starve these kids into submission, and some have even died in these settings.

:agree: whole heartedly!
 

OPC'n

Puritan Board Doctor
These are good answers from Meg and Ken! Babies will actually die if they do not receive human touch. God made us to have relationships (Adam needed a mate) which imitate our relationship with Him. They certainly need professional help. God allows us to seek medical help for the brain just as He does for any other part of the body. The brain is what regulates emotions etc. We see changes in people's character and moods and emotions after brain surgery, or stroke....ie trauma causing injury. Chemicals in the brain can be altered causing the same effects. How does this relate to Reformed Theology? Well, diseases came about from the fall. But there's no law of God which states you cannot receive help for those diseases or injuries.
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
Our middle girl of our newly adopted kids is 8, she was 5 when she came to us. She has shown the greatest symptoms of RAD. In the beginning, though she started calling us 'mom' and 'dad' all it took was a visit to the bio parents or just a change in location to undo any bonding we were able to accomplish.

We took a trip to Tennessee and when we got there she would refer to us (quietly to her sister) as 'those people'. It was very disheartening.

With my son, when he starts getting too hyper, my wife picks him up and goes to the rocking chair and just holds him close and sings softly. He kicks and squirms for a while but eventually he calms and there is bonding.

The 'experts' will make this very complicated and tell such horror stories but the key is to give them extra of what they missed out on.

Some friends in our church just got a little girl from Haiti. She was adopted as an infant but it took 2 years to get her out of the country. Even though she was too big for it, Anne Marie kept Francesca in a snugly carrier almost non stop for weeks, WEEKS. Shopping, cooking, church, everywhere. I feared Anne Marie's back would break. But after weeks Francesca began doing things with her dad and now she ventures out and always returns to her mom and dad.

It takes patience and cultivation. What a thrill it is on Saturday morning when my 8 year old Rosie (always the first up) comes out to the dining room where I am reading on the love seat. She climbs into my lap and curls into a ball and I hold her tight. She didn't want anyone to touch her when she came 3 years ago.

This morning my 5 year old son opened our bedroom door at 3:45 and said, "I just wanted to make sure you were ok." I said "Come here." He jumped in bed and we hugged and kissed and then he hugged and kissed his mom and it was good. Three years ago he wouldn't cuddle either. Now he doesn't watch a movie unless he sits on one of our laps.

RAD is just a label that describes a pattern of the results of sin and a breakdown in family bonding. RAD diminishes over time. As your children get older you help them to understand that adoption is a God ordained means of building a family. You teach them to forgive the people who caused their suffering when they were young. You do this by teaching them that their identity is found in Christ. Only a vital union with our Lord can complete us, make us whole, give us true security and peace.
 

lynnie

Puritan Board Graduate
Our daughter was almost three when we got her. ( Romania).

For about two years it was like living with a demon in the house. We had four biological boys so we knew what normal was.

Ours had indiscriminate bonding. Hugged people in the supermarket line. Everybody thought she was so adorable and affectionate, we knew it was all wrong and when she got home it was back to the monster.

Got biblical counseling...two main things I'd say:

1. Do not allow any physical contact except with family and any very close friends, but maybe not even the close friends. They MUST bond to parents. Sending the kid away to the camp sounds like a terrible idea to me, it sounds like it would just be more confusing to the child. Our approach was the total opposite, time with strangers was severely limited.

2. Talked to other adoptive parents. Spank spank spank. Five times a day if you have to. You must break that wild rebellion or you'll never get anywhere. Spank again. They won't sit to eat, or sit in the car seat, or do anything, it is like a wild animal. Set basic rules and spank until you think you'll go crazy.

3. Mix that with constant nurture. Constant. If mom has a job, quit it and live on a park bench. :)

4. Regular prayer by the church elders.

5. They need to get saved. Covenantal promises to parents sure doesn't seem to be in effect when they first come to you :lol: Like I said, it is like a dark demon.

6. Mine is now almost 13, 10 years its been. You never met a sweeter more darling girl, helpful, compassionate, loves the Lord. She is so popular and everybody loves her. There was brain damage from starvation and neglect so she has academic struggles, but you'd never know talking to her, she is so bright and witty.

There is hope.....maybe the Paul and Tedd Tripp materials would help if you gave them to your sister. Just because a person is Christian doesn't mean they do biblical counseling. I would definitely check out the Tripps at the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation.

Prayers.
 

