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A new study out of U.C. Irvine by neurologist Dr. Tallie Z. Baram has found that caressing and other sensory input triggers activity in a baby’s developing brain that improves cognitive function and builds resilience to stress.

In a study published earlier this year in The Journal of Neuroscience, Baram and colleagues identified how sensory stimuli from maternal care can modify genes that control a key messenger of stress called corticotropin-releasing hormone.

Dr. Baram’s earlier work has shown that excessive amounts of CRH in the brain’s primary learning and memory center led to the disintegration of dendritic spines, branchlike structures on neurons. Dendritic spines facilitate the sending and receiving of messages among brain cells and the collection and storage of memories.

“Communication among brain cells is the foundation of cognitive processes such as learning and memory,” says Baram, the Danette Shepard Chair in Neurological Sciences. “In several brain disorders where learning and similar thought processes are abnormal, dendritic spines have been found to be reduced in density or poorly developed.

“Because an infant’s brain is still building connections in these communication zones, large blasts or long-term amounts of stress can permanently limit full development, increasing the risk of anxiety, depression and dementia later in life.”

Essentially, Dr. Baram and her colleagues’ work stands for the proposition that a human brain is fundamentally influenced by the environment early in life, especially by maternal care.

See story at Psychorg.com:

http://www.physorg.com/news192209628.html

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I’ve just found out that the brilliant and amazing Alice Miller died on April 14, 2010 at the age of 87. She was a psychotherapist, a prolific writer, and a devoted champion of children’s rights, working throughout her life to spread awareness of the effects of child abuse.

Here is a video message she put out a few years back:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2hF2ujCeFw

and here is a link to her website:

http://www.alice-miller.com/index_en.php

I attended the Child Abuse Symposium in Santa Clara County, California last Friday and heard a highly effective and important presentation by Dr. John Stirling, Director of the Center for Child Protection at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and Medical Director of Santa Clara County’s Children Shelter.

Dr. Stirling presented the findings of the ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) study, a study that has been out for years, which shows a direct link between child mistreatment and adult health and well-being.

Here is a synopsis of the primary findings of the ACE  Study performed by Dr. Vincent Felitti. Fundamentally, the study found that childhood adversity has a direct correlation with adult disfunction and poor health.

Please read the synopsis of this important study:

http://xnet.kp.org/permanentejournal/winter02/goldtolead.html

In this article in the Washington Post, triggered by the Pope’s recent apology, Sinead O’Connor eloquently writes about her personal experiences relating to child abuse and the Catholic Church, her views on recent events relating to the Catholic Church, as well her belief in God.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/03/25/AR2010032502363.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

In a very sad saga, a woman named Katie Marie Tagle dated a man named Stephen Garcia and had a baby with him. Katie Marie has said that he abused her throughout their entire relationship.

She broke up with him, became involved with another man, and had to go to family court over custody and visitation of their infant son, Wyatt.

Stephen, enraged over Katie leaving him, began making multiple threats to take Katie’s life and the baby’s life and continued to be violent toward Katie, at one point proposing to her and then physically knocking her down during a child exchange.

Upon receiving these threats, Katie went to court to seek restraining orders, each of which the judges denied indicating that they believed Katie was lying to gain advantage in the pending custody proceedings.

The day after the third courtroom denial, Stephen sent Katie an e-mail containing a story called “Necessary Evil.”

The story describes in detail Katie’s and Stephen’s relationship, and in the end, the story has two endings. In “Happy Ending,” the female character returns to the man. In “Tragic Ending,” the character takes his son to a lake, puts him to sleep with Benadryl and the baby dies. “He will have a better life with you then (sic) we can give him here,” the man tells God before taking his own life.

Katie called 9-1-1 after reading the story, and the responding deputy immediately went to the courthouse and obtained an emergency restraining order for her.

However, in Victorville court Jan. 14, Judge Robert Lemkau would not uphold the restraining order and ordered Katie to immediately give Wyatt to Stephen, as it was the day his scheduled visitation was to begin.

The judge made it clear that he believed Katie was lying to gain an unfair advantage in custody proceedings. Then, instead of ensuring the child’s safety in the event the mother might be right, the judge decided to err on the side of endangering the child by ordering that the baby immediately be handed over unsupervised to the man who repeatedly threatened to take the child’s and the mother’s lives in writing.

