Adoptive Parents ARE Biological Parents

by:  Julie Beem

Smiling Mother With Her Son In GardenI had the incredible honor to interview Dr. Dan Siegel a couple of days ago in a webinar that will soon be released on ATN’s Learning Center. We did this in conjunction with Echo Parenting and Education from California. If you have not had the privilege to hear Dr. Siegel speak or read his books, you really must make this a priority. His expertise is interpersonal neurobiology. His work focuses on the impact that parenting has on children’s brain development.

Integration is the cornerstone of healthy brain development – both the ability to internally integrate within the brain as well as relational integration between people. Neuroscience research shows that fostering this relational integration (attachment) helps the brains of the people in these relationships to actually integrate and grow neural connections—i.e. cultivate resilience. His point is that high nurture, parental presence and attuned communication are environmental ways to chance a child’s brain biology for the better.

At the end of the presentation, I was able to ask Dr. Siegel questions. My main question was what adoptive/foster parents can do to really help their traumatized children. He graciously gave several ideas and acknowledged the incredibly challenging situation traumatized children and their parents face. But then he said this:

“Adoptive parents most certainly are biological parents. The people actively parenting the child are indeed biological because your parenting and the relationship you are working on building with your child biologically changes your child’s brain.”

Julie has been ATN's Executive Director since 2009. She joined the organization in 2004 after finding incredible support from fellow ATNers when she was searching for answers about her own daughter's early childhood trauma and attachment disorders. Julie leads a staff of passionate professionals and acts as spokesperson for the organization. Prior to ATN, Julie was the president of a marketing and communications consultancy, The Epiphany Group, and has over two decades of experience in professional services marketing, strategic planning and communication strategies. As a graduate of Partners in Policymaking and through personal experience, Julie has garnered a great deal of experience in the areas of special education, school issues, and disabilities advocacy. A published author, Julie wrote a chapter in the EMK Press Adoption Parenting book and was the special needs blogger at for two years. She frequently presents workshops on attachment and trauma to local and national groups. Email Julie. Julie holds an MBA from Avila College in Kansas City and was a Certified Professional Services Marketer. Julie, and her husband Dave, are parents to four (bio, step and adoptive), including their youngest daughter, adopted from China. This daughter’s attachment difficulties and developmental trauma disorder have changed their lives significantly…in amazing ways.