December 2, 2014

by:  Julie Beem

HannahNancyA long time ago in what feels like a galaxy far away, I was a sleep-deprived mom of a raging toddler whose behaviors made absolutely no sense. I was an experienced “good enough” mom — so what was I doing wrong? My introduction to ATN came via a group of adoptive parents on the internet looking for answers for their traumatized children. We didn’t use the word “traumatized” because we didn’t understand that yet.

It was in that group where I first met Nancy Spoolstra. Nancy, if you’ve not had the privilege of meeting her, is best described as a force of nature. She was one of the founders of ATN and for years the entire energy behind ATN’s growth. Nearly 20 years ago, Nancy (an adoptive parent several times over) started meeting locally with other parents whose children had Reactive Attachment Disorder, in Kansas City. Her group started bringing in experts on RAD from all over the country and advocating for children. It wasn’t long until the rest of the nation started calling and emailing…parents from all over looking for help.

I met Nancy in cyberspace in 1999 and finally in person in 2003. By 2004 I was volunteering to help — offering my background in business and marketing to help grow the organization because the need was so great. Nancy called that being “sucked into the vortex” of ATN. Having a passion to give back to other families who are struggling as your family has struggled is both a honor and a never-ending effort. Throughout the years there have been many who have stepped up to support others in the trenches, and together we’ve learned so much about what emerging science tells us about trauma’s impact on early childhood development and how this disrupts attachment. We’ve also seen that same science prove what we already know about our own wounded children – developing a healthy attachment to your primary caregiver is the major antidote for overcoming the profound impact of trauma – healthy attachment creates resiliency!

It’s a blessing to get up every day and work with the incredible volunteers and members who make up ATN. It’s an honor to advocate on behalf of traumatized children about the resources and support they need. It’s a privilege when parents turn to us for support and advice as they learn to therapeutically parent. I can’t imagine my life without ATN. I can’t imagine how much worse our early struggles would have been had I not found Nancy and this network. And I can’t imagine not giving back to the organization that has stood by my family and our traumatized daughter as we have grown and healed.

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