I was visiting orphaned children and orphanages in Russia when the brutal murder of James Mack took place. In reading newspaper articles in the aftermath of this tragedy, I was struck once again in thinking how children in our country are developmentally affected in different ways from children in other countries when exposed to trauma or neglect.
My impression is that poor and neglected children in the United States are far more disconnected from these experiences than are the children placed in orphanages I have visited around the world.
I do not mean to imply that growing up in an orphanage is a good thing, but it may not necessarily be a bad thing from the perspective of helping children gain emotional connections as they grow and develop.
In contrast with children in foreign orphanages, many of our neglected children reach their teen years without having made any emotional connections to adults. It is no wonder that we are seeing more and more teens who seemingly act "without conscience." We are in the midst of a "bonding or attachment crisis."
The children I have visited in foreign orphanages may be better attached simply because, from a very early age, their basic physical, and to a lesser extent their emotional needs, are fundamentally met by "caretakers." I have always subscribed to the belief of developmental psychologist Urie Bronfrenbrunner that every child needs at least one adult who is absolutely crazy about that child.
I think that today we must heed the call of the children who are already unattached. We must begin to take action to reattach those young people now without conscience, and we must work to prevent this emotional disconnecting from happening.
Our nation must seriously look at issues around adequate and affordable day care, early identification of developmental difficulties, effective and early primary prevention programs and after-school mentoring, remediation and recreational activities.
We must place a greater emphasis on the spiritual development of children, create more effective and user-friendly support systems for families and get appropriate treatment for children at the earliest age possible.
JOSEPH J. COZZO
Chief Operating Officer
Baker Victory Services