Monday, February 17, 2003

News flash: Neglect bad for kids

In news that should surprise no one, new research shows that children adopted from overseas orphanages have developmental problems due to early neglect and lack of stimulation. Gosh, d'ya think? Given what an industry early stimulation of children has become in this country, with CDs to play to your children while they're in the womb and computer games for the extremely young and all manner of educational TV, baby gymnastics classes and learning-minded toys -- with all that considered so essential to good development, how could anybody think that sitting in an overcrowded playpen in an understaffed orphanage for most of your early years could result in a child with only minor developmental differences?

Apparently a lot of adoptive parents do think that, or more accurately hope that and dream that and cling to that beyond all reason. Whether research findings like these will change anybody's mind is hard to say; dreams die hard. It may make international adopters more picky about the orphanages they adopt from, which means that the kids most in need of families will be the least likely to get them. Or it may make adoptive parents less reluctant to get their kids set up immediately with early intervention and other developmental helpers. That's the best-case scenario, for sure. I won't argue with anybody that love will make all the difference for these children. But love has to include acceptance of the problems that come with institutionalization, and willingness to get help for those problems without delay; and it has to be unconditional, whether developmental delays are easily caught up, or deep and long-lasting.

Now, if they could do some research as to just what sort of help helps most for children with this background, that would be really ... helpful.

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