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Why Family Matters for Brain Development

The most fundamental experiences that define what love and care mean to us happened in our childhood — cultivated by the memories we have with our families. But what if a child never had the privilege of good experiences shaped in a family setting?

Research shows that children who experience familial neglect manifest a tremendous negative effect on their neurobiological (brain system) and social-emotional development. Children are brought into institutional care due to extreme familial neglect, but this is not the best place for them. Exclusively institutional care also has a profound impact on a child’s mental health.

If we look at the brain size of a child raised with committed and caring adults, compared to that of a child raised in extreme neglect, we notice that the brain development is much less in a neglected child. For a child’s brain to develop, it needs specifically human interaction in the form of care and communication. From the first touch after birth to the words they hear even before they can speak, the care and communication have to be consistent and constant for the brain to built connections and develop in size. Realistically, this cannot happen in child-caring institutions.

These institutions cannot possibly take in, much less care for, the great and growing number of orphaned, abandoned, and neglected children. In fact, we know of great children’s homes that do an amazing job in giving the children in their care the best quality of life possible, such as Kids With Purpose International, Gentle Hands, Safe Haven, and many more. However, the child-caring agencies themselves know and express that they are not meant to be the finish line for these children.

We cannot escape the fact that right at this moment, there is a child in an institution who is not receiving the love, care, and attention that can only be found with a family. The caregivers and even the children they grow up with are never permanent, taking away opportunities to form lasting relational bonds with either adults or peers.

Firstly, children are unable to form a deep and long emotional attachment with any one caregiver. This robs the children of what is called a “secure base,” or a person whom they know they can return to without fear no matter how far they go. Children without a secure base are forever in a state of uncertainty when it comes to the relationships around them.

Secondly, because children sharing one house parent with many others cannot be quickly soothed and comforted, they do not learn how to soothe and comfort themselves. This is something that a child can only learn from the actions of the caring and committed adults in their lives. Without this, the child grows up never having learned how to self-comfort or healthily manage their own emotions.

Only a caring and committed family can provide these two things that every child needs to grow and develop well.

The finish line for every child in an institution should be a loving and caring foster and adoptive family. There is no better place for them to grow, develop, thrive, and be better equipped for the world ahead.

If you are an individual, a couple, or a family with children who has been considering adoption or foster care, take the first step. Schedule a consultation with us so we can help you along this journey. Somewhere, a child is waiting for you to make them a part of your family.

Learn more and schedule a consultation here.


About Tanya Paraso

Netanya Paraso is an A.B. Psychology senior at Messiah College Foundation. As a student leader, she was keynote speaker for one of the school’s outreach programs to public high school students on mental health and the family.

A discipler for three years, she has been a witness to grace in counseling adolescent women and journeyed with them to follow Christ, while opening doors for her to discover personal life changes.

She was an intern at Generations-Home and is now a project manager for one of its upcoming booklets in partnership with Operation Compassion. Aside from directing the group’s monthly livestream about stories of adoption and foster care, she was also director of a webinar on foster care in partnership with DSWD, IJM, among others. She loves listening to people’s stories and in the process helping them discover their worth. Now, she serves as the Manager of Communities and Events at Generations—Home.




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