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Serenity Dennard: Adoptive parents of missing girl who vanished from children’s home claim she has history of escapes, mental health issues

“That’s just her M.O.,” Serenity’s father said. “She’s going to wait until everything is calmed down.”

Serenity Dennard, the 9-year-old South Dakota girl who is said to have run away from her children’s home, had a history of escapes from home and school before her disappearance in February, her adoptive parents have claimed.

Chad, 37, and Kasandra, 25, Dennard told the Rapid City Journal that the 9-year-old had a slew of behavioral and emotional issues that caused her to act out at school and at home. The pair claimed Serenity would evade staff at the Children’s Home Society and threatened to run away prior to her February 3 disappearance.

Kasandra claimed in an interview with the news outlet that Serenity had reactive attachment disorder (RAD) and disruptive mood dysregulation disorder (DMDD). She said Serenity would refuse to do school work, break toys, and threaten to harm herself.

The Mayo Clinic describes RAD as a “rare but serious condition in which an infant or young child doesn’t establish healthy attachments with parents or caregivers.” The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) defines DMDD as a “childhood condition of extreme irritability, anger, and frequent, intense temper outbursts”—stressing that the condition is more than a child being “moody.”

The Rapid City Journal didn’t provide any corroboration from medical professionals that Serenity suffered from the two disorders, and CrimeOnline can’t independently verify her parents’ claims about any medical condition.

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Kasandra reportedly said that Serenity lived in multiple foster homes after both her birth parents were sent to prison. Chad reportedly adopted Serenity with his then-wife in October 2014; Kasandra came into the picture in May 2015.

According to the Rapid City Journal, Serenity underwent outpatient therapy for two-and-a-half years before Chad and Kasandra brought her to the Children’s Home, as the center provided schooling and inpatient mental health treatment.

The couple said Serenity would run away when she became overwhelmed or didn’t know how to deal with her emotions.

“She didn’t get the chance to learn trust and dependency from her parents or caregivers and it makes her feel like she can’t trust people and is unloved,” Kasandra explained.

Previously, they said the 9-year-old packed a suitcase and attempted to leave home in the middle of the night. Her parents claimed she once convinced a child to run away with her when one of two day care employees left the room. They also claimed she once asked a lunch lady put her lunch in a bag so she could escape from school.

Chad and Kasandra said they believe their daughter devised a similar plan when she fled the Rapid City children’s home last month.

According to the Rapid City Journal, Children’s Home Society executive director Bill Colson said two staff members were watching Serenity and three other children as they played in the facility’s gym when one of the children ran away. Colson said an employee pursued them, leading Serenity to take off herself.

The second employee reportedly didn’t follow the 9-year-old because they were watching the two remaining children. Instead, they are said to have dispatched additional staff to help.

“That’s just her M.O.” Chad said of his daughter’s reported actions prior to her disappearance.

“She’s going to wait until everything is calmed down.”

Law enforcement has said that Serenity was last seen walking northbound on South Rockerville Road. Days after her reported escape, police announced that their search has transitioned to a recovery mission as it’s unlikely the 9-year-old survived in the freezing temperatures.

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader reported that the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office reconvened their search earlier this month. Treacherous weather conditions after Serenity’s disappearance has repeatedly caused crews to suspend their search.

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[Feature image: Serenity Dennard/Pennington County Sheriff’s Office]