An Overview of the Navigating Reactive Attachment Disorder Experience for Those Who Couldn't Make It


RAD Advocates Founder Amy VanTine guides families through navigating reactive attachment disorder parenting.
RAD Advocates Founder/President guides parents through the challenges of RAD parenting.

As she stood before the room full of parents at the Navigating RAD 2022 (NavRAD22) conference, RAD Advocates President Amy VanTine saw a familiar look. Many of the moms and dads had eyes full of sadness and urgency. They scanned the room for signs of hope. It was an expression of the pain Amy once felt herself while raising a child with reactive attachment disorder (RAD).


Amy's response was different from the advice many of the parents had heard before.


She didn't dismiss their reality as RAD parents. She didn't tell them that time and love would fix their child's disorder. She told them the unsugared truth—that the road ahead wouldn't be easy, not at all. But there is a path forward, she told them.


RAD Advocates walks beside parents navigating reactive attachment disorder. Become a member.


"We know that most clinicians don't truly understand reactive attachment disorder. We know that many people judge rather than help you. We know social services and insurance companies work against you," said Amy. "We know. We're trying to bridge that gap. We have to help them to help us. You'll learn that this weekend."


At NavRAD22 held outside of Atlanta this October, those raising children with the disorder learned they weren't alone. They connected with parents who traveled from all over the

Moms of children with reactive attachment disorder with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Service dog aiding a mom with PTSD after raising a child with RAD at NavRAD22. Here, she begins to work through the "Your Reactive Attachment Disorder Parenting Roadmap" workbook.

world, from Florida to Ukraine. They were all searching for the same answer — how to survive the confusing and family-damaging reactive attachment disorder, the result of early childhood trauma.

And they did leave with answers.


Parents left with their completed Your Reactive Attachment Disorder Parenting Roadmap workbooks customized to move their families forward. They did so through the guidance of RAD Advocates and other professionals who truly understand the complexities of the disorder and the mental health and social services systems.


"We know most clinicians don't truly understand reactive attachment disorder. We know that many people judge rather than help you. We know social services and insurance companies work against you," said RAD Advocates President and Founder Amy VanTine. "We know. We're trying to bridge that gap. We have to help them to help us."

Along with their workbooks, parents left with the wisdom that the presenters learned the hard way themselves.


If you're a parent who couldn't attend NavRAD22, here are some of the highlights you can glean from the experience (thank you to Keri Williams, NavRAD22 presenter and author, for contributing):


From NavRAD Keynote Speaker Forrest Lien, LCSW, Lifespan Consulting:


From Dr. John Alston, Psychiatrist:

  • There is a high likelihood that kids with RAD have an inherited mental health disorder. Neurotypical parents or those appropriately treated for mental health disorders do not create abusive circumstances for their children. Given their genetics, your child likely struggles with both a mental illness and reactive attachment disorder. They must both be appropriately diagnosed and treated, which is rare in our mental health system.

  • Bipolar is the most likely inherited disorder children with RAD have. They also may have an antisocial personality disorder, borderline personality disorder, or paranoid schizophrenia (very rare).

  • The medications most children with RAD receive, including antidepressants and stimulants, have adverse effects. Kids with childhood bipolar often get misdiagnosed with PTSD and over-diagnosed with ADHD (even if they do have ADHD, it is far from the root issue and should be treated last rather than first). Both of these misdiagnoses lead to medication mismanagement.

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From Carrie O'Toole, MA, Carrie O'Toole Ministries, Certified Christian Life Coach, Experienced as a RAD Mom:

  • Love will not cure RAD. We’re told all we need is love from churches, agencies, therapists, and our families. That statement is untrue, damaging, and often dangerous for families.

  • Some families are damaged beyond the point of recovery. This is merely a fact. It does not mean that the parents have failed.

  • Clinicians are ill-prepared for how to work with RAD families through their education. RAD is not adequately covered in graduate school programs. Carries knows this from personal experience (along with Forrest Lien, LCSW, and many others at the conference). To find a clinician who truly understands RAD, you'll need to look for someone who has personal or professional experience outside of their graduate programs.


Primary caregivers (often the mom) of kids with RAD get PTSD as they are "the nurturing enemy" of the child. Moms often experience repeated rejections from their children, relentless control battles, loss of friends/spouse, and isolation without support.

From Monica Badgley, RAD Sibs, Adult RAD Sibling:

Presenters Monica Badgley and Carrie O'Toole interviewed a panel of young adults who grew up with a sibling with RAD about their experiences then and now. Together, they shared the following:

  • Bonded kids often take it upon themselves to help their parents with their sibling with RAD (as RAD impacts the entire family). They aren’t able to rest in their role as a kid and they grow up quickly. As parents, we must be mindful that our child sees themselves as a teammate.


