Institutionalized Neglect Parables and Pop Culture
The definition of Neglect in which laws and policies of the US are based off is: a failure to act which presents an imminent risk of serious harm.
This definition fails to sufficiently acknowledge the less immediately visible leads to lifelong problems in learning, behavior, health, and emotional wellness.
However, no matter how detached or insecure your child seems, or how frustrated or exhausted you feel at trying to connect, attachment disorders can be repaired. With patience and perseverance, you can help your child feel safe and secure and able to develop healthy, meaningful, and loving relationships—starting with their relationship with you. Parenting a child with insecure attachment or reactive attachment disorder can be exhausting, frustrating, and emotionally trying. It is hard to put your best parenting foot forward without the reassurance of a loving connection with your child. Children with RAD are less likely to interact with other people because of negative experiences with adults in their early years. They have difficulty calming down when stressed and do not look for comfort from their caregivers when they are upset. These children may seem to have little to no emotions when interacting with others. They may appear unhappy, irritable, sad, or scared while having normal activities with their caretaker. The diagnosis of RAD is made if symptoms become chronic.
Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder is another common disorder to arise from institutionalized neglect. The primary defining feature of disinhibited social engagement disorder is a person’s pattern of behavior that involves culturally inappropriate, overly familiar behavior with relative strangers. This behavior violates the ordinary social customs and boundaries of the culture. Symptoms of Disinhibited Social Engagement Disorder are consisting of but not limited to the following: behavior where a child is resistant to approaching and interacting with unfamiliar adults, overly familiar verbal or physical behaviors that defies socially sanctioned norms, not checking back with adult caregiver adult venturing away even in unfamiliar settings, as well as a willingness to go off with an unfamiliar adult with little to no hesitation.
This problem is evident when you look at the child welfare system and see children in environments that meet the criteria for reportable neglect, but they do not appear to have any physical harm in the moment. The sad truth is that these kids have already experienced disruptions in the development of their brain, organs and metabolic systems that are irreparable.
While when people typically think of neglect they think of extreme physical neglect there are 4 types of neglect stated as follows: physical neglect, medical neglect, supervisory neglect, and institutional neglect.
Extreme cases of physical neglect are typically regarded as children who are almost starved to death, they can’t speak because no one ever talks to them, they are not toilet trained and sit in their own filth for days at a time. These are the cases that you hear about in the news where the home is infested with every pest imaginable and the child is small and stunted.
Physical neglect can be summed ups as the failure, inability or flat out refusal to provide basic needs like food, safety, clothes, shelter, and reasonable protection.
Medical Neglect which is most commonly found with children who have chronic illness or serious mental illness that effect the function of day to day life. This would be the repeated denial or refusal to seek out medical or mental health professionals in order to provide services that drastically affect one’s life. Though this definition is lenient its enforcement neglects the mental health component and is only used for medical attention that is needed in a life or death manner for a child.
Supervisory neglect is not providing a child adequate supervision as per their need. An example of this would be leaving a 2 year old at home alone to take care of themselves while you go to Vegas for the weekend. The life of the child could be at jeopardy as there is an expectation that they will cook for themselves, clean themselves, and keep the home in some sort of functional state while their parents are gone. What 2 year old can handle those responsibilities safely by themselves?
These forms of neglect can occur independently of each other but a lot of the time when a child is being neglected in the home they will experience multiple forms of neglect at once.
Books Exemplifying Aspects of Institutionalized Neglect
Enders Game Plot
Enders game takes place in the future where the world has been attacked by aliens and won. The world is recruiting children to train for the war when the aliens returned. Ender the main character is taken to space to train to be the great commander that Earth needs. Through his training he experiences institutionalized neglect for what is deemed as the sake of humanity
Moments in the Book that Show Institutionalized Neglect
" 'It was what I was born for, isn't it? If I don't go, why am I alive?' 'Not good enough,' Graff said. 'I don't want to go,' said Ender, 'but I will.'" Chapter 3, pg 26
This is one of the first moments in the book where the institution turns down Ender's bid for attention and attachment. Graff doesn't care what Ender is feeling so long as Ender does what Graff wants that damage that is being done is not worth Graff's time.
"With Ender, we have to strike a delicate balance. Isolate him enough that he remains creative - otherwise he'll adopt the systems here and we'll lose him. At the same time, we need to make sure he keeps a strong ability to lead." Chapter 4, pg 27
This quote exemplifies how this type of neglect is legal. Enders basic needs of food, shelter, and education are being met but he is being held from making relationships and having all emotional needs falter.
"[Shen and Ender] laughed together. Ender's isolation was over." Chapter 5, pg 53
Ender is so devoid of emotional connection at this point that just sharing a laugh makes Ender feel like he has a friend, that his entire world can change.
"... the adults are the enemies, not the other armies. They do not tell us the truth." Chapter 7, pg 82
Ender see the adults as the enemies because what he most desperately wants the adults have and can give him but choose not to. He wants positive emotional feedback from people, from the people that are suppose to take care of him.
"Bonzo's anger [was] growing hot. Hot anger was bad. Ender's anger was cold, and he could use it. Bonzo's was hot, so it used him." Chapter 7, pg 87
The motivating force behind their interactions is anger. Both of these children struggle to regulate emotions because they have no proper model in their environment. With out adults connecting on an emotional level children are unable to experience a ride range of emotions and can be come hostile.
"Listen, Ender, commanders have just as much authority as you let them have. The more you obey, the more power they have over you." Chapter 8, pg 102
In efforts to cope with the lack of emotional stimulation, support, and concern the children attempt to exert some semblance of control over their lives, they turn the anger they feel, and fill the void with anger that can be directed at the adults that caused the void.
"I can't believe you haven't seen through all this crap yet, Ender... These other armies, they aren't the enemy. It's the teachers, they're the enemy. They get us to fight each other, to hate each other." Chapter 8, pg 108
This quote exemplifies the nature of institutionalized neglect. Children are not encouraged to engage with one another
"It was the teachers who had done it... It was a strategy. Graff had deliberately set him up to be separate from the other boys, made it impossible for him to be close to them." Chapter 10, pg 167
"And with that anger, he decided he was strong enough to defeat them-the teachers, his enemies." Chapter 10, pg 172
"The teachers got me into this-they can keep me safe." Chapter 11, pg 195
"Ender Wiggin must believe that no matter what happens, no adult will ever, ever step in to help him in any way... If he does not believe that, then he will never reach the peak of his abilities." Chapter 12, pg 202