Mary Hopkins-Best

Mary Hopkins-Best

Mary Hopkins-Best, PhD, is Dean of the College of Education, Health and Human Services for the University of Wisconsin-Stout (recently designated a polytechnic university), where she has taught the course "Children from Chaos."   She claims to have also served as director of this school's Rehabilitation, Special Education, and School Counseling programs.

Hopkins-Best holds workshops for adoption agencies and has been on the board of Hope International.  She has been a member of the Western Wisconsin Postadoption Project.

Hopkins-Best wrote about adopting a boy from Peru in her book Toddler Adoption: The Weaver's Craft (1997) .  She cited this book as a "professional publication" on her faculty website, along with some newsletter articles. 

In Her Own Words

— Most Telling —

  • Recreating attachment is an intrusive process.  It does not involve ignoring inappropriate behavior or segregating children for displaying behaviors characteristic of attachment problems. It involves staying in their faces and imposing the care-giving role upon the (often resistant) child.  Toddler Adoption:  The Weaver's Craft,  Perspectives Press, 1997, p. 197

  • Regression to parental feeding is a well-established technique for enhancing the development of attachment advocated by attachment specialists such as Foster Cline. Toddler Adoption, p. 200

  • Reparenting is a enhance attachment.  It involves deliberately regressing the child back through certain aspects of infant development.  Reparenting can be a very effective strategy for children having attachment difficulties, but it can also help parents resolve their own grief about the loss of their ability to parent their toddler in infancy.  Toddler Adoption, p. 42

On Holding Therapy —

  • Parents should not accommodate the touch-phobic or resistant toddler's want to avoid contact.  Toddler Adoption, p. 199

  • Martha Welch recommends a very assertive approach to physical contact in her book, Holding Time (1988).  Dr. Welch contends that systematic and protracted holding, originally used as a therapy for childhood autism, if practiced in the correct way can connect or reconnect parents and unattached children.  Toddler Adoption, p. 201

  • There are several therapeutic strategies specifically intended for children with attachment disorders.  Intrusive therapy involves physical and verbal provocation to bring out the child's feelings of loss, pain, rage, helplessness, and hopelessness...During the entire process, the designated body holders restrain the child to emphasize that they are in charge.  Following the rage reaction, the therapist and parent take advantage of the child's receptivity to recreating the attachment cycle. Toddler Adoption, p. 209

Forced Age Regression —

  • The challenge of parenting the adopted toddler who has missed out on the attachment process is to regress the child back through the stages of trust and healthy dependence... Toddler Adoption, p. 38

Scaring the Public about Children —

  • In our own country, eager parents who set out to adopt a healthy toddler with no emotional, physical, or cognitive delays may find this easier said than done.  Such a child may not even exist.  Toddler Adoption, p. 19

  • Mara, like other unattached children, was charming and well-behaved in the presence of others, but she was rejecting and physically aggressive toward her own family. Toddler Adoption, p. 244

“Reparenting” —

  • The attachment cycle must be recreated... Healthy dependence must be recreated for the child who is not attached to the adoptive parent, regardless of the child's age.  Toddler Adoption, p. 196

  • I strongly recommend returning toddlers to the stage of being fed by their caregivers, at least for some of their meals. "When Adopted Toddlers Reject Their Parents" [accessed 6/17/08]

  • Unfortunately, many adopted toddlers are extremely resistant to accepting being fed by their new parents....There are two approaches to breaking down a toddler's resistance to accepting being fed by her parents:  gradual intervention and intrusion. With gradual intervention...the child [eventually] allows being held in the parent's lap while eating; until finally, the parent places food in the child's mouth.  Using this approach can take years with the resistant child. In the intrusive strategy, the child must accept being fed by the parent if he wants to eat or drink what is offered.  The intrusive strategy is often accompanied by deliberately regressing the toddler to the bottle-fed stage of development. Toddler Adoption, pp. 199-200

“Attachment Problems” —

  • Characteristics of Attachment Problems...
    Developmental delays...Unusual patterns for eating and sleeping...Raging and aggressive behavior...Extremely negative and controlling behavior...poor impulse control...Unnaturally positive behavior  Toddler Adoption, p. 186

  • [They] vent their rage for the disruption on the closest available woman. Toddler Adoption, p. 188

