“The Dunedin Study”: Early Indicators/ Risk Factors of Criminality in Our Children… and what we can do about it, By Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

jal collage

Continuing  our series of articles on findings discovered by the “Dunedin Longitudinal Study”

Our previous article about “The Dunedin Longitudinal Study” focused on the five personality types identified by the study: “Well Adjusted”, “Confident”,”Reserved”, “Undercontrolled” and “Inhibited”.  These are divided among the population as shown in the pie chart below (with some overlaps).

Pie 2

As discussed, study findings were that these personality types were fixed and could be identified in very young children.  Of the five types, “Undercontrolled” (10%) and “Inhibited” (7% of the total population) were the two conducive to what was called a “negative life outcome”, that is causing great angst, anxiety and unhappiness to both those with the personality type and to those around them.

“Inhibited”individuals tend to be overcome by shyness and social awkwardness to the point where they “hide from the world” and frequently struggle to complete High School, gain tertiary qualifications, maintain jobs or enter into (let alone maintain) relationships.  In general, “Inhibited”individuals are not, however, a “threat to society” and their personality trait, while harmful to themselves and concerning for those who love them, is not “dangerous”.

David Gray

David Gray

We say “in general”, because there are cases of such individuals “coming out of their shells” (as they are frequently hermits or recluses) and becoming violent, such as in the case of David Gray, who killed 13 people in the well-known Aramoana Massacre near Dunedin, New Zealand in 1990.

This article focuses on the 10% of the population classified as “Undercontrolled”, because these individuals have been shown to have the greatest tendency towards life outcomes which present not only  as negative for themselves, but frequently as criminal and violent.

nature_vs_nurture2

Nature vs Nurture

Before going on to look at the “Undercontrolled” group in more detail, however, we at “The Forever Years” would also like to re-emphasise that, while the personality types are fixed, according to “The Dunedin Study”, whether or not those young children who present as”Undercontrolled” or “Inhibited”manifest a “negative life outcome” is hugely dependent on nurture (and we will discuss the nurturing of “Undercontrolled” children, in particular, in more detail below) as well as on “Self Control” (which is itself unfixed and can be strengthened with nurture, and which we will discuss in a later article).  Nature loads the gun, but nurture decides whether or not the trigger is pulled.

daf092ebd8060ba696d949076f4b6f86

A homeless man

Study Director Professor Richie Poulton says that one of the biggest reasons for the credibility of “The Dunedin Study” findings (and part of the reason it is now an internationally recognised “gold standard” in human development), is that for more than 40 years 96% of the original participants (all born in 1972-3 in Dunedin, New Zealand) have remained involved.  Poulton says that these people range across all social strata, from top government employees and professionals through to the homeless, incarcerated, or those in institutional care.

downloadStudy findings showed that children identified as being in the “Undercontrolled” group for personality were frequently in trouble with the law by the time they reached their teenage years.  A pattern of criminality continued, often accelerating until they ended up being incarcerated for long periods of time, for more serious crimes, at some point before their thirties.  Five percent of individuals, the study discovered, were responsible for 50% of society’s crimes.  These individuals were also, mostly, males– as was identified when they were three years old.

pittsburgh-on-usa-map1

Map showing the location of Pittsburgh in the USA

Because of concerns expressed that these may be “Dunedin only” statistics and that they perhaps applied only to this particular group of people born in the early 1970s, Dr. Terrie Moffat, Associate Director of “The Dunedin Study”, decided to do the experiment with boys growing up in inner-city Pittsburgh, in the USA.  These young men were living  thousands of miles away from New Zealand, were born in a different era and were of a different ethnic makeup (half of the Pittsburgh participants were African American). Findings in the Pittsburgh study were, however, always exactly parallel to those in “The Dunedin Study”: 50% of crimes were perpetrated by 5% of males and the most delinquent boys came from the most disadvantaged social backgrounds.  These findings demonstrate that there are fundamental truths (personality type, social background… nature plus nurture, if you like) driving all human behaviour, regardless of nationality or ethnic background.

