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Cameron Smith: If you want to understand politics, train to be a foster parent

This is an opinion column.


Foster parent training has helped me understand more about American politics than years of experience in the halls of Congress ever could. The psychology and physiology of a traumatized child puts the interconnected web of politics, policy, and power in a whole new light. In truth, many foster children aren’t that different from modern American partisans.

Trauma and stress attend almost any situation where the state intervenes in a relationship between parent and child. As a result, foster parents train to address those factors which deeply influence both behavior and development. Thankfully, my wife and I trained with Dr. Daniel Siegel’s hand model of the brain to help us understand some complex neurological interactions.

Read more Cameron Smith columns:

Look at your hand. The wrist represents the spinal cord, the palm is the brainstem (basic body functions), and the thumb is the amygdala (danger detection). Place the thumb into the palm to form the limbic system. The other four fingers fold over the thumb to represent the cerebral cortex, and the tips of those fingers are the prefrontal cortex (emotional governor).

If there’s a simpler model of brain anatomy, I certainly haven’t found it. The limbic system is the […]

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