Child Abuse

This essay has a total of 2136 words and 9 pages.

Child Abuse

Child Abuse

Many children suffer at the hands of adults - often their own parents. They are beaten,
kicked, thrown into walls, and/or burned with cigarettes. They have their heads held under
the water of toilet bowls, are scalded by hot water or they are forced to stand in
freezing showers until they pass out. A child could be stuffed into running washing
machines or sexually molested, suffer from neglect in the forms of starvation and lack of
medical attention, and still go unnoticed by outsiders. In fact, it is estimated that
three children die every day in the U.S. alone from one form of child abuse or another. It
is a sickening practice that has no set standard of rules to finish off the persisting
problem. Different states have different methods and agencies to help prevent abuse in the
home, some work quite well while others bomb - a dangerous gamble when it comes to the
life or mental state of a child.

The precise number of deaths each year is not known because of the extent of most fatality
investigations that could be suspected as child abuse but are seen as open and shut death
cases. A report from the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, however, depicts more
than three million reports of alleged child maltreatment practices in the year of 1995
alone. Many more children are living with abuse rather than dying from it, too. So what
steps are being taken to protect our nation's children?

All states have a Child Protective Services (or CPS) system. This is the governmental
system responsible for investigating reports of child abuse or neglect. In state after
state, the CPS agency lacks the resources to respond adequately to the overwhelming number
of reports it is legislatively mandated to investigate. All fifty states have child abuse
reporting laws requiring reports of suspected abuse to be made by specified professionals
and others whose work brings them into regular contact with children. Any citizen may
report suspected abuse as state laws provide for reports to be made to the CPS agency or
its equivalent, or to a law enforcement agency. In most states, investigations are
conducted by CPS personnel, although law enforcement officers may also be involved.

The basic concern of child welfare workers is for the safety of the child. Assessment of
the risks involved in leaving a child with its family must be made quickly because
children cannot be removed from their families arbitrarily. Once a child has been removed,
the goal of child welfare agencies is to return the child to the family. Ideally,
caseworkers develop a plan to provide parents with the education of the care that children
need, free from abuse or neglect.

This plan is not always carried out to its full intention. No state has the financial
resources to provide all the services to the children and families who need them. A
problem is that in state after state, CPS workers have excessive caseloads, are paid low
salaries, and lack adequate training for the sensitive work involved in investigating
abuse reports, and participating in decisions to remove children from their families then
placing them in foster care. The turnover rate among child welfare workers is
exceptionally high. A report done by the United States Department of Health and Human
Services showed the rate of 30 percent to be the norm, annually.

Whatever the reason - inadequate funding, unavailable services for children and families,
high turnover rates, lack of training, overwhelming numbers of reports - questions are
being raised about the CPS system. The system is based on the assumption that removal from
a troubled family, followed by a return to the family when that can be done safely, is
best for the child.

A different approach to the problems created by child abuse involves Family Preservation
Services (FPS). Removal of the risk, rather than the child, is the goal of Family
Preservation Services. FPS programs seek to modify the home environment or behavior of
other family members so that it is at least as safe for the child to remain in the
household as to be removed. Family preservation is based on the assumption that out of
home care hurts children, and on the recognition that most families referred to Child
Protective Service can and want to learn new ways of coping with stress. Rather than
breaking families apart in order to treat them, intensive family preservation services
seek to protect children and heal families by keeping them whole.

Specifically, FPS provides intensive services in the home to all the members of a troubled
family for a relatively short time - four to six weeks. Professional staffs are usually
assigned two, but no more than four, families at a time. Caseworkers are available to
families twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. A worker can stay as long as
necessary to stabilize the household, whether that means six, ten, or twelve hours. Ten
states have initiated FPS programs by legislation including: California, Colorado,
Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, New York, Pennsylvania,
Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia.

Homebuilders, an FPS program based in Tacoma, Washington, provides the longest running
assessment of the effectiveness of family preservation services. From 1981 to 1994,
Homebuilders saw 3,497 children. Evaluation data indicted that three months after
completing the program, an average of 94 percent of the families had avoided out of home
placement. Twelve-month follow up data showed that placement had been averted in 88
percent of the cases. Furthermore, the cost for Homebuilders' family services was only
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