Lower socioeconomic area in urban Pittsburgh

Lower socioeconomic area in urban Pittsburgh (Source: Google images)

There only differences between “The Dunedin Study” and the Pittsburgh study were in homicide and suicide.  While assault rates tended to be identical in both cities, homicide rates were higher in Pittsburgh.  This followed through from the easier access to lethal weapons for youth in the USA, which converted what would otherwise have been assaults into homicides.  The youth suicide rate was shown to be higher in Dunedin, which researchers believe may be due to a down turn in the New Zealand economy at the time when study members were leaving school and seeking out employment.  Overall, a comparison of the studies undertaken in Dunedin and Pittsburgh, as well as other similar studies of youth in various developed nations around the globe, indicates that concerns about “The Dunedin Study” findings not being relevant elsewhere can now be conclusively ruled out.  These findings, moreover, led to “The Dunedin Study” being awarded the Stockholm Prize for research into criminality  in 2007 and the Jacob Prize for groundbreaking research into youth offending in 2010.

When thinking in particular about children who present with the “Undercontrolled” personality type then, what practical measures will best help in improving possible “life outcomes”?  Some of these are summarised below:

  •  “Early intervention” (meaning protection from abuse or neglect) for identified vulnerable children.  Children with a  personality type identified as being “Undercontrolled” who are were also victims of abuse or neglect were highly likely to become involved in criminal behaviour as teenagers or adults, according to study findings.  The earlier the intervention the better.
  •  Support for those identified as “Undercontrolled” in personality type, as well as for their parents, carers and educators.  This would involve setting boundaries and developing the all-important quality of Self Control, which unlike personality type, is not fixed.  We will discuss the importance of Self Control in a later article.
  • Kids doing Karate (Source: Google images).

    Kids doing Karate (Source: Google images).

    Practical “outlets” for “Undercontrolled” children to develop self-discipline and self-regulation skills… particularly in “Undercontrolled” males, sports and / or martial arts were shown to be helpful.

  • Socialisation goals and monitoring for depression in “Inhibited” children, who tend to “retreat into themselves” during their teens if not adequately supported.  Socialisation goals can include “challenges” such as camping trips, overseas experiences for teens and group activities, whilst balancing this with a respect for the reserved nature of these children, but hopefully resulting in them developing into “Reserved” rather than “Inhibited” individuals, in terms of personality type.

    Kids camping.  Source: Google images.

    Kids camping. Source: Google images.

  • Investment by governments in Early Childhood Education in particular, but also in education at all levels.
  • A raising of awareness among parents, carers and educators of the different personality types and how each type is best nurtured, especially the “at risk” personality types (“Undercontrolled” and “Inhibited” ).  This would include emphasising the importance of structure, routine and predictability for the “at risk” group of children, who tend not to thrive when circumstances are changeable or random.

Professor James Heckman, at the Center for the Economics of Human Development (CEHD) at the University of Chicago says, “if we understand what makes people ‘successful’ or ‘unsuccessful’, then we have a powerful new tool for tackling major social issues.”  Heckman says that in areas such as criminology, health and education problems have traditionally been treated “as they appear”, but now we can identify “at risk” individuals very early on… and hopefully apply study findings into real life applications which will alter these life trajectories… and, in doing so, also be immensely beneficial not only to these individuals, but also to society as a whole.

forever-years-icon

“The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog”, by Bruce D. Perry and Maia Szalavitz. A Book Review and Analysis by Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

Dog

I found “The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog” a fascinating read and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in child psychology or who works with traumatised children… or even if you just have a general interest in how our minds (and the developing minds of children in particular) respond to trauma.  The full title of this book is “The Boy Who was raised as a Dog and Other Stories from a Child Psychiatrist’s Notebook, What Traumatized Children can Teach us about Loss, Love and Healing” and the authors are Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D, and Maia Szalavitz.

One of the things I liked about this book was that, despite saying that traumatic events can “leave indelible marks on the mind [and the]…impact of PTSD [Post Traumatic Shock Disorder] is actually far greater on children than it is on adults” [p.2], the overall tone is positive and hopeful, both for children who have been affected by PTSD as a consequence of  severe abuse and/ or neglect or due to witnessing horrific events, as well as for adults affected by PTSD.   Bruce D. Perry, a child psychiatrist and Senior Fellow of the ChildTrauma Academy (USA and Canada) is the “voice” of this book, which he wrote together with Maia Szalavitz, an award winning journalist who specialises in science and health.  Perry compassionately and respectfully acknowledges the immense importance of “The Forever Years” (childhood) and the importance of investing in and creating a serious strategy of therapy for children  affected by trauma.

