It isn’t hard to see children in care have
problems and issues most children never experience. Their troubles are varied
but most all are suffering the effects and trauma of maltreatment. What’s more,
their difficulties are compounded by the effects of separation from their
neighborhoods, their schools, their families, and their personal cultural ties.
Were that not enough, the children’s lives are further disrupted by
having to live in new homes, probably in new neighborhoods, with strangers.
Virtually all of the people, places, and things the children have known change
at the very time they are most vulnerable. To fully appreciate the effects of
all of this change on developing children, you need to see children are
Childrens development starts with their physical, doing dimension. It
incorporates their physical bodies, their potentials and capacities to do and
behave, and most of what is visible in terms of their actions and activities.
Part of each parent’s role is to help his children grow to respect and
appreciate their physical abilities and skills, to know how to behave in a
variety of situations, and to recognize and utilize their physical capacities
and potentials. This physical, doing dimension starts at infancy and is central
to children’ adjustment throughout their journey to adulthood.
The emotional dimension is equally important. Here are found feelings,
fears and frustrations, sadness and joy, disappointment and excitement, love
and hate, fun and futility. Growing children experience all of these emotions
and need to learn how to interpret them, how to express them, and how to manage
For example, children must learn to express anger without having
tantrums, to deal with despair and disappointment without becoming
destructively depressed, to express love and joy without getting into harmful
or inappropriate relationships. Within this dimension, children must learn to
deal with their emotions and learn how to express their feelings effectively
Around the age of four or five the moral, spiritual dimension begins
to emerge. Effectively helping children develop a solid sense of right and wrong,
good and bad, requires their parents are clear about their own values and
beliefs in these areas. Success in this dimension is critical to success in the
social dimension emerging about the same time.
When children are about five or six, the social dimension becomes
dominate and begins to interact with the other developing dimensions. The
social dimension embraces the child’s potential to interact with other children
and adults and to become socially effective and self-determined.
By about eleven or twelve, the child’s emerging sexual dimension
begins dynamically interacting with the other developing dimensions. Sexual
behavior and attitudes that are appropriate and inappropriate, healthy and
unhealthy, effective and ineffective are best conveyed to maturing adolescents
by parents who have carefully thought through and appropriately deal with the
This central parental responsibility similarly applies to the
thinking, learning dimension starting at birth and gaining focus at seventeen
or eighteen. By then, children need to be self-directed, skilled learners who
are formulating independent ideas and perceptions. They should be thinking
critically, clearly, and thoroughly. Older adolescents need to be receptive to
the ideas of others and at the same time able to combine those ideas with their
own, i.e., they should be thinking for themselves.
The point here is children are complex individuals. Further, their
healthy and successful growth and development are also very complex processes.
Although most children pass through their developing years with only occasional
problems and issues, many don’t. While most children are safe, have permanent
homes, and live with adults who are committed to their well-being, other
children are maltreated and their well-being is jeopardized. Their parents are
failing them at a time in their lives when the children absolutely need them to
Yes, many of the causes of parental failure leading to children coming
into care can and will be corrected. In the meantime, though, the children are
continuing to grow and develop. For these children, everyone working with them
must commit themselves to their well-being. Their futures depend on it. The
children are counting on it.
As you can see, keeping maltreated children safe isn’t enough. Their
physical, emotional, moral, spiritual, social, sexual, and intellectual well-being
must also be nurtured and supported. If this doesn’t happen, these most
vulnerable children will be forever the victims of the maltreatment they have
point of view:
children are maltreated, abruptly taken from their families, and placed into
care, what do you think the short and long-term effects will be in these
developmental areas? After each area, write a sentence or two about what you
think the negative effects may be.
growth and development
and spiritual growth
and interpersonal adjustment
development and behavior
growth and school success