RAD Sibs Founder Monica Badgley interviews young adults of siblings with reactive attachment disorder at NavRAD22
RAD Sibs Founder Monica Badgley interviews young adults of siblings with reactive attachment disorder at NavRAD22

  • As parents, we have to learn how to set our bonded kids free. It’s not their job to protect us and to take care of their RAD sibling.

  • When our kids expose how they are feeling, it is their way of decompressing. Even if you feel that you have no idea what to “do,” that doesn’t matter. Just let them talk. Talking allows them to process their feelings which is the step to healing.


RAD Advocates COO Heather Houze and her husband Jon listen, through tears and some laughter, to their adult son describe life as a sibling of a child with reactive attachment disorder
RAD Advocates COO Heather Houze and her husband Jon listen, through tears and some laughter, to their adult son describe life as a RAD sibling

From Scott Smith, Best Choice Admissions:

  • It’s not a failure when you need more help. Allowing the child to continue to fail at home is not a way forward. There is no treading water with RAD. The entire family is being damaged.

  • Looks for signs that your child may need placement and move forward. These signals include when RAD is impacting their entire home and when your child does not participate in receiving help.

  • "Good parenting" does not matter with RAD. You cannot watch them 24 hours a day, you cannot force them to change, and you cannot put the rest of the family at risk.


From Tracey Poffenroth-Prato, RAD Talk with Tracey, Personal Development Coach, Experienced as a RAD Mom:

Tracey interviewed Andurina, a young woman who was diagnosed with RAD as a child but is now thriving as a young adult. Audurina shared the following:

  • Healing from RAD is a personal decision. Audurina says, “For me, it was a choice. I had to get to a point where I wanted a happy, better life.”

  • Neurofeedback was helpful in processing emotions. However, because it got Andurina working through her emotions, it caused her behavior to escalate. She didn’t feel comfortable with feelings or being vulnerable.

  • An effective attachment therapist does not get swayed by RAD. Andurina had a good therapist who held her accountable and was not manipulated by RAD.


From Keri Williams, Author and Experienced as a RAD Mom:

It’s not a failure when you need more help. Allowing the child to continue to fail at home is not a way forward. There is no treading water with RAD. The entire family is being damaged.

From RAD Advocates and Experienced RAD Moms Amy VanTine, Founder and President, and Heather Houze, COO:

  • You are not alone. When Amy was in the thick of raising a child with RAD, she felt completely isolated. So she looked for anyone else in her situation online. Not only did she find them, but learned that two other moms in her shoes lived in the very same Colorado small town. She has realized that RAD is far more prevalent than mental health professionals recognize. Thus, she formed RAD Advocates with the hope to build a community of RAD parents worldwide to foster advocacy and change.


Multiple service dogs attended NavRAD22 to support moms who have PTSD after raising their children with RAD
Multiple service dogs attended NavRAD22 with their owners. Primary caregivers of children with RAD, typically moms, often develop PTSD through parenting the child.

  • Self-care is critical. Amy and Heather walk beside parents from wherever they are on their journey. Whether a parent is just learning about RAD and trying to get ahead of it or is in crisis hiding in their closet (sadly, not uncommon), RAD Advocates insist on self-care. It can feel impossible to find that care but anything is better than nothing. From getting away for a weekend to taking a long comforting shower, you must do it for the safety and wellness of yourself and, thus, your entire family.

  • We have to create something from nothing for our RAD families. “We’re fighting for something that doesn’t exist. We’re working within a system that is broken," says Amy. "We must be creative and resourceful and navigate what we do have." If help and advocacy were plentiful for RAD parents, there'd be no need for RAD Advocates. The hope is that one day, there is no need for the nonprofit organization. We are not there though, not yet.

Navigating RAD is not your typical conference. In fact, we at RAD Advocates are beginning

Although NavRAD22 is heavy, we also had the light of connection, laughter, dogs and even a baby. Here is RAD Advocates Katie, volunteer advocate, with her (bonded!) baby
Although NavRAD22 is heavy, we also had the light of connection, laughter, dogs, and even a baby. Here, RAD Advocates Katie joins with her (bonded!) baby girl, Abby.

to realize that it's not a conference after all. It is not a typical event because RAD is not your typical issue. RAD families need and deserve something different. NavRAD is a guided plan-building experience for parents navigating reactive attachment disorder.


As Amy says, we're banning together to create solutions that are not easy or evident. But, together, we can pool our resources, creativity, and community. It is a monumental task, but for a monumental need. Everyone benefits when RAD parents get the support they need and deserve.


Together, we will pave the path. Together, we are all stronger RAD advocates. Join us.


p.s. - Thinking about attending NavRAD23? Cast your vote for your favorite month here!


RAD Advocates walks beside parents navigating reactive attachment disorder. Become a member.

About the author:


With a background in the nonprofit, education, and mental health sectors, Nichole Noonan founded Pen & Stick Communications to help organizations further their reach in the world via the fusion of communications strategy and copywriting. She has a particular niche in the area of reactive attachment disorder and passionately supports the RAD Advocates mission. Nichole earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and a Master of Education.

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