As a “lay person” (non-psychiatrist) I found “The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog” clear and self-explanatory.   On page 21 there is an excellent description of how our human brain develops: …“there are four major parts of the brain: the brainstem, the diencephalon, the limbic system and the cortex.  The brain is organised from the inside out, like a house with increasingly complicated additions built on an old foundation.  The lower and most central regions of the brainstem and the diencephalon are the simplest.  They evolved first, and they develop first as a child grows.  As you move upward and outward, things get increasingly more complex with the limbic system.”

fg 2

Source: “The Boy who was raised as a Dog,” appendix, figure 2, p. 248.

The younger a child is when a traumatic event occurs, Perry says, the greater the affect on the lower and most central regions of the brain.  This, he explains, is “developmental trauma” (as opposed to inherent anxiety or stress disorders caused in utero or by genetics).  Trauma in early childhood causes “altered receptors” or heightened sensitivity to “threat”: an over-exaggerated “fight or flight” reaction, based on triggers which the person may not even  be consciously aware of themselves and which, in others who have not undergone similar trauma, would probably not cause such a reaction.  A clear indicator, Perry realised,  was that children with this “heightened sensitivity” had, even when calm and resting, an accelerated heart rate at a level significantly above that of their non-traumatised peers of the same age and gender.

The responses of traumatised children, Perry explains, can be to create more “chaos”, as this has been their “norm” in the past and brain pathways of accepting chaos as normality have been set up.  Adults who undertake social work or foster care, for example, should be aware of this.  “The responses of traumatised children are often misinterpreted.   …new situations are inherently stressful… attempting to take control of what they believe is the inevitable return to chaos, they appear to “provoke” it in order to make things feel more comfortable and predictable.   …we tend to prefer the “certainty of misery to the misery of uncertainty.”  This response to trauma can often cause serious problems for children when it is misunderstood by their caregivers.”  [p.55].

Following from this, Perry says that he and his colleagues recognised that “…the nature of a child’s relationships–both before and after trauma– seemed to play a critical role in shaping their response to it.  If safe, familiar and capable caregivers were made available to children, they tended to recover more easily, often showing no enduring negative effects of the traumatic event.  We knew that the “trauma-buffering” effect of relationships had to be mediated, somehow, by the brain.”  [p.66]

This is where the amazing capacity of our human brains to “heal” and create “new pathways”, even years after traumatic events which have occurred during early childhood (during the first, early stages of brain development) comes into play.

“…we tend to care for our children [and, interestingly, for ourselves as adults] the way we were cared for ourselves during our own childhoods, [so] a good “brain” history of a child begins with a history of the caregiver’s childhood and early experience.” [p.83].  Our “Forever Years”, then, are also effected by the “Forever Years” of those caring for us when we are young.  The diagnosis “failure to thrive” in a child ” (discussed on p.88) can stem from a parent or parents not having  thrived themselves during their own childhood years.   In extreme cases, even  when other, basic needs (such as for food, shelter and clothing) are met, if a carer is emotionally “distant” a child may fail to gain weight or be delayed in other ways (such as speech or other developmental milestones).  This is purely a “nurture” (or lack of nurture) issue, and nothing to do with anything innate in the child.  Perry talks about how until recently, doctors were “...unaware of the damage that neglect alone can do to the brain.  They assumed that something so clearly visible on scans had to be evidence of a genetic defect or intrauterine insult, such as exposure to toxins or disease; they couldn’t imagine that early environment alone could have such profound physical effects.” [p. 129].

6600

Neurologists say that the sizeable difference between these two brains of two different 3-year-olds has one primary cause: the way that their mothers treated them. Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D./Ch Source: http://www.medicaldaily.com/chilling-brain-scans-show-impact-mothers-love-childs-brain-size-243328

“Fortunately the positive cycle is every bit as cascading and self-amplifying as the vicious cycle,” Perry says, [p.121] and while emotional scars may always be present, the intervention of a loving, understanding environment can reprogram reactions and triggers.  This is enormously positive  when considering the effect on  future social interactions (including romantic relationships) for traumatised children as they grow into adulthood and becomes parents themselves.  The more relationships are positively retained and jobs and parenting situations are handled in constructive ways, the stronger and more confident the “traumatised child now adult” will become, which in turn further aids healing of old, emotional scars.

