Our Voices

 Julie Beem, Executive Director of ATN

Since I can remember, I’ve felt drawn to international adoption.  In 1998, Dave and I added a daughter from China to our blended family.  Adopting a child with Developmental Trauma Disorder has definitely rocked my world, and, because the experience has yet to kill me, it’s made me a passionate advocate for traumatized children and their dedicated parents.  In 1999, I met Nancy Spoolstra, founder of ATN, and have been involved with the attachment & trauma movement since.  In 2009, I took over the Executive Director position, and it is work that I truly love!   I also serve as my daughter’s learning coach in virtual high school, a job I’m not quite as enamored with, but is helping my daughter immensely.    In 2006, our family undertook a horrendous due process court case with our local school system and got a crash course in the perils of special education and society’s total lack of understanding of trauma.  This, coupled with graduating from Partners in Policymaking, has given me experience in special education, school issues, and disabilities advocacy.  A published author, my writing includes a chapter in the EMK Press Adoption Parenting book and two years as the special needs blogger at Adoptionblogs.com.  I’ve been known to present workshops on attachment and trauma to adoptive and foster groups – and am always appreciative when I get the chance to tell the world about the importance of strong attachments and children’s emotional health!

In my former life, I was the president of a marketing and communications consultancy and for over two decades provided marketing, and strategic planning for engineers, architects and other professionals.  I have an MBA from Avila College and an undergraduate degree is from Northwest Missouri State. (Go Bearcats!)   I grew up on a farm in Northwest Missouri and moved to Atlanta in 1993.  I don’t miss the snow but deeply appreciate my Midwestern roots.  Email Julie

Marc Deprey, ATN Learning Media Coordinator

I am the father of two children with developmental trauma. Both are adopted and are birth brother and sister. They are eleven months apart and are teenagers now. Raising them has been the hardest thing we’ve ever faced and I’ve beaten back cancer, started several businesses on my own and worked in the U.S. Senate. Those challenges pale miserably in comparison to what we face with our kids. I’m now Executive Director of the Golden State Land Conservancy and I am creating a multimedia live presentation called, The Wise Guide Experience. I’m 54, married for 31 years and live in northern CA.

Gari Lister,  ATN Blog Manager

After 20 years as an antitrust lawyer, and 7 trying to juggle being a part-time partner with full-time needy kids, I left my corporate clients far behind for a world of kids with issues and general craziness.  

In 2002, my husband Matt and I adopted two little girls from two different countries – an 11 year old from Russia and a 17 month old from Ukraine.  Because of the 11 year old, we educated ourselves about the importance of attachment issues pretty early on.  But still it wasn’t until years later when we adopted a third little girl – a 2 year old from Russia – that we truly came to understand the devastating impact of trauma on children.  Our girls are now 9, 11 and 21.  In the ten years since we’ve been a family, our girls have faced lots of physical and emotional issues.  In search of help, we’ve tried a wide range of therapies, most of which have helped to varying extents.  Our youngest didn’t talk until she was 4, and still faces many developmental and emotional challenges.  Because of those challenges, I quit working even part-time to homeschool her.  After tumultuous teenage years, our oldest daughter ran away from home at 17.  She briefly returned to the family this fall, and faces daily struggles with her past and with both family and friend relationships.  And the third “middle” daughter – who fools almost everyone into believing that she is “normal” – fights her own quiet battles with the demons of her past. 

Today, we’re all based in a big old Dallas house – with cats, border collies and a Chihuahua (all of whom have issues, too!) –  but we still call Washington DC home and spend summers in a tiny Virginia town by the Chesapeake Bay.  In addition to my posts here, I'm writing a blog, Spaceba Always, about our ups and downs.  Join me there, or email me.

  Anna Paravano, ATN’s Director of Education 

Since my early 20’s my life has been dedicated to my career in interior design.  I’ve run my own business for over 30 years and taught design at the college level until I became a mom.  I arrived to motherhood late in life… in 2002 at age 45, I adopted my son from a Ukrainian orphanage… and nothing has been the same since. 

When I met my son, he was 4 ½ years old and severely injured in body, mind, and spirit due to his experiences in early childhood.  It became clear early on, that he needed all my time and attention in order to feel safe in his new environment. So, the focus of my life became to learn all I could about my son’s issues and how to best help him. Through the process of learning to parent therapeutically, I became educated, trained and experienced in a range of therapies and techniques related to issues of trauma and attachment.  Like so many parents of children with these disorders, I’ve had to grapple with the difficulties of trying to find support and help through the school district, government run institutions, healthcare professionals and society in general.  At this point, I’ve successfully navigated through a seemingly endless number of IEP’s, two fair hearings with the school district, plus gaining and maintaining in-home support services for my son. 

Over the last few years, my professional background as an educator has been repurposed and used to provide workshops, training, and strategic planning for various organizations, caregivers and parents working with issues of attachment and trauma. I hold an M.S. from CSUN and a lifetime credential from UCLA in vocational education for the college level.

I live in California with my son and 2 very interactive cats. 

Jane Samuel, JD, Director

I am the mother of three daughters: college, high school and elementary. Originally trained as a litigator I left the life of law and research behind when our youngest daughter joined our family at twelve months of age. Waiting through two years of prayer and paperwork to meet her had given us ample time to read up on attachment in adoption so I thought we were prepared for what lay ahead. Little did we know that what was “sold” in the mainstream media as the psychology of adoptive children was outdated, scientifically unfounded and bound up by old stereotypes.

Thankfully, after a rough start parenting our traumatized and attachment-challenged child I found ATN via some very supportive mothers. With ATN’s help I pulled my research skills out of retirement and began to read and read about attachment and trauma – the stuff no one had shared with us in our adoption preparation. In this journey I learned of therapies that worked for our daughter and ones that did not. And along this path I found many of my own passions, including writing about adoption and special needs parenting.

So if you are on this journey, or preparing for this journey, please join me in exploring the ups and downs, the challenges and joys, the day to day of parenting a child who started in a hard place. Oh and if you like what you read, hop on over to my blog at www.bluegrassmoms.com (my local newspaper) or join us “forever 39” mothers at www.motheringinthemiddle.org, a national blog on mid-life motherhood.

Nancy Spoolstra, DVM, Founder

When I was 5 years old, I told my parents I wanted to be a veterinarian. When I was about 13, I told them I wanted to at least partially build my family through adoption. I thought those two goals would coexist … but they didn’t.

My husband and I were naïve and ignorant when we started down the path of international adoption. We were completely unprepared for the task of raising attachment and trauma affected children, and as it turns out, we were completely unsupported as well. The adoption agencies and the vast majority of mental health professionals were at best uninformed and unsupportive, and often became part of the problem. As a result of this lack of support, the Attachment & Trauma Network was born. Starting and running a nonprofit completely derailed my plans to return to veterinary medicine when the kids were in school. After a dozen years of being at the helm of ATN, I was thrilled to pass the torch to Julie Beem.

These days I am basking in the glow of the joy of watching our youngest daughter blossom into a healthy, lovely young woman in spite of her difficult beginnings.  However, there is still significant pain mostly confined to a walled off area of my mind, should I choose to reflect on the disappointments and frustrations of parenting our older two adoptees. One is MIA for over a year, presumably on the west coast but we really have no idea. The other has nothing to do with her dad or me, although she lives 30 minutes away.  I have learned that the challenge of parenting and living with these kids doesn’t end when they leave your home. I have learned that outcomes have a great deal to do with an individual child’s participation in his or her healing. I have learned that all of your adult children have the power to wound you, no matter how they join your family. I look forward to sharing some of my “next step” knowledge with you!

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