ServantofGod

Puritan Board Junior
Our middle girl of our newly adopted kids is 8, she was 5 when she came to us. She has shown the greatest symptoms of RAD. In the beginning, though she started calling us 'mom' and 'dad' all it took was a visit to the bio parents or just a change in location to undo any bonding we were able to accomplish.

We took a trip to Tennessee and when we got there she would refer to us (quietly to her sister) as 'those people'. It was very disheartening.

With my son, when he starts getting too hyper, my wife picks him up and goes to the rocking chair and just holds him close and sings softly. He kicks and squirms for a while but eventually he calms and there is bonding.

The 'experts' will make this very complicated and tell such horror stories but the key is to give them extra of what they missed out on.

Some friends in our church just got a little girl from Haiti. She was adopted as an infant but it took 2 years to get her out of the country. Even though she was too big for it, Anne Marie kept Francesca in a snugly carrier almost non stop for weeks, WEEKS. Shopping, cooking, church, everywhere. I feared Anne Marie's back would break. But after weeks Francesca began doing things with her dad and now she ventures out and always returns to her mom and dad.

It takes patience and cultivation. What a thrill it is on Saturday morning when my 8 year old Rosie (always the first up) comes out to the dining room where I am reading on the love seat. She climbs into my lap and curls into a ball and I hold her tight. She didn't want anyone to touch her when she came 3 years ago.

This morning my 5 year old son opened our bedroom door at 3:45 and said, "I just wanted to make sure you were ok." I said "Come here." He jumped in bed and we hugged and kissed and then he hugged and kissed his mom and it was good. Three years ago he wouldn't cuddle either. Now he doesn't watch a movie unless he sits on one of our laps.


RAD is just a label that describes a pattern of the results of sin and a breakdown in family bonding. RAD diminishes over time. As your children get older you help them to understand that adoption is a God ordained means of building a family. You teach them to forgive the people who caused their suffering when they were young. You do this by teaching them that their identity is found in Christ. Only a vital union with our Lord can complete us, make us whole, give us true security and peace.

Praise be to the Lord for those changes!

6. Mine is now almost 13, 10 years its been. You never met a sweeter more darling girl, helpful, compassionate, loves the Lord. She is so popular and everybody loves her. There was brain damage from starvation and neglect so she has academic struggles, but you'd never know talking to her, she is so bright and witty.

"For the wisdom of this world is folly with God. For it is written, “He catches the wise in their craftiness." 1 Corinthians 3:19

Praise God!
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
Excellent, excellent advice Lynnie. I couldn't agree more.

Our daughter was almost three when we got her. ( Romania).

For about two years it was like living with a demon in the house. We had four biological boys so we knew what normal was.

Ours had indiscriminate bonding. Hugged people in the supermarket line. Everybody thought she was so adorable and affectionate, we knew it was all wrong and when she got home it was back to the monster.

Got biblical counseling...two main things I'd say:

1. Do not allow any physical contact except with family and any very close friends, but maybe not even the close friends. They MUST bond to parents. Sending the kid away to the camp sounds like a terrible idea to me, it sounds like it would just be more confusing to the child. Our approach was the total opposite, time with strangers was severely limited.

2. Talked to other adoptive parents. Spank spank spank. Five times a day if you have to. You must break that wild rebellion or you'll never get anywhere. Spank again. They won't sit to eat, or sit in the car seat, or do anything, it is like a wild animal. Set basic rules and spank until you think you'll go crazy.

3. Mix that with constant nurture. Constant. If mom has a job, quit it and live on a park bench. :)

4. Regular prayer by the church elders.

5. They need to get saved. Covenantal promises to parents sure doesn't seem to be in effect when they first come to you :lol: Like I said, it is like a dark demon.

6. Mine is now almost 13, 10 years its been. You never met a sweeter more darling girl, helpful, compassionate, loves the Lord. She is so popular and everybody loves her. There was brain damage from starvation and neglect so she has academic struggles, but you'd never know talking to her, she is so bright and witty.

There is hope.....maybe the Paul and Tedd Tripp materials would help if you gave them to your sister. Just because a person is Christian doesn't mean they do biblical counseling. I would definitely check out the Tripps at the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation.

Prayers.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
I just want to make a comment that this sort of thing breaks my heart. Sin, in the world, is so destructive to the image of God. Children, fashioned in His image, that are tossed aside.

I couldn't help reflecting in some of the descriptions above a spiritual analogy to what God does to all of us who have a "reactive disorder" to His holiness. As Jeremiah says: You have overcome me and I am overcome.

Praying for all of you who endure the rejection of a child so that it might learn to love from those who loved it first.

