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Unveiling the Journey Behind RAD Advocates: An Interview with Amy VanTine and Heather Houze

Updated: Dec 13, 2023


RAD Advocates Amy VanTine and Heather Houze have forged ahead as parents of children with reactive attachment disorder. Along the way, they developed a beautiful friendship.
Out of a common passion to advocate for those parenting children with reactive attachment disorder (RAD), RAD Advocates Amy VanTine and Heather Houze found lifelong friendship.

In the lonely world of reactive attachment disorder parenting, you can quickly lose sight of hope. It can feel as though no one understands the reality of what happens behind your family’s closed doors. And, given the dire lack of understanding around the disorder, you may feel as though no one ever will.


But some people do understand what you’re going through because they’ve walked the path too. And they’re doing something about it at RAD Advocates, a nonprofit organization created for and by those parenting children with reactive attachment disorder (RAD) — an affliction that develops when a child’s brain is impacted by trauma during the first few years of life.


It's not just your family. It’s extremely difficult, even dangerous at times, for parents — whether adoptive, biological, stepparent or otherwise — to raise a child with RAD and find effective help for them. RAD Advocates exists to bridge the gap.



We’re honored to present a portion of our exclusive interview with RAD Advocates Founder and CEO Amy VanTine and COO Heather Houze while on location of the NavRAD23 experience. Through this interview, we delve into their experiences along the advocacy journey and the hope they carry into the future of education and advocacy around reactive attachment disorder. To watch the full interview, click here.


How the RAD Advocates Journey Began as Parents


[Interviewer Nichole Noonan]: Can you please share how your journey with RAD Advocates began?


[Amy VanTine]: RAD Advocates began when I found myself in crisis while parenting a child with reactive attachment disorder. Once I got to safety and was viewing social media pages, I realized how many other families were in crisis. And I felt a calling to create some sort of change around that.


I reached out to two other mothers whom I had met on the social media pages and took them both to coffee. They validated what I was feeling that it was completely and ethically wrong what parents are experiencing. And so from there, I just forged forward to create this nonprofit that continues to grow.


During that time, Heather came on pretty quickly, within a year and a half or two years. She became a pivotal part of getting our organization to the next level of growth.

From Then to Now as RAD Advocates


[Nichole Noonan]: How does that feel for you now, from the early days to now?


[Amy VanTine]: For me, it's crazy to see the change after just finishing the NavRAD experience — we got a standing ovation. It felt awkward and heart-wrenching. And I mean, honestly, in some ways, it's a little scary. It’s like, wow, they're really depending on us to create this change. But in another way, I feel more fueled. Bring it on — this RAD parenting movement is just beginning. And when all these parents get together and that power is created, change will happen.


Need help navigating reactive attachment disorder? Become a RAD Advocates member or/and attend NavRAD24.


And so it's different than in the beginning. Because I think in the beginning, we were still having to create a name for ourselves. We had to build this reputation of what our intentions were with professionals — that we are seeking the best interest of the child and the family and trying to bridge that gap between families and professionals. It’s taken a while to kind of build up trust from both sides from the families and now professionals. But I think we're getting there.

I think that we often don't stop long enough to reflect on where we have come in such a short time. And that's exciting, though. It's exciting to see the growth that has happened because it shows where it can go and will go.


Bring it on — this RAD parenting movement is just beginning. And when all these parents get together and that power is created, change will happen.

[Heather Houze]: Where we were in year one with NavRAD to where we are now is like, wow, there's a lot of people that need our help. I’ve had several come up and say, “I can't believe how many people are here.” And somebody else followed with, “I wonder how many more people don't know about it.”


[Amy VanTine]: Yeah, and to see that it's new people. I mean, we have members or previous attendees who have returned and that is awesome. And they all had positive feedback that every year they get something different out of it and that they’ll be back again. But the number of newcomers is also shocking and heartbreaking that there are so many more out there. It's really sad to think about how many families are struggling. Truly, there is a need.

Reflecting Along the RAD Parenting and Advocacy Journey


[Nichole Noonan]: Can you talk about how the two of you met? Do you remember?


[Amy VanTine]: I remember it very clearly. How can you not remember meeting Heather [laughs]? I remember when you were calling asking for help. I actually took your call in a grocery store parking lot.


If anybody knows Heather, she can talk. I remember just sitting in the parking lot but it was an hour or something later. I could feel her passion. It was that same passion that I felt like, “This is not okay, who says this is okay?” And she said, "Just give me the information. I can do it". So I could tell that she was a bulldog. And she knew how to advocate. She knew she was in crisis, but she was willing to hit the ground running. And so she was ready. I think she called at the perfect time before she went into complete crisis. She was able to get some resources from us and carry on with that.


