Michigan Radio: Adoption and Early Childhood Trauma

Adoption

I’m a big fan of Michigan Radio (the local NPR affiliate) and I’ve often linked to stories the station has done as part of a project called “State of Opportunity.” This project looks at how the state can improve opportunities for disadvantaged children. So, I was ecstatic when the station asked me to do a guest blog on adoption and early childhood trauma. Check it out on the “State of Opportunity” page!

On-campus Resources for Foster Children

Adoption

Michigan continues to make big improvements in the state’s foster care system, and the latest one involves college. Michigan Radio recently reported that The Michigan Department of Human Services has given out seven grants to local universities. The grants will be used to pay on-campus coaches who will work with students from the foster care system.

“These students all have experienced various things coming through the foster care system, and when they walk onto college campuses, we wanted them to have the kinds of supports that other children might have,” said Director of Children’s Services Steve Yaeger.

The next step after high school – usually college or work – can be daunting and it’s hard for many of us to imagine going through it without the support of our families. I’m glad to see that the state is making an effort to put former foster children on somewhat equal footing.

Early Childhood Brain Development

Adoption

Many adoptive parents know that our children may have experienced neglect in their early years. We also know that those years are critical to development, so I turned up the volume when I heard a report about this on Michigan Radio, an NPR-member station. Michigan Radio currently has a great series called “State of Opportunity,” a “multi-year reporting and community engagement project focused on how poverty affects children in Michigan.” One of the program’s reports was called “Five things to know about early childhood brain development.” During the program, Dr. Jack Shonkoff, director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard, explained how children’s brains change during their first years of life. Here is a summary of his “five things to know”:

1. A baby forms 700 new neural connections per second in the first years of life.

2. An infant’s brain is dependent on responsiveness from adults.

3. Language disparities show up early, and last a lifetime.

4. The stresses of poverty can affect a child’s brain development.

5. The only way to dramatically decrease the gaps in achievement is to begin providing learning experiences much sooner than standard school aged entry.

Although I certainly can’t change what happened in my kids’ early years, having this type of information does help me to understand their struggles and challenges better.