Perry doesn’t just put this forward as a vague hypothesis, however.  Throughout “The Boy Who was Raised as a Dog” he gives concrete examples through case studies of real patients he has worked with (obviously, these children’s names have been changed to protect their privacy).   Each is an example of a child suffering from severe trauma, including the “boy who was raised as a dog,” who gives the book its title.  Through his work, Perry says, he and his colleagues “…only gradually came to understand how the sequential development of a child’s brain is affected by trauma and neglect.  It only gradually dawned on us that this understanding could help us find possible treatments. These insights led us to develop what we call the neurosequential approach to theraputic services for maltreated and traumatised children. [p.125].

I love the “neurosequential” approach Perry and his colleagues take, along with the immense positive ramifications it has for the children they are working with.  The nuerosequential approach works on the basis of assessing which areas in a patient’s brain have sustained damage or neglect from past experiences, and then addressing these one by one.   “We would use enrichment experiences and targeted therapies to help the affected brain areas in the order in which they were affected by neglect and trauma (hence the name neurosequential).  If we could document improved functioning following the first set of interventions, we would begin the second set appropriate  for the next brain region and developmental stage until, hopefully,… [the patient] would get to the point where his biological age and his developmental age would match.”  [p.139].

Just as our brains develop sequentially, then, neurosequential therapy is aimed at addressing “loss” in development (caused by abuse, neglect or trauma) in a sequential manner.  Perry uses the example of a boy called Connor (not his real name), now aged fourteen, who had suffered from severe neglect as a baby.  “In Connor’s case, It was clear that his problems had started in early infancy, when the lower and most central regions of the brain are actively developing.  These systems respond to rhythm and touch: the brainstem’s regulatory centres control heartbeat, the rise and fall of neurochemicals and hormones in the cycle of day and night, the beat of one’s walk and other patterns which must maintain a rhythmic order to function properly.” [pp.139-140].  For Connor, “treatment” began with massage therapy, as early neglect had left him with an aversion to touch which was affecting his ability to even make eye contact with others, and hence affecting his social relationships.

Perry goes on to describe the “levels” or “layers” of neurosequential therapy, each of which respond to and attempt to address a deficit caused by trauma earlier on.

White Layers

Touch

kangaroo-careTouch is, of course, our earliest form of validation and security from our carers.  This is the reason for the importance placed on giving newborn babies “skin to skin” contact and the psychological benefits of this can be seen throughout life.  (See previous articles on this blog about the importance of positive touch in early childhood and throughout life, by following the links below).

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/05/14/infant-massage-nurturing-touch-and-self-care-for-the-caregiver-by-erin-e-sonnier-from-nurtured-child-nurtured-you

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/03/03/touch-as-nutrition-by-john-tuite/

Music and Movement

Many of us parents take our preschoolers to “Music and Movement” groups thinking that that’s just “what you do” and that it gives us a chance to socialise with other parents and connect with and focus on our children in a child-centred environment.  All of this is true and the benefits of music to our babies and children has been well documented.  (Again, there is a link to follow below if you would like to read an article about the benefits of music to our kids).

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/01/18/5-ways-in-which-kids-benefit-from-learning-a-musical-instrument-by-justine-pierre/

After reading “The Boy Who was raised as a Dog”, I came to realise that, beyond being merely “beneficial”, music and movement are essential in brain development, affecting crucial areas such as language acquisition and breathing and heart rate regulation. Music and humanity have been linked since the dawn of time, with every culture having songs and rhymes for children passed down from generation to generation.  They are part of the fabric of who we are.

Play Therapy

mi1_675Perry describes how “play therapy” is used in treating traumatised children and in particular talks about Sandy (not her real name), a three year old girl who witnessed her mother being raped and stabbed to death, before having her own throat slit and being left for dead.  Sandy was alone with her mother’s body in their apartment for eleven hours before being discovered, taken to hospital and having the wounds on her neck treated. [p.33].   Perry discovered that Sandy had a need to role play the scene which had traumatised her again and again.  This involved  Perry himself lying on the ground, in the role of Sandy’s mother, while Sandy attempted to “wake” him and “feed” him, which she had done with her mother during the eleven hours after the brutal attack on them both.  [p.52].  “While she did this [role play] , I had to do exactly what she wanted: don’t talk, don’t move, don’t interfere, don’t stop.  She needed to have total control while she performed this reenactment.  And that control, I began to recognize, would be critical to helping her heal.”  Over the course of manyPlato-play+blue months, Sandy began to alter this re-enactment and, on her own, changed it to a scene where Perry would read her a story book, thus reverting to a positive memory of times with her mother before the attack.  This is not to say that Sandy wasn’t scarred by her extremely traumatic experience.  But “play therapy” in this way enabled her to process what had happened and move towards healing.  Perry says that, with ongoing therapy and encouragement, Sandy went on to lead a satisfying and productive life, despite her horrific early  experience.

