Two-year-old Jason doesn’t say many words, but he knows how to take care of himself better than most toddlers his age. He spends most of his day in front of the TV. His surroundings are filthy and there is little to eat.
Jason’s mommy wakes up several hours after him. When she’s awake, she mostly sits and stares, saying little to Jason. Sometimes her face scares Jason. Sometimes he wants her face to stop being so still. He screams, cries and hits her. Then mommy gets angry and yells, but at least she is talking.
Nighttime is always scary. Mommy’s face changes and she looks like a different person. Jason is scared to go to sleep. He doesn’t know what “safe” feels like.
Jason’s mother is addicted to pain medicine and struggles with severe depression. She is alone and without support.
For young children who are totally dependent on their caregivers, neglect is frightening. An unresponsive, uncaring parent teaches a child the world is unsafe. This creates chronic and toxic levels of stress in the child, which damages the developing brain and body.
Eighty-five percent of brain development happens in the first three years, making this a time of great opportunity or great vulnerability. Though you may be unable to see it on the outside, the effects of neglect get beneath the skin and crack the foundation for social, emotional and even physical health across the lifespan (read more here).
The best way to protect Jason is by helping his mother. The Family Center uses high-quality, research-based parent education to support parents who are struggling to provide healthy relationships for their children. We partner with other organizations that provide substance abuse and mental health treatment to help local families heal holistically.