Healthy development takes children through stages, whereby they obtain an increasing number of physical, mental, and emotional skills in order to become independent adults. These stages provide benchmarks for determining if a child is developing normally. Without knowledge of the normal developmental stages of a child, a worker cannot identify developmental delays, assess the impact of abuse, or make recommendations regarding the child’s physical, mental or emotional health. Understanding what a child is capable of allows adults to communicate on their level and provide age-appropriate responses and interventions.
Knowledge of early childhood development and attachment behaviour is particularly important for protection workers. The physical health and care a child experiences as an infant will affect their development into adulthood. A child needs to have experienced a positive attachment by the age of 3 in order to develop cognitively, physically, socially, and psychologically. Healthy attachments come from the close bond a child experiences when provided with the responsive and stable care of at least one adult. In a residential home, children are less likely to receive the amount of individual attention from a permanent caretaker that they require. Children under 12, in particular, benefit more from a kinship, foster or adoption placement where they can experience closer relationships.
Observation of a child’s attachment to caretakers will influence the type of care, permanency plan, and level of support services offered. It can also aid in the identification of abuse.
This section contains information on the importance of child development knowledge, guidance on the ages and stages of children, and attachment theory.