Is it news to you that the environment where children are raised has a great impact on brain development and their ability to acquire social and moral skills?
I suspect not and that it won’t surprise you that this:
. . . in turn, affected how well they picked up everything from language and writing to important social and moral skills, such as knowing how to control their emotions and desires, and have empathy for others.
“In loving, nurturing environments the child’s brain will develop normally, said Charles Waldegrave, a well-published researcher based at The Family Centre.
“But recent developments in neuroscience and child development show that ongoing experiences of neglect, abuse or violence can seriously damage development in children, leading to long-term impairment of their intellectual, emotional and social functioning.”
But it appears to have come as a surprise to the Families Commission or they wouldn’t have needed the 61 page report, healthy families, young minds and developing brains: enabling all children to reach their potential .
That’s 61 pages for the authors Charles and Kasia Waldergrave to state the bleeding obvious and come up with four recommendations:
1. Accessible information on the importance of healthy neural and cognitive development in children and the risks of developmental impairment be produced in popular formats, firstly aimed at a target group of families who are at risk of abusing or neglecting their children and the key groups that work with them, and secondly at the population as a whole.
And information will do what to counteract the alcohol and drug abuse, multiple partners, poor literacy and numeracy, low income and other factors which creates the environment that leads to neglect and abuse?
2. Access to high-quality ECE continues to be increased, particularly where children are at risk of violence, abuse or neglect.
High-quality ECE is a laudable goal, but it’s putting band aids on bleeding arteries because it will do nothing to stop the neglect and abuse the children return to at home.
3. Policies that focus investment on lifting children and families out of poverty be extended to ensure adequate income, decent housing and affordable access to healthcare for all New Zealand families.
Would that be aimed at higher benefits which increase dependence or better productivity, increased employment, education and other initiatives which foster independence?
4. Further research be commissioned to track: the effects of impaired development in children so targeted policies can be implemented the numbers of children at risk; the effectiveness of enhanced environments in restoring potential development for those whose development has been impaired; the effectiveness of public education programmes in preventing children from becoming ‘at risk’ and promoting safe, secure and loving family and educational environments.
Is there just a teeny wee bit of self interest in that recommendation given it comes from people likely to be employed to do that research?
And what would do more for those must at risk and in need: more research or more money for front line services like Plunket?
We don’t need research to state the bleeding obvious. We know that being brought up in loving families doesn’t guarantee healthy emotional and social development nor does childhood neglect guarantee failure.
But we also know the earth’s not flat and that the risk factors are well established: children raised in dysfunctional homes are a lot more likely to follow their parents’ bad example just as those by loving and nurturing families are likely to follow theirs.
Reports aren’t going to solve the problems in dysfunctional homes and we don’t need more of them.
If the Families Commission was really serious about addressing the causes of neglect and abuse it would disestablish itself and request that the funding it gets is redirected to where it will make a positive difference.