Scientists agree that when children grow up without parental care, their physical, emotional, and cognitive development are significantly impaired. Tragically, trauma caused by abuse, violence, and neglect compounds these problems, rendering many children who have grown up without nurturing from a committed parent unable to succeed. Additionally, the US foster care system allows children and young adults to be moved from home to home. These moves slowly erode a child’s trust in adults and disillusion them. Children cope in a variety of ways. Many of their actions have negative or detrimental results.
Children growing up in orphanages — whether they be government or private institutions — do not get the care they need. Research proves that without individual care, attention and stimulation, children’s brains and neurological systems do not develop normally. This impedes a child’s motor and neurological functions, brain development, cognition and emotional development. Children without parental care develop learning disabilities, have growth delays and diminished intellectual capacities. Additionally, many struggle with the psychological trauma of losing their parents and the neglect or abuse that led to that horrible end. The loss of human potential is incalculable.
While research indicates that damage prior to age of two can be remediated, it is a priority for governments to ensure that all infants grow up in family care where they can receive the attention and stimulation they need.
Without a caring loving parent, kids are at great risk to crime and homelessness. They don’t graduate from high school, or have the ability to attend or succeed in college. Many become teen parents, are under-employed, and lack the skills to build strong relationships and have their own healthy families. These kids are at risk to those who hustle sex for hire, traffickers, extremists and others who prey on the kid’s vulnerabilities.
Each year, 26,000 youth emancipate from foster care without the family support, education and community relationships that help them make successful transitions to adulthood.
These young people experience very poor outcomes at a much higher rate than the general population.
- More than one in five will become homeless after age 18
- Only 58 percent will graduate high school by age 19 (compared to 87 percent of all 19-year-olds)
- 71 percent of young women are pregnant by 21, facing higher rates of unemployment, criminal conviction, public assistance, and involvement in the child welfare system
- At the age of 24, only half are employed
- Fewer than 3 percent will earn a college degree by age 25 (compared to 28 percent of all 25-year-olds)
Find more in-depth information on the science at Center for the Developing Child – Harvard University