Rare is the foster child who's grown up in just one home before being adopted. Most are bounced around from home to home 2, 3 or more times, and each time, the child puts up walls to protect their emotions. By the time the child's adopted, that wall can be pretty thick. But new techniques are being tried that are showing great success in breaking through.
At the Department of Children and Family Services, caseworkers are being trained in some new -- and vitally important - skills. They're learning how to work with foster kids who suffer from "attachment disorder," which cripples their ability to emotionally develop.
"These children are functioning in their lives with the capacities of infants and toddlers," sayd Kenny Miller, Child Psychologist.
Even if they're removed from abusive birth parents very young, the damage may already be done.
"They are locked in. They are stuck, unable to add capacity, unable to learn from their experience as we take for granted that children will do," says Miller.
A child psychologist from Tucson, Kenny Miller is one of the nation's leading experts in attachment disorder. He says it severely impacts the development of about one-third of children in foster care -- creating challenges for potentail adoptive parents.
"The adults in their lives look at a child of ten or eleven, and they expect that child to have the judgement, the autonomy, the impulse control of a child of that chronological age...they can't give that. They can't respond to the world, to those expectations. That's setting up a cycle of anger, of broken relationships, of rejection," says Miller.
At first glance, it all sounds pretty daunting. But prospective parents need not worry too much. That's because nevada caseworkers are being trained in cutting-edge therapy techniques that allow kids to move beyond early childhood traumas.
"These kids are ready to wake up and resume their development. And we see them make up the lost ground very rapidly in these new families who commit themselves and are devoted to helping them," adds Miller.
Miller is training a number of DCFS caseworkers both in Las vegas and Reno. Miller says Nevada is one of the most progressive states he's worked with when it comes to training staff in the latest approaches to attachment disorder.