Child Abuse Research Paper
Child abuse does not discriminate against a child because of age, sex, race, religion, or socioeconomic background. Any child can fall victim to this sometimes a silent problem. I will discuss the major types of child abuse in the following paragraphs. Every child is
vulnerable to abuse. Parents today face the possibility that someone they know or don’t know may hurt or take advantage of their child. Research indicates that as many as one out of every four children will be the victims of some kind of abuse. Very young children as well as older teenagers are victimized. Almost all of these children will be abused by someone they know and trust; for example a relative, family friend or a caretaker. Maltreatment of children is not a new phenomenon.
Child abuse dates back to biblical times. During recent years the public eye has become more focused on child maltreatment. There are many factors to child maltreatment. There are four general categories of child maltreatment now recognized; physical abuse, sexual abuse, verbal abues, neglect and emotional maltreatment. Each category covers a large range of behavior.
Some causes of child abuse are the use of drugs, or alcohol abuse or an abuser was also abused when they were younger. Another problem is that when an abused child grows up they could join the next generations of child abusers. Child abuse can be prevented in a number of ways such as counseling for the adults as well as the children. Another way is for the school to educate the children about child abuse. Teachers should help children understand what to do if someone abuses them. Tactics like telling an adult they trust and coming forward when they see abuse could prevent continued abuse. In my opinion everyone should try to prevent child abuse any way they can. Child abuse should never start because it can ruin a child’s life forever, and causes serious injures to the child, whether this be physical or emotional.
All 50 states have passed some form of a mandatory child abuse and neglect reporting law in order to qualify for funding under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) (Jan. 1996 version) 42 U.S.C. 5101, et seq.. The Act was originally passed in 1974, has been amended several times and was most recently amended and reauthorized on October 3, 1996, by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment and Adoption Act Amendments of 1996 (P.L. 104-235).
Types of Abuse:
Emotional abuse can also take the form of verbal abuse and mental abuse. This includes acts, or the failure to act by parents or caretakers that have caused or could cause serious behavioral, emotional, or mental disorders in the child. As well as parents/caretakers using extreme or bizarre forms of punishment. There are several different types of emotional abuse, rejecting, ignoring, terrorizing, isolating, and corrupting. Emotional abuse accounts for eight percent of all child abuse.
Neglect is a failure to provide for a child’s basic needs. Neglect could be physical, educational, or emotional. Physical neglect could include not providing food or clothing, appropriate medical care, supervision, or proper weather protection. Educational neglect is the failure to provide schooling or special educational needs, for example, not helping them on homework or teaching them how to read. Emotional neglect includes the lack of any emotional support and love.
Physical abuse is the intentional infliction of physical injury upon a child. This may include: burning, hitting, punching, shaking, kicking, beating, or otherwise harming a child. Physical abuse may be best defined as any non-accidental physical injury by a person who has care, custody, or control of a child. Accidental harm does not qualify as child abuse. There are many signs of physical abuse. Bruises found on the backs of the arms, legs, lower back, the butt, and genitals are suspicious bruises and should be questioned. Patterned bruising is also a sign of abuse. Normal bruises usually appear in various shapes and sizes, while some bruises that are patterned may indicate strong signs of abuse. These are bruises that have definite boundaries and sharp or curved edges. Burns can also be signs of abuse. Fractures are another sign of physical abuse.
Sexual abuse is any inappropriate sexual behavior with a child, such as: fondling a child’s genitals, making the child fondle the adult’s genitals, intercourse, incest, rape, and sexual exploitation. These acts can be committed by a baby sitter, parents, daycare provider, or someone related to the child. Child molesters can also be friends, neighbors, or even strangers.
One of the biggest ironies of a child’s life is that the family, what should be a child’s primary source for love, support, and security, can also be the most abusive group that a child belongs to. Society assumes that parents act in their child’s best interest. Therefore, parents have the right to care for and protect their own children. When parents cannot meet their child’s needs or protect the child from harm, society has the responsibility to protect the health and safety of the child. Laws that protect animals from unjust cruelty were in effect and enforced long before any cases against child abuse were argued.
Just imagine being a nine-year-old girl who is beaten on a daily basis. This happened to a little girl who lived in New York in 1874, her name was Mary Ellen. She was burned and cut with scissors. She resided with her foster mother who would leave her in a closet while away from the house. Mary Connolly, her foster mother, had abused her for seven years. Mary Ellen lived in an apartment building with her foster mother. Mary Ellen’s landlady made many attempts to help Mary Ellen but none were successful. The person who finally came to here aid was Etta Wheeler a Methodist caseworker.
