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Neuroscience and the Child Welfare System

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Document pages: 22 pages

Abstract: A growing body of research by neuroscientists demonstrates that a child’s early life experiences and environment literally shape the child’s brain architecture, with lifelong consequences that are very difficult to reverse. Children’s relationships with their primary caregivers are at the core of this brain development, but when this relationship is severely deficient, the developing child’s brain is deeply affected. This research has not gained sufficient recognition in policy debates about the child welfare system because much of the work is complex and hard for non-neuroscientists to decipher with nuance. This essay brings a family law scholar’s perspective to understanding the possibilities and limitations of drawing on this still-emerging science in the development of child welfare policy.

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