  • The following behaviors and characteristics are indicative of healthy attachment at the toddler and preschool age...
    [I]s not preoccupied with gore, fire or aggression...
    Generally avoids extreme physical aggression toward self, others and animals 
    Toddler Adoption, pp. 215-216

  • Some parents were amazed that their toddlers seemed to be oblivious to pain... Toddler Adoption, p. 187

  • Many of the toddlers were...very angry upon awakening, often screaming and lashing out at anyone within striking distance. Toddler Adoption, p. 187

On the Bogus “Attachment Cycle” —

  • The child who has experienced neglect or other abuse, or who has experienced multiple disruptions...has not internalized the attachment cycle or need-rage-relief-trust essential to internalize trust and security. Toddler Adoption, p. 38

  • [P]arents will be confronted with the challenging task of building attachment by re-creating the attachment cycle.  Toddler Adoption, p. 180

  • An infant normally attaches through a process of having basic needs met by a consistent and loving caretaker.  The child experiences a need:  pain, hunger, or discomfort.  The need creates a rage reaction and the child expresses that rage. Toddler Adoption, p. 181

  • Gratification strategies include the essential elements of food, touch, eye contact, smiling and motion.  Attachment researchers have called this cycle of need...many names, including the...the bonding cycle, the attachment cycle, the soul cycle, and the love cycle....In this way, attachment occurs. Toddler Adoption, p. 181

  • Breaks in the cycle in the first year cause severe and predictable childhood psychopathology... Toddler Adoption, p. 182

  • Attachment problems usually occur in situations where a child's needs are not met in a consistent and loving manner, or when food is not accompanied by touch, smiling, eye contact, and motion. Toddler Adoption, p. 182

On Eye Contact —

  • Most toddler's first reactions ranged from very stand-offish to downright hostile.  Many refused to make eye contact and rebuffed all attempts at physical contact. Toddler Adoption, p. 100

  • The following behaviors and characteristics are indicative of healthy attachment at the toddler and preschool age...Maintains appropriate eye contact  Toddler Adoption, p. 215

More Myths about Attachment —

  • I believe the bonding process may be delayed by a particularly undemanding child.  Adversity strengthens the fabric of parental love. Toddler Adoption, p. 33

  • Rage and rejection are very common behaviors in children who are...experiencing attachment problems... Toddler Adoption, p. 39

  • Transferring attachment is infinitely easier than establishing attachment with a toddler who has never known one. Toddler Adoption, p. 43

  • A rare, but possible caregiver behavior affecting a lack of attachment is overindulgence.  This occurs when the caregiver always anticipates a child's need and never allows the child to experience frustration or express rage. Toddler Adoption, p. 183

  • Unwanted pregnancies, violence, and illness during pregnancy, premature births, poor (if any) prenatal care...have all been linked with personality disorders, attachment problems and other special needs. Toddler Adoption, p. 184

On Conventional Therapy —

  • Unfortunately, traditional family-systems theory may not be useful in adoption situations involving attachment problems...Toddler Adoption, p. 207

  • [T]raditional behaviorist approaches are often ineffective in dealing with attachment problems.  Toddler Adoption, p. 208

  • Children with attachment disorders often learn while very young to manipulate behavior modification approaches to their own advantage. Toddler Adoption, p. 208

Hopkins-Best’s Acknowledgments —

  • My gratitude to Nancy Spoolstra who...provided invaluable feedback on earlier drafts of this book. Toddler Adoption [in Acknowledgments]

  • [A]ttachment specialists such as...Cline...Delaney (1993)...Fahlberg...Hage...Van Gulden...Magid and McKelvey... Watkins... Toddler Adoption, p. 185

Promoting Attachment Therapy Resources —

Cline, Foster W. (1992). Hope For High Risk and Rage Filled Children....
Delaney, Rick and Frank Kunstal. (1993) Troubled Transplants...
Magid, Ken and Carole McKelvey. (1988). High Risk: Children Without a   Conscience...
Mansfield, Linda Gianforte and Christopher Waldmann. (1994). Don't Touch My Heart: Healing the Pain of the Unattached Child...
Van Gulden, Holly and Lisa Bartels-Rabb. (1994). Real Parents, Real Children...
Welch, Martha. (1988). Holding Time...
"When Adopted Toddlers Reject Their Parents" [accessed 6/17/08]

Attachment Disorder Parents Network...
The Attachment Center at Evergreen [Institute for Attachment and Child Development]...
Toddler Adoption, pp. 252-253