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Publication Title:

Rethinking Young Child "Neglect" from a Science Informed, Two-Generation Perspective


Janice M. Gruendel, Ph.D.
Bobby Cagle
Heather Baker

Date: November 2015

Publication Type: Issue Briefs & Policy Reports

Policy Area: When Brain Science Meets Public Policy

Page Count: 24

Publication Excerpt:

For many of us, the words “child welfare” and “foster care” may bring to mind images of children who have experienced physical or sexual abuse. Certainly, the child protection system is designed to protect children from violence. What may come as a surprise is that our child welfare agencies much more often serve children who have experienced neglect—children whose basic needs for food, shelter, supervision and care have not been met. In 2013, child welfare agencies managed cases of substantiated neglect for about 319,000 children between the ages of birth and six, of whom nearly 100,000 were infants. In fact, child neglect accounts for at least three-quarters of all child protective services substantiations in the United States today.While the experience of neglect may not leave visible marks on a child’s body, chronic neglect has a very real impact on the child’s developing brain. In this paper we explore the prevalence and current conceptual-izations of neglect, the impact that neglect has on a child’s brain develop-ment, and how child welfare agencies can respond by employing the four science-informed, two-generation “common sense” strategies below:

Adopt a Theory of Change to both promote the process of “rethinking” child neglect policy and guide organizational change for very young, vulnerable children

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