What We’ve Learned About Childhood Trauma
The Attachment & Trauma Network (ATN) is the nation’s oldest parent-led organization supporting families of traumatized children. Formed in 1995 by three adoptive moms who were struggling to raise children with attachment disorders, ATN has grown into the VOICE for traumatized children and their families. With membership that reaches around the world, ATN provides training both on-line and on-location training in therapeutic parenting, operates private on-line support communities with experienced therapeutic parents moderating, maintains a database of worldwide therapists and resources, and is the premier support, education and advocacy system for those raising traumatized and attachment-disordered children.
ATN is known for our Therapeutic Parenting Journal, online Learning Center, our active advocacy group – ATN Advocates, our Trauma Sensitive Schools Think Tank and work with the National Attachment Trauma Awareness Day.
Remaining true to the vision of ATN’s founder, Nancy Spoolstra, the organization’s focus is on helping traumatized children and their families by first supporting, educating and equipping the parents. Personalized peer-to-peer support is a hallmark of ATN. This support includes locating resources, providing education to professionals and the public and advocating for public awareness and policy changes.
Today, our Board of Directors and a growing team of volunteers reaches out to families who are meeting the needs of our most precious resource — our children who struggle with the impacts of their early trauma. Board members and volunteers are located across the United States, and ATN members can be found in every state and several countries around the world.
In 1995, three mothers, who were parenting children diagnosed with Reactive Attachment Disorder were connected by their children’s therapist. The goal was to support each other, and as they realized how similar their journeys were and that they truly were “Not Alone”, ATN was born. Initially organized as the KC Attachment Network, they found that families from all over the United States were looking for ways to connect with others raising traumatized children. The founding members began providing a “warm line” to adoptive parents in the area. They offered assistance in finding resources and support as parents navigated the challenges of finding residential treatment, considering adoption disruptions, marital strain, searching for respite, and frightening encounters with child protective services due to false allegations of abuse. This small, dedicated group of volunteers spent countless hours supporting others and realizing how many thousands of families needed the support.
ATN’s first 2-day educational workshop was held in October 1995, with both parents and professionals attending.
In 1998, led by Nancy Spoolstra, who served as the Executive Director of the organization until 2009, the group incorporated and obtained a non-profit organization status as the KC Attachment Network (or KCAN). Nancy Spoolstra joined the Board of Directors of ATTACh in that same year. As a result of this increased networking ability, KCAN grew considerably, and by 1999 was serving families nationwide. The group then merged with the Attachment Disorder Parent’s Network, developed by Gail Trenberth of Colorado, changing its name to the Attachment Disorder Network, Inc. (ADN).
In early 2004, ADN developed a long-term strategic plan that emphasized a three-prong mission of Support, Education and Advocacy and organized the all-volunteer board and staff into work groups based on these mission areas. In 2006, ADN held its first Parenting Traumatized Children Conference in Atlanta, GA. The organization was able to host two more of these annual conferences, in 2007 and 2008. But lack of financial support of this program forced an end to the conferences. In 2007, AND’s board voted t change the name to the Attachment & Trauma Network, Inc. (ATN) to reflect the growing understanding through neuroscience that early childhood trauma (attachment trauma) was at the root of the struggle that traumatized children have with attachment disorders.
Focusing on providing Support, Education, and Advocacy nationwide (and in some cases internationally), ATN’s services and programs rely heavily on the internet and virtual communication to reach the most families possible. Upon Nancy Spoolstra’s retirement in 2009, Julie Beem, a long-time ATN volunteer, parent of a traumatized child and successful business owner took over the Executive Director role. In 2010, ATN’s volunteers led the organization to receive a Pepsi Refresh grant (social media contest) that enabled the organization to design and implement the ATN Learning Center (www.attachu.org) to provide webinars and other online training materials to help parents learn Therapeutic Parenting as well as educational resources for families and professionals on attachment & trauma in general. In 2012, ATN’s Advocacy efforts began to formally organize, and today ATN members across the country advocate directly on the state and local level, as well as through ATN nationally for policy and system change. In June 2014, ATN hosted the first National Attachment Trauma Awareness (NATA) Day. And last summer, the first issue of the Therapeutic Parenting Journal was published. In October the Educating Traumatized Children Summit was aired to over 3,100 participants over 11 days.
With membership doubling in 2014 and an active passionate Board of Directors and volunteers, ATN continues to serve families who are meeting the needs of our most precious resource — our kids. Board members and volunteers are located across the country, and ATN members can be found in nearly every state and several countries around the world. The message is simple and has remained the same for over 20 years: “You are Not Alone” and there is “Hope for Healing”.