The police said that they could do nothing without proof of assault. Although there were laws to protect any person from assault and battery, there was no precedent for intervening inside a child’s home. The frustrated Wheeler turned to Henry Bergh, founder of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. She reasoned that children were members of the animal kingdom and could therefore be protected under the laws governing the mistreatment of animals. Bergh rejected this strategy, but became involved in the case. A petition was presented to the New York Supreme Court on behalf of Mary Ellen that proved she was being held illegally by the Connolly’s, who were neither her legal guardians nor her natural parents. Witnesses testified about the abuse suffered by Mary Ellen and the leather whip that was kept near her at all times. As the child stood and spoke in court, all could see the terrible scar across her face as she calmly related how her foster mother had slashed her face with scissors. Burn scars from an iron were visible on her arms. Her foster mother was sentenced to prison for one year. Mary Ellen’s case had a large impact around the nation and resulted in the foundation of the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (SPCC) in 1874. The SPCC was the first organization to focus on the legal protection of children’s rights in the United States. In its first year, the SPCC investigated 300 cases of child abuse. It also introduced legislation “to prevent and punish wrongs to children” that occurred in the home.
The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA)
Can the Federal government, State government, and sovereign nations effectively mesh their practices and policies to adequately meet the safety and placement needs of American Indian Children? The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) was made a federal law in 1978 after many years of political struggles between Native American Indian tribal leaders, state agencies, various church groups and court systems.
“By passing the law Congress hoped to prevent the continuing abuses of power by state agencies, the courts, and various church groups in the disruption of Indian families by enacting procedures for the removal and foster placement of Indian children and defining the roles and responsibilities of authority” (Matheson, 1996, p.233).
The Indian Child Welfare Act brought with it the hope that the law would protect Indian communities, tribes, and families against further disintegration of their traditional systems.
Native American Indians have experienced massive losses of lives, land, and culture from Caucasian contact and colonization resulting in a long legacy of chronic trauma and unresolved grief across generations. Congress has vacillated between two conflicting themes: self-government for tribes and assimilation of the reservations into the existing framework of state and local government. Native American children were removed from their families and homes, placed in government boarding schools and Christian mission schools, and educated in the Caucasian ideals. When a Native American family resisted mandatory schooling at the boarding schools, “Congress responded by authorizing the withholding of food and clothing rations from them.” (George, 1997)
During the 1950’s when the boarding schools began to close, people became concerned about the number of children that would be returned to the reservations and a life of poverty if other arrangements could not be found. Native American children were then placed in non-Indian homes for long term care and adoption. This new adoption trend resulted in 25%-35% of Native children being separated from their families by state courts, welfare agencies, and private adoption agencies. (George, 1997)
The Indian Child Welfare Act states that child abuse and neglect cases that involve foster care and adoption of Indian children must give tribes the opportunity to take jurisdiction in order to move court proceedings to a tribal court as opposed to the individual state courts when these children are placed out of the home. The act is a Federal Statute governing the placement of Indian children who are in any out of home placement, voluntary or involuntary by the state, county, city or federal government. The act applies to all public and private agencies that remove children.
There are several types of child welfare custody proceedings that apply to the Indian Child Welfare Act. One is foster placement, the temporary removal of the child from his or her biological parents. When biological parents are unable to fulfill their role, children may need substitute care, shelter care, group homes, and institutional care placements. Each of these alternatives is more appropriate for some children than others. Other custody proceedings include Termination of Parental Rights, and adoption placements. Both of these custody proceedings result in a permanent plan for the child. Permanent planning is the one aspect of child welfare systems where cultural differences are the most heartfelt. In state and public child welfare systems, permanent planning is based on set timelines. Usually if a parent does not show that he or she can resume care for a child after a period of one year, the case is considered for a permanent alternative. Termination of parental rights is a key factor in freeing a child for adoption in the child welfare system, however, it has the potential of severing the child’s connection to their extended family or tribe.
Even with the passage of the Indian Child Welfare Act there are still issues related to state child welfare agencies and Native American Indian tribes, especially with respect to adoption. The conflict comes up when a Native American Indian child is placed for adoption. “Tribal officials fear that the flow of Indian foster children to non-Indian homes threatens their survival as a people…” (Lacayo, 1988, p.64). A misconception from non-Indian people is, “…of children growing up on the reservation that is, the images of poverty blot out the virtues of cultural identity.” (Lacayo, 1988, p.64). Unfortunately, these opinions are hard to change and have often brought about bitter courtroom battles.
The Adoption and Safe Families Act (ASFA) was passed by Congress in 1997 because children languished in foster care for extended periods of time while waiting for permanent placement. Children remained in care without stability or family for extensive periods of time because of a number of factors. Primary causes for delays in placing children were the need for parents to complete substance abuse rehabilitation, systemic barriers including overburdened child welfare workers, the and resulting delays and postponements of court hearings. The Adoption and Safe Families Act establishes unequivocally that our national goals for children in the child welfare system are safety, permanency, and well-being. The Adoption and Safe Families Act should not be reviewed as affecting the application of the Indian Child Welfare Act in the case of Indian children involved in state child custody proceedings. The Adoption and Safe Families Act deals with all children who become involved with the foster care or adoption system, whereas the Indian Child Welfare Act is a specific enactment dealing with one subsection of children – Indian children involved in child custody proceedings.
There are many aspects to ASFA, but the most significant pieces are: The health and safety of children must be the paramount concern in all decisions regarding provision of services, placement and permanency planning decisions; states are required and encouraged to establish or utilize various mechanisms to achieve this goal, including criminal background checks of prospective foster and adoptive parents. Reasonable efforts to reunify a family are not required where a parent has a pattern of or the parental rights of a parent to a sibling of the child in question have been previously terminated involuntarily.
