Bullying starts early — with parents and babies

Abully2Adults seem to have an easier time pointing fingers at child bullies than at adult bullies. There’s a notion that children are bullies by nature. Wrong. Adults often don’t realize that child bullying is learned from adults. Bullying attitudes are built into mainstream ideas about parenting. Don’t fall for them.

Bullies are paranoid and think that others are out to get them and so act aggressively to prevent harm to themselves. It’s like  “prevent defense” in football, where players use aggression to prevent aggression.

Some parents bring the same kind of distrustful attitude to their parenting: Paranoia about being manipulated. When parents think their baby is out to get them, to manipulate them, to control them, they adopt the mindset of a bully. They ignore the baby’s communications about needs (for touch, movement, conversation, breast milk) because they attribute intentional power-plays to the baby. They view parenting as a power struggle — between the poor helpless parent and the all-powerful manipulating baby. Huh?! Yes, crazy thinking! But such distorted thinking is encouraged by other baby-paranoids and experts who encourage parent-against-baby attitudes.

Bullying is typically defined as unwanted aggressive behavior “that involves a real or perceived power imbalance” (from stopbullying.gov). Usually bullying is seen as an act of commission (taking action towards another person).

But the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary online says it is “A blustering browbeating person; especially one habitually cruel to others who are weaker.” I would like to suggest that bullying can also an act of omission: A lack of expected or needed action toward one who is weaker.

And yes, I point to babies as the weaker party.

Instead of understanding that the very physical needs of babies are “built in” by evolution millions of years ago, too many adults minimize the needs of babies and want them to behave more like plants in the corner. When babies don’t act content with minimal attention based on the adults’ schedules, some adults adopt a bully mindset and begin a power struggle. Instead, the best course is to humbly give in to the needs of the baby from the beginning.

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In Safe Babies Courts, 99% of kids don’t suffer more abuse — but less than 1% of U.S. family courts are Safe Babies Courts

"Prayer Time in the Nursery--Five Points House of Industry" by Jacob Riis. Residential nursery 1888.

“Prayer Time in the Nursery–Five Points House of Industry” by Jacob Riis. Residential nursery 1888.

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The dirty little secret about family courts – where kids and parents who’ve entered the child welfare system end up – is that they often make things worse, especially for the youngest children — from newborns to five-year-olds.

It’s not intentional – child welfare systems and family courts were set up to help children and their families. But traditional family courts can further traumatize kids already suffering from adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) by moving them from one foster care home to another, by rarely letting them see their parents (if parents are willing and able), or by leaving them to languish in foster care limbo for years before finding them a permanent home. All this contributes to these children developing chronic diseases when they’re adults, as well as mental illness, violence and being a victim of violence.

It was decades of research that shows unequivocally how toxic stress caused by adversity does long-term damage to children’s brains and bodies that inspired the creation of courts specifically focused on early childhood cases, some of which are known as Safe Babies Courts, about a decade ago. Such courts are one type of problem-solving courts, which focus on a specific population like veterans, the homeless, people with mental illness and people addicted to drugs or alcohol.

The judges in early childhood courts who have learned about this science of childhood adversity have turned their courts upside down and inside out – sometimes dragging along reluctant child welfare workers and attorneys – to show that a radical new approach that integrates relationships and caring into the court system can actually, truly make things better.

As early data demonstrates, compared to those in traditional family court, infants and toddlers…

  • end up in a permanent family two to three times faster,
  • they leave foster care a year earlier,
  • they end up with their own family nearly twice as often.

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Nadine Burke Harris: How childhood trauma affects health across a lifetime

Childhood trauma isn’t something you just get over as you grow up. In this 16-minute TED Talk, pediatrician Nadine Burke Harris explains that the repeated stress of abuse, neglect and parents struggling with mental health or substance abuse issues has real, tangible effects on the development of the brain.

This unfolds across a lifetime, to the point where those who’ve experienced high levels of trauma are at triple the risk for heart disease and lung cancer. This is an impassioned plea for pediatric medicine to confront the prevention and treatment of trauma, head-on.

Horses help kids recover from adverse childhood experiences

ChildWithHorseBackToCamera1Baylie is eight years old. Born to a mother addicted to cocaine and an alcoholic father, removed from her parents at six months and covered with bruises and cigarette burns, Baylie (not her real name) has spent her childhood shuffled from one foster home to another. She rarely speaks, makes little eye contact with adults, shows no interest in playing with kids her age, and recoils from any attempt at physical affection.

Baylie’s ability to connect with anyone, or anything, seemed impossible until the day she met a horse named Steady.

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Foster youth intern lands White House internship; working to make foster care trauma-informed

Amnoni Myers takes the stage at the 2014 Angels in Adoption celebration in Washington D.C. [CCAI photo]

Amnoni Myers takes the stage at the 2014 Angels in Adoption celebration in Washington D.C. [CCAI photo]

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By Daniel Heimpel

This fall, I traveled to Washington D.C. to attend the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute’s (CCAI) Angels in Adoption celebration.

The event, which draws stars from entertainment and D.C.’s political elite, always fills the cavernous Ronald Reagan Building on Pennsylvania Avenue, providing a suitable stage for some real heroes.

One of these was Amnoni Myers, a 26-year-old member of CCAI’s 2014 Foster Youth Internship

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San Diego Youth Services embraces a trauma-informed approach; kids do better, staff stay longer, programs more effective

Staff of the San Diego Youth Services TAY Academy welcome all Transition Age Youth (TAY) to drop-in. Left to right: Vanessa Arteaga, Indie Landrum, Stephen Carroll, and Gillian Leal.

Staff of the San Diego Youth Services TAY Academy welcome all Transition Age Youth (TAY) to drop-in. Left to right: Vanessa Arteaga, Indie Landrum, Stephen Carroll, and Gillian Leal.

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In 2010, 16-year-old Indie Landrum ran away from an unstable home where he lived with his mom and his grandmother. His older sister ran away when she was 16, and both of his brothers were incarcerated. Indie sought emergency housing at the San Diego Youth Services (SDYS) Storefront shelter, and lived there for several months before going into a long-term group home.

During his time at Storefront, SDYS began a dramatic transformation: the process of becoming a trauma-informed organization. Basically, that means instead of a staff member angrily asking a youth who’s acting out, “What’s wrong with you?” and punishing the behavior, staff members ask, “What happened to you?” and work with the kid on healing and recovery.

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How CA provides children’s mental health services under Katie A. settlement, part 2: home-based services

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By Melinda Clemmons

This is part two of a two-part look at mental health services mandated by the settlement of Katie A. v Bonta, a class-action lawsuit brought against the State of California over its lack of community-based mental health services for youths.

Having been removed from his parents’ home six months earlier, eight-year-old Michael didn’t need another disruption in his life.

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