For the past few months, I have been working with the Attachment & Trauma Network (ATN) on their first PR campaign. What follows is an editorial co-written by myself and ATN Executive Director Julie Beem about attachment trauma disorders and childhood trauma.
National Attachment Trauma Awareness Day 2014: Helping our Greatest Natural Resource
Julie Beem and Alexander Englander
President Herbert Hoover said: “Children are our greatest natural resource.” He was right. Today’s children will be tomorrow’s teachers, doctors, engineers, lawyers and even the President of the United States. Yet, every year, millions of children become victims of trauma. Whether they have been abused, been in a car accident, have been abandoned by birth parents, witnessed a violent crime or been a victim of a crime; these children have suffered trauma. How can we preserve the resources of our children if they are not cared for or provided support after such traumatic events?
Thursday, June 19, 2014 marks National Attachment Trauma Awareness Day; a time for awareness of children having a difficult start in life. Many of these children wind up in foster care – the Dept. of US Health and Human Resources says 90% of our foster children are at-risk. Some are eventually adopted by a new family. Some are orphans from faraway places, while others may have needed painful medical procedures or were separated from their parents for health reasons. In nearly all cases, the lasting effects of trauma remain even in their new, stable families, yet are easily misunderstood by those outside the home. In fact, some children struggle with the impact of this early trauma throughout their lives.
Child development research is clear: The first years of life are incredibly important to all children. Since infants cannot care for themselves, parents play a huge role in nurturing their newborn baby. During the process, a beautiful thing unfolds; as has happened for centuries, babies attach to their caregivers in a healthy way. They grow close and learn to trust the world around them, with their brains continually stimulated, emotionally healthy and their needs provided.
But when that crucial beginning is full of uncertainty, babies are stressed and fail to develop a secure attachment. Instead, they learn the world is not a safe place. Left alone, they have to fend for themselves; anti-social behaviors take root and swell unless a parent focuses on healing and breaks the cycle. With the need for treatment greater than ever, families who open their hearts to children at risk; adoptive, foster and extended family caregivers must have access to services and support. All children deserve to feel safe so our nation’s greatest resource is preserved.
The goals of National Attachment Trauma Awareness (NATA) Day are to shine the light on these children’s struggles with early attachment trauma and raise awareness for the need of comprehensive treatment of complex trauma and attachment disorders. With a greater understanding of childhood trauma; therapeutic services and parental support will become more readily available, allowing these children to heal. If we truly want to preserve our nation’s “greatest natural resource,” we must help these children and their families. For more information about NATA Day and childhood attachment trauma disorders, please visit www.attachu.org/events/nata-day/. To make a donation to the Attachment & Trauma Disorder Cause Vox campaign, please visit http://attachtrauma.causevox.com/.
Julie Beem is the Executive Director of the Attachment & Trauma Network (ATN) and is the mother of a child affected by early childhood trauma. She became involved with ATN in 1999 after she noticed her adoptive daughter displaying extreme behaviors. Ten years later, Julie was made Executive Director of this all volunteer organization, helping to raise awareness and support for those affected by childhood trauma. Julie currently resides in the Atlanta, GA metro area with her husband and their four children. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Alexander Englander was born and raised in Albany, NY. He is the Public Relations Consultant for ATN. Having spent time teaching in the public school system, he witnessed firsthand the effect trauma has on children outside the home. After reconnecting with a high school friend, whose own child suffers from reactive attachment disorder, Alex became involved with ATN. Alex currently resides in Pawtucket, RI with his husband. He can be reached at SoMePR2013@gmail.com.