The amount of abuse and neglect children face in this country is outrageous. One example of this is a story about a little boy who was dealt an unfair hand in life. This little boy was taken from his biological mother do to abuse and neglect at the age of two. He was placed in foster care with a family friend by DCF. After about a year in this placement it was discovered through his preschool program, he was being abused physically and emotionally. He was removed from this home and placed in a temporary foster home with very caring people at three years old, who seemed to make him feel safe and loved. Even in this positive loving environment, his aggressive and violent behaviors became too much for the family to support on a long term basis. DCF then placed him in a “forever home”, he was transitioned slowly and very positively into this new home. He was able to begin with appropriate behaviors and seemed happy. After a few months, his behaviors at home and school began to deteriorate. Then his behaviors began to spiral out of control. He was referred to Child First, and United Services for additional support within the home. He had been referred to the SST program at school for additional support and services at school.
As I learn more and more about early childhood development and the critical role early interactions and experiences play in the formation of the brain and ones ability to function effectively, I wonder how will this little boy make it? His early abuse and neglect will continue to have an impact on his future, to what extent I do not know. Can those negative experiences be made up? In the research I have done most experts predict abuse and neglect will have a lasting impact on a child throughout their life. The level of this impact may vary depending on the type, severity, and duration of the abuse or neglect. More needs to be done to prevent abuse and the cycle of abuse to continue in this country. It is heartbreaking as a teacher to see the needs these children not being met. At times I have to stop and realize the academics I want children to learn to be prepared for the next grade is not always the most important need of a child. If a child feels unsafe and/or malnourished, they are not in a state of mind where they are able to focus and retain academic knowledge. All children need their need there basic needs meet first.
Looking at statistics of abuse and neglect in comparable countries, the US is usually ranked as having a high level of child maltreatment. I wonder if part of the reason is because we as a country are more vocal about the abuse we witness. Are we more likely to report what we see than in other countries where some abuse is more accepted within the cultural norms of the society? Whether or not our country has the highest rates or not, there is far more abuse and neglect happening daily than is imaginable. It is everyone’s job, especially those of us who work closely with children to be aware and report any abuse or neglect. We must speak up for those who cannot speak up for themselves. It is critical that professionals in the early childhood field receive training on recognizing maltreatment, strategies to support these children, and refer children and families to the proper resources that can give them the support they need.