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The Foster System Damages Kids' Brains

The CBS affiliate in Miami, Florida, has an excellent story today about the problems created by our foster care system.

Reporter Michelle Gillen writes about  the growing awareness in the Miami court system that efforts to help kids by taking them out of abusive or danger situations can be permanently damaging their brain development, and to conditions such as reactive attachment disorder, or RAD.

Cindy Lederman and Steven Leifman, two Miami court judges, are using new information about brain development and how important connection with the mother or other primary caregiver is, to help kids at risk for this.  According to the story:

Leifman says the latest research is staggering because it means juvenile court systems around the country have unwittingly damaged children in foster care by purposely preventing attachments.

“It is particularly acute in the foster care system and one of the things that we realized, again, the court in advertently contributed to the problem, because we felt that we didn’t want children to become too attached, that it would do more harm than good if they got attached then we’d move them. So for a long time we kept moving the kids around the foster care system.”

Miami is trying to intervene early to help kids at risk that come through the court system with an early intervention center. It's opened the the Linda Ray Intervention Center, a therapeutic home where babies up and toddlers up to three years old can attach to a warm and caring person.

In Miami alone, some 9,000 children enter the foster care system each year.  And 27 percent of the children in foster care are under five years old.  As the article points out, this is many more children than can be helped by the Center but at least it's a start.