The importance of “play” is something for all parents and carers to be aware of.  A particularly useful article on “Attachment Play” (especially beneficial to children being fostered or adopted, who may have attachment issues or disorders, but also beneficial to our children generally) was recently published by Marion Badenoch Rose, here on the “Forever Years”.  (To read it, please follow the link below):

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2016/03/21/an-introduction-to-attachment-play-by-marion-badenoch-rose/

Some other articles on the importance of play can be found at the links below:

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2016/04/10/the-remarkable-power-of-play-why-play-is-so-important-for-children-by-karen-young/

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/09/08/let-the-children-play-outside-by-greenlife-matters-the-nursery-and-garden-industry-new-zealand/

https://theforeveryears.wordpress.com/2015/05/08/help-my-toddler-cant-play-without-me-by-janet-lansbury/

Interaction with Peers

kidsplaying-on-playgroundPerry says the next step in neurosequential therapy is being able to aptly interact with peers.  This is a big step, as adults make allowances and try to protect or help a child who they see as having “issues”, but successful peer interaction (and acceptance of and by peers) is necessary to be able to function throughout the rest of life, with implications for all future relationships.  Perry discusses the case of Peter (not his real name) a seven year old boy who was adopted at age three from an orphanage in Russia.  Due to early lack of stimulation and neglect during his time at the orphanage (where intentions were good, but there were simply not enough adults to go around, meaning that Peter and the other three year olds there were fed and changed, but spent all day in cots), Peter, who was an intelligent boy, showed behaviour which was young for his age and, inspite of loving and patient behaviour from his adoptive parents at home, this caused him to be rejected and marginalised by his peers… which in turn led Peter to having angry, bewildered outburts (which only served to further ostracise him from his classmates).

Mandela“The behavior of his classmates was predictable.  What was happening was a small version of what happens all across the planet in various forms every day.  Human beings fear what they don’t understand.  The unknown scares us.  When we meet people who look or act in unfamiliar, strange ways, our initial response is to keep them at arms length.  At times we make ourselves feel superior, smarter or more competent by dehumanizing or degrading those who are different.  The roots of so many of our species’ ugliest behaviors– racism, ageism, misogyny, anti-Semitism, to name just a few– are the basic brain-mediated response to perceived threat.  We tend to fear what we do not understand, and fear can so easily twist into hate or even violence because it can suppress the rational parts of our brain.”  [p.225].

The biggest predator of humans is humans and we have, therefore, a built in fear of other people who seem “different”.  Perry says, “...Peter was intellectually advanced, but socially clueless.  I realised that if he was going to catch up, he was going to need the help of his peers.” [p.226].

choose-wiselyWhat followed was an amazing (and yet simple) exercise in understanding.  Our fear reaction so often kicks in, but the empathy reaction can take longer to activate (in children or adults), but, it has been shown, empathy once activated is stronger than the fear reaction.  To get Peter’s peers “on side” in his healing, Perry (with the permission of Peter, his parents and the school) came along to his class and spoke about the brain… at a level at which seven year old children could understand.

Dr. Bruce D. Perry (author of "The Boy who was raised as a Dog", "talking about the brain".

Dr. Bruce D. Perry (author of “The Boy who was raised as a Dog”, “talking about the brain”.  Source: http://davidsmithsegarra.com/born-love-dr-bruce-perry/

I talked about how they were exercising their “ABC” muscles [of the brain] in school and about the importance of repetition.  I described how they had many other similar kinds of “muscles” in the brain that also needed certain kinds of attention to grow big and strong.  I talked about how the brain develops and what makes everyone’s brain work, emphasizing how the brain changes.” [p.228].

Perry then went on to explain how Peter had had a different and more difficult start in life than the other children in his class.