Here is the incredible transcript to that hearing.

http://photos.vvdailypress.com/files/multimedia/soundslides/Court.pdf

This is nothing unusual. This goes on in courts all the time. In the presence of a custody dispute, judges routinely believe that anyone claiming abuse is doing so to gain unfair advantage in cutody proceedings, and routinely order the child then placed with the abuser, regularly going so far as to completely deny custody or visitation to the reporting parent.

What is unusual in this case is that within 10 days of that hearing, Stephen took Wyatt up into the mountains and killed the baby and himself, just as he had repeatedly warned.

Here is a detailed version of this story:

http://www.mountain-news.com/articles/2010/02/04/news/news1.txt

Murder-Suicide Note by CA Man Was Posted on Net

A judge in Wisconsin has ordered a mother jailed because her daughter will not comply with a court order to live every other week with an abusive father. The mother was ordered jailed 30 days or until the daughter complies and taken into custody immediately after the last court hearing where she presented evidence that the daughter is “terrified of going; she has night terrors and severe anxiety.”

Can this really be permitted to occur, using our nation’s judiciary power? Shouldn’t we have oversight procedures to ensure children are safe, rather than permitting court power to be used in such gruesome ways? Why would anyone believe that forcing a child to spend time alone with a parent with a history of abuse is a good thing to do? So many unanswered questions. Obviously, a child’s safety should always take precedence over a parent’s “rights”.

Further, how shocking is it that a court would threaten a child with the jailing of her own mother. The sort of guilt and shame the girl must feel must be unbelievable.

Judge Jails Mother Over Daughter’s Refusal To Visit Father, Now Public Crowd Powered Media, November 13, 2009.

Well, the story get even more shocking. Here is the next installment. Really just too much to believe: http://refusesvisitpressrelease.blogspot.com/2009/11/father-refuses-visitation.html#comments

The fact that horrible things are taking place in family courts all over America is no secret. Judges and other court officials are enabling child abuse and destroying children’s bond with protective parents!

Public protest over this despicable situation is growing.

http://capitalnews9.com/capital-region-news-12-content/your_news/capital_region/492704/hundreds-attend-battered-mothers-custody-conference

But we need more widespread awareness.

This is the result of unsupervised overnight visitation with his toddler given to a man with a history of violence:

Father indicted in scalding that led to amputation of son’s toes, Chicago Breaking News Center, December 9, 2009.

The benefits of breastfeeding cannot be overemphasized. Numerous studies show that breastfeeding not only improves immune function, reduces life-long disease, and increases IQ, it also helps prevent abuse and neglect due to the mothering hormones it releases. See UNICEF UK Baby Friendly Initiative Statement On New Breastfeeding, January 7, 2010, and UQ Research Finds the Mum Bud Bond May Reduce Neglect, The University of Queensland Australia News, December 9, 2009.

It appears that the mother’s body was created with built-in mechanisms to support the her healthy and positive rearing of infants to create physically and emotionally healthy adults. Yet human beings routinely breach this bond and create circumstances of physical and/or emotional abuse and neglect.

This is a very common and very sad scenario in family courts across the country.

Consider the information in this article by Kathleen Russell, a woman working very hard to help ease the suffering of innocent children and prevent their regular placement with abusers. Thank goodness for the hard work of those selflessly toiling for justice on behalf of abused children.

Child abuse: when family courts get it wrong, The Christian Science Monitor, October 14, 2009.

This is intended as a resource and destination for anyone who believes in world improvement, who wants to help others and for those who themselves need help. We will compile news, research, and information on the importance of children’s rights and parenting, two subjects that often seem to fall by the wayside in the public discourse, discounted as unimportant and minor.

Here, we will explore the concept that in fact everything we care about – world peace, health, the economy, crime,  relationships, entertainment, career – stem from parenting practices and the love that we either got or didn’t. We will cite reputable sources, we will show why problems seem to continue to cycle and why it often feels for many of us that (in the words of the late Gilda Radner) “If it isn’t one thing, it’s another!”