Birth to Six Initiative Topic Two: The Emotional and Developmental Needs of Young Children
Learning Objectives • Understand the needs of young children • Identify unique issues facing young children • Identify therapies and interventions to assist young children • Value the attachment process in young children
Unique issues for young children in foster care • Importance of a consistent caregiver • Children’s Sense of Time • Response to Psychological Stress • Effect of Neglect • Impact of separation on children • Impact of placement changes • Visitation with birth parents
Consistent Caregiver • Children who have experienced abuse or neglect have a heightened need for permanency, security, and emotional constancy • Regardless of placement type, must receive individual attention from their caregivers.
Foster parent as an Intervention • Shift from “foster care as maintenance” to “foster care as an active intervention” • The quality of the adult-child interaction is a strong predictor of behavior as well as language development and social communication
Children’s Sense of Time • Children have limited life experience on which to establish their sense of self. • Their sense of time focuses exclusively on the present and does not include the understanding “temporary” versus “permanent”
For young children, periods of weeks and months are incomprehensible. • Disruption in either place or caregiver for even 1 day may be stressful.
Response to Psychological Stress • The body’s physiologic responses to stress are based on the involuntary actions of the brain.
Physical and mental abuse during the first few years of life can fix the brain in an acute stress response mode that makes the child hyper vigilant and fearful When an infant is under chronic stress, the response may be apathy, poor feeding, withdrawal and failure to feed
Effect of Neglect Neglect has a profound and long lasting effect on all aspects of child development – poor attachment formation, under stimulation, development delay, poor physical development and antisocial behavior.
Impact of Separation • Separation during the first year of life, especially first 6 months, if followed by good quality care may not be too detrimental • Separations occurring between 6 months and about 3 years of age, are more likely to result in discord and disruption as this is the typical stranger anxiety period.
Impact of Separation (continued) • Children older than 3 or 4 years placed for the first time with a new family are more likely to be able to use language to help them cope with loss and adjust to change.
Separation from Parent • Erica, Judith, Patrick and Elizabeth “Drop off in a Child Care Center”
Visitation (Parent-Child Contact) • Visits are intended to maintain or improve the child-parent relationship, to give agency ability to observe and improve the parent-child interaction, and to monitor the parents’ progress.
Visits (continued) • For younger children visits are not conducive to optimal parent-child interaction and may minimally serve the parents’ needs for ongoing contact with the child • Visits should be frequent and long enough to enhance the parent-child relationship and to effectively document the parent’s ongoing interest and involvement with the child
Attachment Theory • Healthy attachment is demonstrated through empathy, caring, sharing, inhibition of aggression, remorse and the capacity of love
Your Primary attachment • Who was your first caregiver? • Who was your primary caregiver? • Were your first and primary caregivers the same people? • Did you have more than one attachment to an adult? Who were they? • What impact do you feel these relationships had on you?
Attachment Bond (1) it is an enduring emotional relationship with a specific person; (2) the relationship brings safety, comfort, soothing and pleasure; (3) loss or threat of loss of the person evokes intense distress. This special form of relationship is often best characterized by the maternal-child relationship.
How does attachment impact development? Experiences in childhood act as the primary architects of the brain's capabilities throughout the rest of life.
Bonding • Bonding is the process of forming an attachment. • It is the “emotional glue” to become connected to each other.
Bonding Acts • The acts of holding, rocking, singing, feeding, gazing, kissing, and other nurturing behaviors are bonding experiences. • Important factor in creating attachment is positive physical contact
Attunement • Reading and responding to the cues of another • Synchronous and interactive • Helps prevent mismatch between need and provision • Can be taught: reading the non-verbal social language of another
Attunement Strategies • Become an observer; focus on non-verbal cues • Be sensitive to ever-changing rhythms and remain flexible to change • Consistently provide a caring, supportive response to cues • Remember that persons are unique and so are their needs
Interventions and Therapies Early and aggressive treatment of traumatized children decreases risk for developing PTSD and other trauma-related problems seen in later life
Treatments incorporate: • Review and recollections of traumatic experiences • Information about the normal and expected processes of post-traumatic functioning • Focus on specific symptoms
Individual Therapy • Psycho educational • Cognitive-behavioral • Insight-oriented • Play • Trauma-focused • pharmacotherapy
Group Therapy • Psycho educational • Cognitive-behavioral • Family • Problem-focused
Other Interventions • Developmental Screenings (like Ages and Stages Questionnaire) • Therapeutic Nurseries • Caregiver Training • What other interventions are there?
Wrap up • Next Topic: Young Children in Foster Care