An orphanage in Eastern Europe. Source: National Geographic.

An orphanage in Eastern Europe. Source: National Geographic.

“When he was a little boy, he spent every minute of every day for the first three years of his life in one crib.  …  Peter was born in another country where they did not know very much about the brain.  … Peter never had a chance to walk around, to play with friends, to get a hug from any loving grown-ups.  His brain didn’t get very much stimulation.  … his new parents came… [then] Peter’s amazing brain started to learn so many things.  Even though he had never heard English, he learned English in just a couple of years. … every day in school, Peter learns things from all of you.  He watches how you do things, he learns from playing with each of you and he learns from just being your friend.  So thank you for helping Peter.  And thanks for letting me come and talk about the brain.”  [pp.228-229].

Perry says that, in the weeks that followed, the children’s “natural goodness” came to the surface and they “included him, protected him and, ultimately, provided therapeutic experiences that helped Peter catch up…. adults have much more influence over the process [of helping children understand those who are different] than they may believe.  When children understand why someone behaves oddly, they give him or her more slack…” [p.229].

tribal-fear-altruism

In Conclusion

The Boy Who was raised as a Dog” has many more examples of the amazing capacity of the human brain to recover from early neglect or trauma, including the story which gives the book its title.  Perry also worked with the children from the WACO Texas cult and talks about his experiences with them in this book.  While Perry’s patients are extreme examples of trauma or abuse, he says an estimated 40% of children will experience some level of trauma before they reach adulthood [p. 233] and that some of our current practices of therapy and childcare are actually causing more harm than healing [p.235].  He advocates for an “infant and child literate society” [p.239] and a nurturing of empathy– which is why we at “The Forever Years” love this book, which fits in so well with our own ethos, of viewing the world “through the eyes of a child”, an ethos which Perry certainly puts into action when treating children who have suffered from trauma or neglect.

Related Links:

Life After Stress: The Biology of Trauma and Resilience

http://www.lastwordonnothing.com/2012/08/02/what-americans-dont-get-about-the-brains-critical-period/

https://www.zerotothree.org/resources/529-baby-brain-map

http://nancyguberti.com/5-stages-of-human-brain-development/

Ab Collage 11

In Loving Memory of Nia Glassie and so many others… a Song and an Article for Child Abuse Prevention Month

As we move into April, international Child Abuse Prevention Month, this article challenges us to dare NOT to turn a blind eye and to protect all our children, everywhere.

The Forever Years

Nia Collage

By Kirsteen McLay-Knopp

In 2008 New Zealanders were outraged as they heard details of the death of three year old Rotorua girl Nia Glassie.  Nia was subject to extensive physical abuse for weeks, possibly even months, before being admitted to hospital and dying of brain injuries on 3 August 2007. The court concluded she had been kicked, beaten, slapped, jumped on, held over a burning fire, had wrestling moves copied from a computer game practiced on her, spat on, placed into a clothes dryer spinning at top heat for up to 30 minutes, folded into a sofa and sat on, shoved into piles of rubbish, dragged through a sandpit half-naked, flung against a wall, dropped from a height onto the floor, and whirled rapidly on an outdoor rotary clothes line until she fell off. (Source: Wikipedia, see link below).

CAP monthAs we move to the end of April as Child Abuse Prevention…

View original post 766 more words

Through the Eyes of a Foster Child… Now Grown Up. “Houses and Homes”. By Tammy Perlmutter.

Foster

Doll Houses. Ghetto houses. Foster homes. Group homes. Children’s homes. So many houses. So few homes.

I stand in front of a dilapidated building in an urban neighborhood. Its porch is sagging to the right, the railing on the stoop has long been broken off, leaving a jagged, rusted stump jutting up from the crumbling concrete step. The lattice work covering the basement window is leaning forward as if trying to get away while everything is quiet. The paint on the siding is slowly bubbling up and stripping off,  it had long since given up trying to conceal the imperfections.

This is where my mother lives. Or rather, lived. She died a year ago, lasting longer than anyone ever thought, and longer than most of us wanted her to. The bar fights, drunken falls, car accidents, decades of liver damage, none of it had been fatal. It was pneumonia that got her in the end. It was not the dramatic demise we were all expecting.

