by Gordon Jeremiah Berry
Every child has a right to adequate care and supervision and to be free from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. Abuse can be defined in terms that are both physical and emotional.
Physical abuse is defined as non-accidental trauma or physical injury caused by punching, beating, kicking, biting, burning or otherwise harming a child. Physical abuse often results from inappropriate or excessive physical discipline. Emotional abuse is defined as a pattern of behavior by parents or caregivers that can seriously interfere with a child’s cognitive, emotional, psychological or social development. This would also include ignoring, rejecting, exploiting, corrupting, terrorizing, or neglecting the child.
In the United States there are several departments that handle situations in which a child is not being properly cared for: Department of Children and Families (DCF), Office on Child Abuse and Neglect (OCAN), Administration for Children and Families (ACF), and Child Protective Services (CPS).
Of these the main one that attempts to combine the different agencies is Child Protective Services (CPS). Since the late 1970’s this Department has published a Manual known as the Child Abuse and Neglect User Manual Series that provides guidance on child protection to multidisciplinary professionals and concerned community members. The manual includes definitions of child maltreatment, risk factors, consequences, and the Federal and State basis for intervention, within their ranks are substance abuse treatment providers, domestic violence victim advocates, educators, and law enforcement personnel.
CPS is a division within State and local social services, and in most jurisdictions it is the agency mandated by law to conduct an initial assessment or investigation of reports of child abuse and neglect. When parents cannot and will not fulfill their responsibilities to protect their children, CPS has the right and obligation to intervene directly on the children’s behalf.
Both child advocates and practitioners generally agree that a “child-centered”, family focused, and culturally responsive framework for a child’s welfare will promote the best outcomes for children. With this in mind there maybe circumstances that need to be understood in which the child has the right to call CPS at any point in time if they feel they are in an unsafe environment. The child has the right to make a child abuse report in circumstances where there is physical abuse or neglect is taking place such as a lack of food, clothes, basic proper health care and so on.
If the circumstances is physical abuse then the child would need to get pictures of any type of injuries that can be helpful in a CPS report. Photos are something a CPS worker would ask about if the victim did decide to make a report. If the case is neglect, such as a lack of food, CPS would ask a lot of questions about what is going on at home. They would need to talk with the victim(s) in person as well as everyone involved. Here are some very helpful websites and telephone numbers that will be helpful for those who would like to learn more:
www.1800runaway.org, www.childhelp.org, or 1800-422-4453, Partnerships for Child Welfare, (they publish a newsletter by the Council on Social Work Education), their website is www.cswe.org; for those interested in Child Welfare Training, information and materials can be found at www.childwelfaretraining.org
In conclusion, most parents and child guardians are providing the best possible care and love for their children. In some circumstances, the lines for proper care are not something that would be defined as abuse or neglect. Within the United States alone there are 15 and a half million children under the age of 18 that live in a household where food cannot adequately be provided on a regular basis. Such households are consider food-insecure. Such households may need to be provided for with government and community services to help alleviate such burdens that life sometimes brings in providing the most basic needs.
When it comes to children, we all must be child advocates in some form or another. Until then, no one will be able to understand the extent of the problem or even acknowledge that such a problem exists unless we live for them, through them, and because of them. Children are the most important cause for life and extension of love we will ever have to offer to humanity!
About the Author
Gordon Jeremiah Berry, is an avid reader and intense researcher. Mr. Berry looks for the deeper meaning behind all things. His favorite saying is “Love must always win out!”