I've been dreaming lately about a new ministry I'd like to start here. I think it's a compilation of a lot of things I've been seeing and learning over the last couple of years.
I would like to start a program that works with pregnant women all the way through their child's third birthday, teaching them parenting skills and helping them to allow their child to reach developmental milestones.
Here's the many issues I've learned that have led me to this idea:
Over the last year, I've watched the families that come and visit the kids in the children's home and have seen a disturbing pattern. One little girl that is 4 is at a level of play and development of a 1 yr old. I brought her a child's puzzle to do one day, and she kept dumping the pieces out of the box and putting them back in. Dump, put back in. This is a toddler age activity.
The babies that have come to visit are the most disturbing to me. There are currently 2 families that come to visit that have babies. I had a hard time determining, but I don't think that either have physical disabilities - but it was hard to determine because they are both so under stimulated and their behaviors mimic those that have disabilities. 4 months old and can barely hold their head up, don't track people or the activity that is going on.
And most surprising to me, is that no one else besides me (and the social workers who also work at the children's home) think that this is abnormal!!! When the 4 month old is passed around to be held by different people, they all automatically hold him like a one week old infant that cannot support himself at all. That this behavior is exactly what they expect!
So, I have been reading about parenting skills and developmental milestones so we can teach these families how to care for their children in a way that helps them. In all this reading, I am repeatedly finding all the information of what these skills the kids are missing out on is meaning a lacking in brain development in important areas. And these problems are the problems I see in the older children and adults that we are working with.
Another aspect I've been looking into, is how to break patterns and cycles of problems. Not just for a family, but how to change this when the problem is for the whole community or society. Every program I've found to have success, or research in this areas have a few things in common. One of the main elements is that they work with 2 generations. That means, you can't just work with kids, or with parents, but the programs work with the parents and the children together. They also indicate that it is better if they are younger. So, young parents with very young children.
Another area I've spent a lot of time learning about is physical changes in the brain with traumas. This has led me to many different tangents of studying. I've looked at how these physical changes get passed down generationally, how brain development effects people's responses to stress and ability to cope. In the most recent book I'm reading, it talks about brain development for these issues. I have always known how important the first weeks of life are for attachment and such, but this is the first time I have read about it in terms of brain development. This books stated that these first days, weeks after birth not only is the time for development for this area of the brain, but it determines the entire "structure" for the formation of the brain.
I've been thinking of the analogy of the old custom in Japan to keep girls with tiny feet by confining them to small shoes so they can't grow. I have this image of boxing in the children's brains so they can't grow.
I want to change that.
We have one boy at the children's home who is mentally retarded. His uncle comes to visit him on these visitation days. His uncle has no disability but has more limited capabilities than his nephew. I watch them play games together and see the uncle struggle week and week to understand how to play UNO or other simple games while this boy surpasses him. How incredible that "normal" in the poor areas of this country is less developed than someone with a mental handicap. And I think, how can we ever make a change in this country if people don't have the capacity to learn and change?
I have no idea if this is something that I will ever do. But I am dreaming. . .