It's true; we can't choose our parents.
Whatever skills or deficits they possess as people: their readiness or disinterest at caring for us, their physical and mental health, and their ability to meet basic needs for food, shelter and safety have an immediate and lasting effect on our own development. The human brain is shaped every day by the way we are cared for by those closest to us, and grows fastest during the first two years of life.
If a child is born to a parent who neglects their needs, is addicted, or who is violent, abusive or mentally ill, the effects are devastating. A human mind can be ruined if not helped and supported to develop in a healthier, more stable and flexible way.
It's also true that in America the first time a failing family may come into contact with an institution that could help it recover is with the justice system or the public schools.
In this wonderful episode of This American Life radio show, stories are told of educational and therapeutic systems that work to re-parent our cultures disordered parent-child relationships. If you've ever wondered how schools cope, or how family and in-home therapy works, take a listen. It's great.
The American Life : Back To School, Episode 474