It’s easy to imagine how scary and traumatizing physical or sexual assault would be. It’s much harder to understand how being neglected can traumatize or even hurt a child. Most of us know nothing about child neglect, despite the fact it is 62% of all abuse in the state.

Science indicates it can be harder to recover from neglect than physical or sexual abuse. A person’s foundation for lifelong social, emotional and even physical health is created in childhood. Rapid brain development happens in the early years of life and healthy development depends on safe, stable and nurturing relationships.

In a healthy parent-child relationship, a parent touches, talks, reads and plays with their child. When a child cries or is scared, the parent comforts and reassures. During these early years, children form 700 neuron connections per second, which means every second counts for brain building. The early years are also a critical time for social development, language and learning, emotional health and even physical health. Brains are literally built on consistent, nurturing interactions.

The brains of neglected children look different than those who come from nurturing homes. Because they don’t make essential neural connections, they fall behind developmentally. Depending on how severe the neglect is, some potential may be lost forever.

Why does this matter to you? The chronic nature of neglect in our community means high rates of costly academic failure, mental health issues, substance abuse, crime, violence and even physical disease.  We are all affected by neglect.

Parents struggling with substance abuse, mental health issues and stress need support to prevent neglect. The Family Center is working to prevent child neglect by empowering parents. We teach healthy parenting skills in a compassionate environment and partner with other organizations that provide substance abuse and mental health treatment to address many needs of the family.