22 September 2014

The Severe Neglect In Blackstone

Featured Article

The incident in mid-September, in Blackstone, Massachusetts was one that horrified everyone, including the neighbors who lived in the town. Four children were removed from the home, a 13-year-old girl, a 10-year-old boy, a 3-year-old girl, and a 5-month-old baby. Their mother, 31-year-old Erika Murray was taken and held on a variety of charges. The house was reportedly infested with vermin and rodents; a pile of dirty diapers two feet high was on the floor. The remains of three of babies were also discovered. A cleaning crew, wearing protective gear, was sent in to clear the house. It was last reported that the house might have to be demolished. According to her attorney, Ms Murray told him she was afraid of the children’s father, and that she showed signs of mental illness. A host of legal and social service agencies are now involved. Since all of the children are now undergoing evaluation, curiosity about their potential recovery has been raised. Can children so severely neglected ever recover? The answer is a complicated one, and one about which we may not see unfolding for quite a while, yet. The most basic factor is the age of the child at the onset of neglect, as well as it’s severity. The younger the child is, the more severe the damage. The developing brain of a child, especially during the first year of life, requires basic care that most of us take for granted, e.g., social interaction with a caring adult who talks to her baby, feeds it, changes it’s diapers, plays with it, cuddles it, etc. If this doesn’t happen, the structures of the brain that depend on these interactions to develop become deficient. And the brain’s growth process continues for many years. The second most basic factor is how early the intervention takes place. The younger the child is, the better the chances are for recovery. Even with the best and most intensive level of care, the recovery process will take awhile, as some of the brain structures slowly repair, or find other ways to compensate, e.g., perhaps through new neural pathways. We won’t know until the child’s development continues to unfold, and doctors evaluate the effectiveness of the interventions, and what adjustments may be needed. The point of all this is that we need to be more aware of what’s going on around us. Things can sometimes happen right under our noses, but because we didn’t notice, didn’t pursue our curiosity, didn’t want to get involved, shunned further contact – all of these – keep us at a distance, and allow horrific incidents to occur. It doesn’t take direct involvement, necessarily. There are numerous hot lines, as well as other reporting sites, set up for an anonymous caller to report a disturbing incident. Not easy or convenient all the time. But being aware of what’s happening, aside from what’s happening on that little screen held to our noses, can make a critical difference to the person standing right in front of us.