A harbor for sinking ships: A mom’s perspective on the navigating reactive attachment disorder event
Updated: Feb 14
Trauma expert and clinician Forrest Lien gives the keynote presentation for those raising children with reactive attachment disorder at the first-ever Navigating RAD conference
On Aug. 19-20, I had the privilege of attending the first-ever Navigating RAD conference put on by RAD Advocates. It's hard to explain how amazing it was to be around experts and fellow parents who get it and to hear that there is hope for our families.
It’s like we had all pulled our leaky, half-sunk boats into the harbor. There we found bacon, chocolate, tissues, and, for once, people who truly understood reactive attachment disorder without explanation.
When someone looks into your eyes with such caring and compassion, it’s an immediate emotional release. That’s what I felt meeting the RAD Advocates moms. Even presenter Forrest Lien got teared up looking out at the room full of parents wanting help for their children.
You could tell each and every presenter really cared about the families. And because every situation is different, there wasn’t a “one-size fits all” solution being pushed. Instead, presenters offered a host of information and options. For example:
Counselors Forrest Lien and Margaret Meinecke spoke about how reactive attachment disorder can make parents feel crazy, gave a background on the disorder, and walked parents through a questionnaire that gives a glimpse into the child’s severity of reactive attachment disorder.
Dr. John Alston spoke about co-existing disorders and medication.
Mother, author, and founder of a ministry for RAD parents, Carrie O’Toole, shared her personal story of relinquishment and led grounding exercises daily.
Karen Poitras of The RADish Ranch shared how to find and train appropriate respite providers.
Monica Badgley of RAD Sibs presented with three young adult siblings of kids with reactive attachment disorder about the impact the disorder has on siblings.
Scott Smith of Best Choice Admission Services spoke on boarding schools.
Young adult Legend Houze, his mother Heather, and his therapist Forrest Lien spoke about how Legend overcame reactive attachment disorder through a therapeutic program and personal choice.
And lastly, RAD Advocates helped parents fill out a workbook and come up with an individualized path forward for their families. The 22-page workbook contained invaluable information like how to find an appropriate therapist.
There were also opportunities at the conference to connect with other parents, including parents from your home state to support one another. A basket of s’mores around the hotel fire pit one evening allowed a chance for casual conversation. Every parent I spoke to was so happy they attended.
While many parents had requested the conference also be available virtually, attending made me understand why it was only offered in person. There was an intimacy and connection that wouldn’t have translated to online. We were seated around round tables, and attendance was capped at 123. Each of the speakers stuck around to answer questions. It wasn’t your typical conference. All the presenters were there to mingle and help, not just speak and leave. And, the individualized plan could not have happened in a large virtual format.
While it’s hard to get away for two days, and cost can be an issue, I urge you to set that leaky ship at sail and try to attend next year. If the hotel costs are prohibitive, network to share a room! It’s well worth it, from specific solutions to emotional support.
You’ll leave that harbor with a map forward and the holes in your boat patched.
Hope to see you next year at NavRAD22!
About the author:
Micaela Myers and her husband adopted a pair of siblings from foster care in 2015, when the children were 9 and 13. Since then, she has become an advocate for foster care reform and the support and education of adoptive parents. Micaela earned her MFA in writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and works as a professional writer and editor in Wyoming.