The narrow row home was barely habitable when my mother lived there, and now it’s been condemned. I don’t know exactly why I am here, standing in front of the porch. I never lived in this house with her, just visited here a handful of times as a teen and young adult.

My mother left us with sitters to go looking for an apartment and didn’t return for days. When she finally returned, after what most people thought was a “lost weekend,” my brother and I were placed in foster care. I was not quite 5. It was a lost weekend, because I lost everything.  My home, my family, what little sense of stability an alcoholic parent could provide.

There were stories I was told later. My oldest brother Rob leaving Danny and I alone and walking to my aunt’s house to ask for food. When questioned about his siblings, they were told we were at home. They fed Rob, brought some food and him home to check on Danny and I. My aunt says I was filthy. Wearing my brother’s handed-down clothes. I was scrawny and dirty. They couldn’t even tell I was a girl. My uncle Ed cried when he saw me. They cleaned me up. Found me clothes. Wished they could do more.

(To read more of this article, follow the link below…)

http://themanifeststation.net/2015/02/15/houses-and-homes/

World Day Against Child Labour: 12th June: No to Child Labour, Yes to Quality Education!

wcms_334481

 

The most recent global estimates suggest some 120 million children between the ages of 5 and 14 are involved in child labour, with boys and girls in this age group almost equally affected…  The World Day Against Child Labour this year will focus particularly on the importance of quality education as a key step in tackling child labour. It is very timely to do so, as in 2015 the international community will be reviewing reasons for the failure to reach development targets on education and will be setting new goals and strategies. [Source: http://www.ilo.org/ipec/Campaignandadvocacy/wdacl/lang–en/index.htm]

 

Every 12 June, Education International and its member organisations worldwide celebrate the World Day Against Child Labour.

It is an occasion to highlight the global extent of child labour and raise awareness on the situation of millions of children, girls and boys, working across the globe.

For EI and its affiliated teacher unions, World Day against Child Labour is also a good time to reiterate that every child has the right to a free quality public education.

On this year’s World Day Against Child Labour, Education International calls for:

  • education to be recognised as a public good, a fundamental human right and a basis for guaranteeing the realization of other rights and a key to achieving poverty eradication;
  • the provision of 12 years of publicly-funded, equitable quality primary and secondary education, of which at least nine years are free and compulsory, leading to relevant learning outcomes and ensuring that all children are in school and are learning;
  • the provision of at least one year of free and compulsory quality pre-primary education; and
  • teachers and educators to be empowered, adequately recruited, well-trained, professionally-qualified, motivated and supported within well-resourced, efficient and effectively governed systems.

Read more and see videos at the following link:

http://www.ei-ie.org/en/websections/content_detail/6704

 

Children Who Experience Early Childhood Trauma Do Not Just ‘Get Over It’, by Jane Evans

trauma-300x200

Humans are relatively adaptable beings which is why we are thriving and not dying out like other species. Horrendous disasters such as the Philippines typhoon, the Boxing Day Tsunami, the nuclear disaster in Japan, the major wars of our time, and horrific famines see great suffering, but these events also inspires survival through adaptation. It turns out we possess a strong survival mechanism in our brains directly linked to our bodies, fight, flight, freeze, flop and friend (fffff).

In fact, the survival part of our brain, which is primitive yet effective, is the first to develop in utero starting at around 7 weeks. It regulates our breathing, digestive system, heart rate and temperature, along with the ‘fffff’ system which operates to preserve our life.

If we have to dodge a falling object, jump out of the path of a speeding car, keep very still to avoid being seen, run for the hills from a predator, or get someone potentially threatening ‘onside’ we need this to happen fast. If a baby is scared, cold, hungry, lonely, or in any way overwhelmed this triggers their survival system and they cry to bring an adult to them to help them survive.

Read more by following the link below:

http://www.socialworkhelper.com/2014/10/08/children-experience-early-childhood-trauma-just-get/

10 Things Foster Parents Wish Their Case Managers Knew, by Mike Berry

iStock_000005895710_Medium

If you are unfamiliar with how the foster care system works, each child who enters into care is assigned a case manager and that person is the liaison between the state and the foster family the child is placed with. In the decade that we have been foster parents we have had the joy of working with some phenomenal case managers and the frustration of working with some very bad case managers.