Glory be to God that Christians, as they were known for in the first centuries, are taking care of outcasts that the pagan world would leave to die.
 

BobVigneault

Bawberator
It's a very valuable comparison Rich. That is why my son wears a necklace that has Ephesians 1:5 on it to remind him that not only is adoption a divine 'plan A' but also that it is how all of the elect become children of God.


Eph 1: In love 5 he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.

And on our fridge we have posted the WCF on adoption, to remind our kids of the SURENESS with which adoption secures the full blessings, liberties and privileges of family - both here in the earthly kingdom and in our heavenly home.

The WCF:
CHAPTER 12
Of Adoption

1. All those that are justified, God vouchsafeth, in and for his only Son Jesus Christ, to make partakers of the grace of adoption, by which they are taken into the number, and enjoy the liberties and privileges of the children of God, have his name put upon them, receive the Spirit of adoption, have access to the throne of grace with boldness, are enabled to cry, Abba, Father, are pitied, protected, provided for, and chastened by him, as by a father: yet never cast off, but sealed to the day of redemption; and inherit the promises, as heirs of everlasting salvation.
 

KMK

Administrator
Staff member
The 'experts' will make this very complicated and tell such horror stories but the key is to give them extra of what they missed out on.

This is so true. As a teacher in the public schools where many children are raised by single moms or grandparents or foster parents, it is not as complicated as many experts make it out to be. Labels like RAD don't really mean anything when you get right down to it. There is no such thing as 'textbook' RAD. Every case is different. But as Rich said, they all have the same source: sin. Each symptom has a cause that can be mitigated to a large degree by giving what was denied.

The same goes for many other 'disorders' and 'syndromes'. My wife says that her mother used to tell her, "Back when you were a child, they didn't have ADHD'." :lol::lol:
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Realize that this is just a special form of the same spiritual battle going on even with the tiny babies we receive. OK, God want her to pray MORE or wrestle HARDER than he asks those parents over there. That's sovereignty.

We don't get to pick our battles, any more than the Private does.

The best news she can possibly hear is that this is a horrible problem with SIN. Sickening. Ghastly.

It's the BEST news, because unlike the world depressing analysis, and perpetual chronic "sickness" diagnosis, SIN has a solution. SIN can be dealt with and gained victory over. No problem is greater than the Holy Spirit.

Don't give up.
 

OPC'n

Puritan Board Doctor
I agree with the problem being caused by the parents' sin of abuse, but are we not allowed to help the child by professional help? I'm not saying to send the child away to camp, but recognizing RAD is important in order to get the help one needs in order to help the child. Bob had very good suggestions, but not everyone is knowledgeable in how to care for these types of injured children. I for one would need a professional to tell me how to cope and deal and teach this type of injured child. All diseases are a result of the fall, but no one emphasizes this when one has heart problems for example. I'm just curious why we do this with the brain/mental diseases.
 

brandonadams

Puritan Board Freshman
Because it is not a strictly organic problem Sarah. If it were, then you would just need medication, not professional psychotherapy.
 

Archlute

Puritan Board Senior
Brandon,

You have received great advice above, so I won't continue in that vein. However, for your encouragement I would like to say that we had many kids in our home with RAD when we were involved in state foster care. We adopted two of them, one of which was also a crack baby. By God's grace, through consistent love, discipline, and prayer they are now two radiant and wonderful kids. One, a beautiful daughter of twelve who is beating all of the boys in her region during their swim meets (that embarrasses her, but I get a kick out of it - I'm talking about beating them by four or five body lengths!), and the other a strong and highly creative young son of nine, who is now making his dad sweat to keep up with him in the pool as well!

The therapists never worked, and we were required to take them for several years by the state.
 

OPC'n

Puritan Board Doctor
Not necessarily. Many of our CVA victims battle depression after their stroke. Although it was the stroke which caused the injury to the brain, their chemical make-up has shifted and they require not only antidepressants but also mental therapy of some kind. Teaching and learning is vital to our patients in their recovery process. Teaching them how to deal with their limitations (can be physical or mental) is vital. I'm not trying to be argumentative. I'm not even saying that one has to go to a psychologist...one could go to an experienced person like Bob. I just don't think that just because it is mental we should throw it upon sin and discourage others from getting the professional help they might need. Since you are the writer of this post, I just supposed that you felt you needed help in how to deal with these type of children. I supposed that you knew all about sin's effects and didn't really need a lesson in that. I'm not trying to be brash...just balanced. In any case, I hope your sister finds the help she needs in order to gain success in raising her children. Blessings!
 

brandonadams

Puritan Board Freshman
Sarah,

I appreciate your thoughts. I apologize if I came across harshly, that was not my intent. I simply disagree with some of your view. Yes, other godly men and women who have experience raising such children can be of enormous help. But I do not believe that a man who is in rebellion against the Lord, no matter what his degrees are, can offer any help for how to deal with the soul. If it is not a problem with the body, it is a problem with the soul, and the Bible is sufficient for dealing with it.
 

