- We believe that traumatized children and those with attachment disorders can heal.
- We believe that parents, who are supported and taught therapeutic parenting are the best healing agents of their traumatized child.
- We believe that traumatized children need trauma-informed, attachment-focused therapies.
- We believe that traumatized children learn best in trauma-sensitive schools where strategies are in place to help them feel safe, stay regulated and not be re-traumatized or triggered.
- We believe that providing resources to the families from the start (once a traumatized child has been identified) is the best way to minimize crises and reduce disruptions and potential “re-homing”.
- We believe that ongoing parent-to-parent support is critical in arming the families with strategies, tools and strength to persevere daily.
- We believe that “touching trauma at its heart” is more than a tagline, it’s a healing mission.
Where It Began
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, the mothers 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.
Where We’ve Been
In 1998, led by Executive Director Nancy Spoolstra, 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. From 2006-2008, ADN hosted the Parenting Traumatized Children Conference in Atlanta, Georgia. In 2007, ADN changed its 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 that enabled the organization to design and implement the ATN Learning Center 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.
In June 2014, ATN hosted the first National Attachment Trauma Awareness (NATA) Day. In 2018, the first issue of the Therapeutic Parenting Journal was published. In October 2018, the Educating Traumatized Children Summit was aired to over 3,100 participants over 11 days. Also in 2018, ATN held the first international Conference for Creating Trauma-Sensitive Schools. The result of years of online summits and dedicated team of educators, the Conference brought educators from around the world to Washington D.C. Due to the success and incredible need for trauma-informed training in education, ATN is hosting its second conference in February 2019.
Where We’re Going
ATN has grown into the VOICE for traumatized children and their families. With membership that reaches around the world, we provide training both online and on-location training in therapeutic parenting, offer private online support communities moderated by experienced therapeutic parents and maintain a worldwide database of therapists and resources. We are proud to be the premier support, education and advocacy system for those raising traumatized and attachment-disordered children.
Remaining true to the vision of our founder, Nancy Spoolstra, our 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.
Through it all, our message is simple and has remained the same for over 20 years: “You are Not Alone” and there is “Hope for Healing”.