Here are 10 things the support group said last night:

1. We know the children the best.

We spend every waking moment with the children you placed in our homes. Some of us have had, and will have, placements for months, even years. They bond to us and that’s a good thing. Please trust us when we tell you things about them and we make observations. We know them really really well because we’re doing life with them. That’s not to say that you don’t know them because we know you do. But when you have the role of first responder to strong emotional outbreaks, meltdowns and fear, it gives unique insight.

2. We actually live by a schedule.

Although it seems like we’re available at the drop of a hat, we are not. Many of us have jobs outside of our home. Please show up on time for visits & follow-ups in our home. We can’t always adjust our schedule because you got out of court later than you thought and now you’re over an hour late. Many of us have other children and they are involved in other activities. Please be respectful of that.

3. This is NOT a job, it’s a way of life. 

It’s our family. We do not get holidays off, there are no financial gains, and no one is rolling out the red carpet for us. In fact, they’re staring at us and they think we’re weird. They don’t get us. We’re okay with that but we need you to understand this. This is our life, 24/7, and sometimes it is so difficult that we don’t know if we can make it another day.

4. Point us toward good resources.

We need support groups, literature, and a listening ear. If there are any good conferences that you know of, don’t let us stumble upon them, give us a call or send us an email and give us the scoop. This helps us know that you are there for us.

To read more follow the link below:

http://www.confessionsofaparent.com/10-things-foster-parents-wish-their-case-managers-knew-2/

‘Noble’ – A Film Review

By Sarah Wilson

Noble Film Review

Many years ago I read an inspiring book called ‘Bridge Across My Sorrows’ by Christina Noble. It documented the astonishing life of this feisty and fearless Irish heroine who survived and overcame a traumatic and brutal childhood in Ireland, to become a champion for children’s rights in Vietnam. When I saw that the life of Christina Noble had been made into a film, I jumped at the chance to go and see it. I went to see this film last night with my friend Kirsteen McLay, editor-in-chief of The Forever Years Blog. She worked in Vietnam for many years and once had a long conversation with Christina Noble over the telephone and she also met her son.

The film Noble’ was a difficult yet inspiring and hopeful watch. It documents her life from poverty stricken Dublin in the 1950’s to Birmingham in the 1960’s and Ho Chi Min City in…

View original post 380 more words

3 Reasons Children Keep Abuse “A Secret”, by Ginger Kadlec

By Ginger Kadlec — get free updates of new posts here.

SecretSilence is a child abuser’s best friend.

You name it. Any kind of abuse… physical, sexual, emotional and even neglect… flourishes under the cloud of silence. Child abusers know this… and use this to their advantage.

To ensure silence, abusers will often implore children to keep the abuse “our little secret” and encourage them NOT to tell anyone what’s happening to them.

Sadly, this tactic often works. So, why in the world would a child honor that request and keep such a secret? Primarily, there are 3 reasons children keep abuse a secret…

1) Children want to please. Over 90% of sexual abuse is perpetrated by someone a child knows, loves or trusts. Children are taught to ‘behave’, so they may abide by an abuser’s wishes to keep the abuse “just between them.” In many cases, children love their abusers… parents, grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles, close family friends… and don’t want to disappoint them. In some cases of child sexual abuse, the child victim may actually be “in love” with the abuser and want to protect that person; case in point — a teenager in love with an adult.

2) An abuser (or accomplice) may coach a child to stay silent. This is a heartbreaker… I can’t even tell you how many child forensic interviews in which I’ve personally participated that involved a parent telling a child to deny that he/she was being victimized. The rationale for this is: 1) That one (or both) parents/guardians are perpetrating the abuse, or; 2) A parent relies on the financial or emotional support of the abuser. For example, mom knows her boyfriend is sexually molesting her daughter, but tells the daughter to keep it a secret, as the boyfriend is paying the bills and providing food and housing for them. Sadly, this scenario is far too common.

3) Children may be scared. It’s also common practice for abusers to make threats against a child, a member of the child’s family or even a beloved pet. Threats come in all shapes and sizes, and abusers have a way of knowing what motivates their victims and will use those motivators as weapons of submission and secrecy. Abusers often place the “blame” for the abuse squarely on a child’s shoulders, telling them they’ll “get in trouble” if anyone finds out… yet another compelling reason for a child to remain silent.

(Read more by following the link below…)

http://www.gingerkadlec.com/posts/3-reasons-children-keep-abuse-a-secret/