We had to build this reputation of what our intentions were with professionals — that we are seeking the best interest of the child and the family and trying to bridge that gap between families and professionals.

[Heather Houze]: Amy suggested options for my son. I just always felt in this position as a parent where things were just always put upon me. I didn't know that I had a voice or an option in things.


[Amy VanTine]: And then I remember you came out to visit him in treatment. We got to go out to dinner. And that was fun. But then when you came out again to visit him in treatment. We had coffee and I think this was another changing moment for RAD Advocates. Heather said she wanted to give back. She couldn’t watch other people go through this either.


It's just morphed into this beautiful friendship. Oh, yes, I love her. I'm just so grateful for her friendship and that I get to walk alongside her on this journey. We have very different personalities and complement one another’s strengths and weaknesses.


I could feel [Heather's] passion. It was that same passion that I felt of like, “This is not okay, who says this is okay?” And she said, just give me the information. I can do it. So I could really tell that she was a bulldog. And she knew how to advocate.

It's interesting that she and I both have different {RAD parenting] stories. So we have our strengths in different areas, which is great. And then the other advocates [at RAD Advocates] had different paths too. So we've gotten to experience theirs even if it wasn't our path. We collaborate to share all the paths with our members.


[Nichole Noonan]: Can you talk about some of the people you've met along this journey?

[Amy VanTine]: There are definitely connections made and I love that. I always say that this is like this weird club. If you’re a RAD parent, it does not matter your religion, your ethnicity, or your sexual orientation. Nobody cares. Nobody cares. Like when you meet each other, it's like this bond, right?


[Heather Houze]: Reactive attachment disorder is the leveler. It puts us all on an equal playing field.


I just always felt in this position as a parent, things were just always put upon me. I didn't know that I had a voice or an option in things.

[Amy VanTine]: It’s just shocking when you find your people. When you meet, and you hear how you've changed their life, and then you hear what they've done professionally…I want to say that change your life statement, that's hard for me to hear — when people come up and hug you and say, you've changed my life.


[Heather Houze]: I got to meet one of the members that I'm working with here at NavRAD. I don't have a lot of interaction with Dad, he's at work. So I'm mostly on phone calls or zooms with Mom in treatment placement. So I got to meet him. And he said, “I just want you to know, I think you've single-handedly saved our family and our marriage.” And that felt so emotional. And then he said, “I've respected what you do, but I had no idea you were still parenting a child with reactive attachment disorder, how do you do this?” It's kinda therapeutic. You know, it helps me stay focused.


If you’re a RAD parent, it does not matter your religion, profession, ethnicity, sexual orientation. Nobody cares. Nobody cares. Like when you meet each other, it's an instant bond.

[Amy VanTine]: It reminds you that you’re not alone, right?


[Heather Houze]: Right. Because even knowing I'm not alone, there are so many days that my family does not look like the neighbor’s family.


[Amy VanTine]: The "you saved me" comments are powerful. It fuels me, it helps remind me why we did this. But then I also feel very non-deserving. It’s not me. They did the hard work. I mean, they're the ones that really save themselves. A lot of these families come to us in such crisis. And they trusted us and they become vulnerable with us. That's their work. But I think it just shows the pain that families are feeling.


It’s crazy to me that the outside world — professionals, society — can’t see the desperation that RAD families are in and the support that's needed. That when they feel supported, they feel like their lives have been saved. We are here to empower them to find their voice so that they can move on.

This doesn't feel like work to me. I feel very blessed to be able to do this. It wouldn't want to be doing anything else.


[Heather Houze]: I agree.

[Amy VanTine]: Or with a better partner [smiling and nudging Heather].


We're All In It Together as RAD Parents and Advocates


Amy and Heather’s RAD parenting and advocacy journey, along with many others who keep the organization going, is nothing short of inspiring. From their own chaotic parenting journeys to leading a robust grassroots movement, their stories reflect the essence of determination, adaptability, and resilience. The people of RAD Advocates created paths through RAD parenting before they saw any footsteps ahead of them.


Remember, RAD parents, that you are not alone. Other parents are rooting for you and forging ahead — even if you don't know them. There is hope. Together, parents are making a difference. There will be a time when families are effectively supported to raise children with reactive attachment disorder while preserving the health and safety of their families as a whole.


In the meantime, remember that you have a voice. Speak up, reach out, find your people.





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