Toxic Stress – Just How Toxic is it to Kids?

Harvard University recently highlighted research showing how the child welfare system can benefit from utilizing findings in the neuroscience and child development fields. Focusing on the causes and effects of toxic stress, this research shows how children could greatly benefit from streamlined services to at-risk families, educating involved adults in how to identify and address the signs and effects of such stress, and overall better supporting foster parents and relative placements in being able to parent abused and neglected children. Toxic stress has been studied for some time, but there have been difficulties in translating such research into practical benefits on the policy level. However, in the child welfare context, “the logical place to go with this science is to the place where these kids spend most of their time, which is in a foster home or with relatives.” According to the research brief and leaders in the field, child welfare policies can see “immediate and substantive benefits” from the successful translation of emerging brain science to policy.  Children in the system have long suffered from the apparent assumption that foster parents are already equipped to address these issues. While much progress is yet to be made turning such research into tangible policy change, efforts are growing to integrate emerging brain science to child welfare policy.

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