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South of the border

Tiskilwa resident Hanna Ganther is working as an intern in Mexico during her summer break from college. Ganther will continue to update readers on her adventure south of the border.

I have learned so much in the time that I have been here in Mexico at Grace Babies’ Home that I thought I could share some of what I have learned about the different struggles these kids have and why they have it.

The children who come here to the babies’ home and the children’s home across the street all come from hard places. They all have gone through a lot; some have even experienced some things that most people can’t even begin to imagine how horrible it was for them. So most of the time these kids struggle with attachment and have sensory issues.  

Now what is attachment? I can admit I did not know a single thing about attachment and how important it was until I got here. There are four main categories when it comes to attachment. The first type is secure attachment; this is the healthiest type of attachment, and this is our goal with the kids. For secure attachments, the child uses the caregiver for their security and comfort. When their caregiver leaves, these are the kids who protest and cry out for their caregiver. They know their safety is found there. The caregiver knows their child, so they know how to respond appropriately and quickly to the needs of the child, therefore they have formed a secure bond with the child.  

The next type of attachment pattern is avoidant. In this attachment style, the child shows no distress when their caregiver leaves, and when that caregiver returns, the child does not visibly respond to that return. The child does not feel an attachment to their caregiver; they would respond in the same way to their caregiver as they would respond to a stranger. This occurs when the caregiver does not respond to the child in distress.

The third type of attachment is ambivalent/resistant. In this type, the child is not able to use the caregiver as their security.  They are distressed when separated, but when the caregiver returns to play, they are resistant to that play. This is often because their caregiver gives inconsistent responses to the child, so the child doesn’t know how to respond.  

The last type of attachment is disorganized; in this type, there is no attachment at all. There are disorientated behaviors at the return of the caregiver. This is often because of abuse or withdrawal from the child.  

Also when the kids get here —because of the trauma that they have been through — they are behind developmentally. They just have not been in healthy situations that would allow them to develop the way other children have. This could be because of abuse, neglect, drugs and FAS (fetal alcohol syndrome). All of these things can cause kids to have issues with sensory things.  

For example, one of the interns here, her family does a lot of fostering. They cut all the tags out of their clothes because it literally causes pain to the kids. It feels like needles on their skin. Even things like textures of food can throw them off.  

So when children from hard places act up, it’s not because they are bad kids. Not even close. But because of all they have gone through, they react in the ways that they do. I am no expert on this matter, but I just wanted to share what I had learned about all of this. If you want to look into this more, I suggest you look at Dr. Karyn Purvis’ research. That is where I have learned all the things that I have about all of these different issues.

The goal here at Grace Babies’ Home is to build secure attachments with the babies’ here, and it’s so cool to see that happening with Daniela, Maria and Jesus. When I first got here, Daniela and Maria wouldn’t have much to do with me. They wouldn’t let me feed them, put them down to bed, give them their bottles, and other things like that. But now that I have been here a while, they have started to trust me, and most of the time they let me do all those things.

I think one of my favorite moments was last week; I was coming in the kitchen to get something while I was off shift, and Maria ran up to me and gave me a little hug. She was so excited to see me. My heart melted right then and there.

So there you go ... these are just a few things that I have learned. I still have so much to learn about the subject of attachment. It’s just amazing how much I am learning this summer, and things I did not expect to learn either. I guess we’ll see how God is going to use this information in my life outside of how I am using it here.

Hanna Ganther can be reached at hanna.ganther@cornerstone.edu.

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