The child welfare system is mandated to ensure the safety of the children in its care. For a variety of complex reasons, this is not an easy task, with sobering potentially horrific consequences if and when the system fails to meet this responsibility. Although statistics are elusive, some estimates suggest that children in foster care are four times more likely to be abused than children living with their parents. The causes of this pervasive problem are more easily understood than addressed.
It’s hard being the new kid at school. You don’t know what to wear or how to find your way to the cafeteria or the restroom. You don’t know which teachers have a reputation for kindness and which for meanness. You don’t know who will be your friend or who will make fun of you.
Yesterday I had a call from “Ann”, a woman I have known for over fifteen years. I first met Ann when she came to me for psychotherapy in her mid-twenties. After about three years of therapy we agreed that she was on emotionally solid ground. She was better able to manage and grow her relationships, she was happy with her professional choices, and she was ready to start a family. In other words, Ann was “launched” from the uncertainties of youth into adulthood.
Recent research confirms what common sense tells us: loneliness hurts. Not only does it hurt, it can make us sick. In short, without the protection of social relationships, people tend to feel besieged and respond with the predictable “fight, flight, or freeze” response that prompts us to react appropriately in the face of danger. The problem is that this heightened state of physiologic preparedness takes a toll on our immune system, leaving us vulnerable to physical, as well as emotional, illness.
The Winter Solstice marks the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere—the day in which we enjoy the least amount of the sun’s light and warming rays. With darkness falling quickly, many are glad to be with family and friends who offer a different kind of light and warmth in anticipation of the approaching year-end holidays. Those less fortunate may suffer doubly—their day darkened by the absence of both sunlight and companionship.