Other mandates that the Adoption and Safe Families Act has are the requirements for a permanency hearing within twelve months after the initial foster care placement, and a petition for termination of parental rights once a child has been in foster care for a period of fifteen out of twenty-two months.
Indian children received little specific attention regarding the policies under ASFA that were being discussed in spite of their unique circumstances. About one half of the Indian children served by child welfare programs in the United States are served by tribal programs and not by the states which ASFA targets. Indian children have a unique political status not afforded other children as members of sovereign tribal governments. This political status, as well as the history of biased treatment of Indian children and families under public and private child welfare systems is the basis for the Indian Child Welfare Act. Adoption and Safe Families Act and Indian Child Welfare Act integrations issues are most likely to arise during implementation of ASFA by states. In the case of an Indian child, the state should refrain from moving to terminate parental rights at the fifteen month mark of foster care; considerations need to be made if this is in the best interest of the child.
Problems with ICWA
Problems with state child welfare agencies and Indian child welfare programs include the lack of experience state agencies have in working with tribes; staff turnover; lack of funding; concern about tribal accountability for providing services and caring for the children; and the absence of tribal courts with authority to assume jurisdiction over proceedings involving tribe members. State child welfare agencies and courts are not thoroughly educated on Indian law or history, and do not take into consideration the practices of the Native American Culture when determining child placements. The ICWA does not specifically state that professionals working with tribes must have any tribal education;
There has been progress in implementing the Indian Child Welfare Act, although implementation has been uneven across geographic areas and governmental levels. A lack of stable and adequate funding for tribal child welfare programs has proven to be one of the most serious barriers to the tribe’s ability to protect their children, thus creating the need for assistance from state and public child welfare agencies.
With the accomplishment of ICWA’s intent, many tribal governments have revised their existing tribal codes or developed new codes to directly address the issues of dealing with child abuse. Many tribes also work with the National Indian Child Welfare Association (NICWA) who assist and represent tribal governments, urban Indian social service programs, and staff from various state child welfare agencies that work with Indian children and their families. The Indian Child Welfare Act has not reduced the flow of Indian children into substitute care. Even though the number of Indian children in public care has decreased, the caseloads of tribal programs are rising sharply as these programs expand and cases are transferred from public agencies. NICWA helps various tribes with services such as family preservation programs for Native American families. These programs assist families with solving the child abuse or neglect issues and aid in a speedy reunification if the child is placed out of home. The legislative intent of ICWA is being accomplished- tribal governments are assuming responsibility for more and more of their children as the state and the BIA (Bureau of Indian Affairs) transfer jurisdiction and recede from the picture (Mannes, 1993, p.143).
It is important for the tribal courts to keep the Indian child with a relative, the child’s tribe and/or another Indian family for foster care or adoption. The reason for this is that the tribe feels placement of a Native American, whether it is for foster care or adoption, should stay with the tribe or other tribal avenues to keep this child in the realm of their culture. These extended kin networks support identity formation, a sense of belonging, recognition of a shared history, and survival of the group.
Keeping Native American children with extended family members can become costly. Food, shelter, income, and a sense of having access and availability to services is in short supply. Income to care for these children and families comes from the limited funds tribes have available and only small amounts of money are accessible through the federal government. If the tribal courts have jurisdiction of the case, oftentimes the state system is no longer involved, therefore the state does not contribute monetary assistance.
By following the Indian Child Welfare Act and placing Indian children with relatives also in a poverty situation in lieu of other placement options, how can one say the best interest of the child is being considered? Hopefully, the future will bring a more harmonious union between Native American Indian tribes and state child welfare agencies.
After analyzing child abuse, it is obvious that this issue will continue to be the center of much debate, controversy, and consideration until the problem is taken care of. Realistically speaking the problem is not likely to ever disappear. The lack of control that government, and society for that matter, has on the rearing of children will not allow the problem to go away. Until we are able to find a way, within the limits of the law, to insure the safety of all children, child abuse will forever be a problem in our society. We as social workers advocate for critical legislation that impacts children and families, work to obtain and maintain funding for prevention programs, and collaborate with organizations, community leaders and public policy makers. I would like to help ensure that local, state, and federal policy-makers adopt, implement, and maintain important policies and programs that support children and families. In order for this to happen we need to educate the public on advocacy. They need to make their voice heard throughout the nation. Voting is a great way to advocate. You can control who our future policy makers are by taking an active role in voting. By voting, you are exercising your most basic right as a citizen. Always vote; one person can make all the difference. I always vote.
Get to know the people who are out there representing you. This could be anyone from your local city council to your federal Congressperson. They are here to serve you. Your elected officials depend on their constituents to let them know the concerns of people around your community. There are a few ways you can contact your policy-makers and communicate your support. I would like to go and meet some of city council and let them know my concerns. I would also use letter writing to get my point across. Calling elected officials is another way I would get my voice heard. Remember to call and thank them when a bill gets passed through that I have supported.
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