OPC'n

Puritan Board Doctor
Brandon,
you didn't come across as being harsh. Maybe it's because I'm in the medical field that I don't mind using whatever professional help is needed. I work on the neuro unit and I REALLY appreciate their work and all the drugs they give us to help us deal with many cognitively demented patients! I very well could be wrong, but it sure helps the patients I work with and it helps the staff members. I think one should listen to their conscious and I think you are.
 

Grace Alone

Puritan Board Senior
Several thoughts here. First, Lynnie gave great advice...just print that out! I would NOT consider the camp!!! I do not believe that RAD is the norm for adopted children by any means! All adopted children go through a period of adjustment, but RAD is a whole different ballgame.

We have a child adopted from China at 6 months, definitely with little stimulation the first 6 months, but she has been fine, thank the Lord! But we have had friends who had disasters with kids with RAD. The bonding combined with discipline and prayer is just essential. The parents do need to have the child attached to them all waking hours for the child to have the chance to bond. I agree with not allowing the child to cling to others outside the family.

Our friends who had a disaster adopted several older children in succession and did not give each new child the undivided attention and time they needed to bond. These children went on to lie about their care and some were ultimately removed from the home and the family was terribly persecuted. I think the parents thought that bringing children into a loving Christian home would solve all the problems, but they did not anticipate the huge challenge kids with RAD would be.

As far as counseling goes, I really only believe in biblical counseling. We tried lots of things with one of our kids who had problems, and I found that much of it was a waste of time. Even the so-called Christian counselor we went to was pretty ineffective.

Basically, it is an issue of sin, and it requires a huge amount of prayer, discipline, sacrifice, and unconditional love. I do not envy anyone in that position, because it has to be one of the most difficult trials I can imagine.
 

lynnie

Puritan Board Graduate
sarah.....it is true that many people do not seek out trained help that would be hugely useful. But the problem is- and I speak from knowing folks who have used secular, secular Christianized, and CCEF counseling- that the problem has to correctly diagnosed before you can help.

If a young child is a beautiful person deep down whose self esteem was never affirmed by nurturing parents, and spanking is physical violence that will further damage self esteem, and your goal is to build up self esteem, then you get a whole different approach from biblical counseling, where deep down you are a selfish rebel who fails to esteem God and suffers from low God esteem. And parents must train the kid to obey, work hard, think about others, and repent of sin (which ironically in the long run creates more self esteem than the other method).

We knew a Christian asst pastor at a former church ( one reason to add to why we left, ha) whose entire counseling ministry is geared towards giving pills to bipolars and anxiety ridden or depressed people. Now those pills temporarily help, no question, but I knew the people in counseling. A more angry, rebellious, self centered group I've seldom ever met. Did they need their self esteem boosted and a pill? Um, I can tell you that what they really needed was some sincere repenting and forgiving and helping others instead of sitting around whining.

When you get a kid from a state orphange where they were neglected, half starved, and not trained, they are like a wild animal. And they do need immense nurture but they are like black holes...no matter how much you pour in it is never enough. Never. At some point you have to step in and deal with their selfishness and demandingness and rebellion.

This is why I urge books like Tedd Tripp's Shepherding a Child's heart and other CCEF (Christian Counseling and Education Foundation) materials. Ed Welch has one called Blame it on the Brain which distinguishes genuine brain damage from sin. I never spanked my girl for her mental damage and processing disorder that has hindered academics. I never spanked her for screaming if she saw a cat or dog or squirrel, or for lying awake in terror at bedtime. But I spanked her when she refused to sit at the table or in a carseat. And at one point we had to force her to learn to be happy alone- in a room with no people and lots of toys and art materials for half an hour, then an hour.

I think you are entirely correct that people should be willing to get professional help and it is very useful. But they have to be certain it is biblical help. It may be hard to sort out what is sin and what to do about it, and a good counselor is invaluable for that. But one who merely sees the kid as a beautiful little thing who needs more self esteem will just add to the damage.

Just my opinions :)
 
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